Remarks on My “Hooding”

I received my PhD in Human Development from Fielding Graduate University on March 8, 2012.  During Fielding’s Summer Session, which was held in Alexandria, VA in July, I participated in the traditional convocation and “hooding” ceremony for new PhDs.

The origins of academic dress date back to the middle ages, when ordinary dress of the scholar, whether student or teacher, was the dress of a cleric.  Long gowns may have been necessary for warmth in unheated buildings. Hoods seem to have served to cover the once tonsured head until superseded for that purpose by the skull cap.

Today, hoods are the most expressive component of the academic costume.  They serve to communicate the owner’s school, degree and field of study through their length and the colors of the lining and binding. Today’s hoods have evolved from a serviceable article of clothing to a type of elongated scarf draped over the shoulders and displayed down the back with the lining turned inside out, and display the degree level and school color.  Fielding’s hoods are deep blue to connote doctor and green for the school color.

These were my remarks:

When I came to Fielding a little over five years ago, I did not know what hermeneutic meant.  Today I celebrate the richness it brings to this moment.

I refer to the aspect of hermeneutic method that depends on the interconnectedness of people and things.  So with a grateful heart, I know that my work and journey will forever be connected to this innovative institution and the Fielding community.

I entered Fielding as a curious practitioner and teacher of massage therapy. I wanted to help legitimize complementary and alternative medicine through academic evidence.  I committed to a doctoral program because wanted to create new knowledge.  Now I have.  But it does not remotely resemble what I thought it would.

Due to the inspiration of my brilliant mentor, Dr. Valerie Bentz, I came to realize the distinction between creating new findings and promoting new understanding.   Because of the wisdom and support of my instructors and committee, Dr David Rehorick, Dr. Connie Corley, the extraordinary Dorianne Cotter-Lockard, and my external reader, Dr. Glenn Hymel, I created respectable work that honors the voices and work of massage therapists who demonstrate the essence of holistic and embodied practice.  Fulfilling my dream, I was able to capture their experience through scholarship.

I am indebted to many massage therapists, especially my colleagues in Washington, DC for supporting my studies.  Your commitment to genuine healing incited me to authenticity and taking a less traveled road in my research.  I promise that I will continue to give voice to your voice, and to strive to forge a bridge for real translational research.  I am particularly grateful to my research participants who trusted me to bring scholarly words to their work that is seldom articulated to the heights it deserves.  Together, we demonstrated that massage therapy is more than bio-mechanical interventions, even those supported by scientific evidence.  My research suggests that the work of massage therapy is equally about environment, beliefs, and relationships.  Just like life.

But for me, becoming a doctor involved far more than my research. I learned to love phenomenology, and discovered that it really could be transformative.  It transformed me, and I bless every moment that brought me the joy of new learning.

Hermeneutically speaking, I could not have completed this courageous work without the support of my colleagues, my Chesapeake Cluster mates, and particularly the gentle persuasion of the incomparable Charlie Seashore.  Many of you chose to play with me in the sandbox of somatics and assisted in my make-over into a real scholar.  I am awed by your courage and willingness to explore new frontiers.

I would not be here without the support of my friends and sacrifices of my family, particularly my husband Chris.  All of you applauded me, even when you did not understand what I was saying, and provided many large pushes when my own legs had given way.

Today I celebrate all my hermeneutic turns, and with a grateful heart, accept closure for this part of my history.  One keepsake, a lovely glass starfish, hangs over my desk.  Valerie presented it to me with compliments for having become a star.  It reminds me that I am also a fish, in a sea of many interconnected life-forms that sustain and enrich me.

I depart Fielding enriched, knowing I have been appreciated, supported, and encouraged to find my own voice in the ocean of scholar-practitioners.  I do so with reverence and confidence, knowing that my starfish has sprouted wings.  So in closing, I need to thank those who love me, because you fortify me, and especially my daughter, Alison, who inspires me to perpetually become a better version of myself.

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