Although our thoughts have been with the people of Japan over the last few days, I’d like to share with you something else that I’ve been doing these past few days. Late last week I flew to Las Vegas for a reunion with a group of buddies from one of my graduate programs (Masters at San Diego State University). Actually, we try and get together once a year—but this one was special for multiple reasons.
First, this spring marks 20 years since we graduated from SDSU. My buddies Roger Whitney and Ray Co still live in San Diego. Bill Leach and Matt Stevens live in Nevada/Montana and Rhode Island, respectively. Matt Middlebrook is in Pennsylvania out here close to New Jersey. We wanted Mike Brady in Indiana and Sylvie Eloy from France to join us, but they couldn’t make it. My point in mentioning these friends by name is that they were the people who made graduate school so great for me—and who I am lucky to still call friends today. I think in many cases, and I hope this is true in our program here at Rutgers also, you will make some of your most important and most enduring friends in graduate school.
A second reason this gathering was so special is that we timed it around the Mountain West Conference Basketball Tournament. Now, that conference may not be the Big East, but it does have two top-10 teams and arguably the best player in the country (Jimmer Fredette from BYU). We saw the two exciting semifinal games that resulted in the championship matchup between #7 San Diego State and #8 BYU. Our Aztecs from SDSU won that contest--beating the only team that has beaten them this year, securing their second consecutive conference tourney title, and gaining a #2 seed in the NCAA March Madness Tournament. After the game, we joined rowdy undergrads and other alums on the floor to celebrate the victory. In the end, it is just a basketball game and most folks probably do hold it up as more important than perhaps it truly is—but I must also say that the school pride one feels on such occasions is enormous. I wish I knew a way to create that sort of excitement and fan loyalty in a graduate program because the payoff can be substantial.
A third reason this trip was special was that I hosted a contest our group does every few years when we get together. As I may have blogged about previously, shortly after grad school we formed a group called the Buddies of Beer (mostly the people named above) to counter another faculty/graduate group called the Friends of Wine. Since then, we’ve been hosting contests around various themes and selecting best beer, best label, etc. I stepped up to host the 2011 event around the theme “The Mountain West”—which described both the conference we were watching play its tournament and the region where most of us grew up, met, and still think of as home. I was so pleased that my friends really embraced the theme—including one guy who dressed up as John Denver, sang songs about beer and the Rocky Mountains, and then left his entire costume on as we hit the casino floor later that evening. It is rituals like our Buddies of Beer events that help define a group—and part of the reason why I think such rituals are an important part of a strong graduate program as well.
So despite me being tired of Vegas after about 24 hours and despite me being very far behind on an NCA paper I am co-authoring, this was still an amazing weekend with my friends from graduate school. When you can combine buddies, basketball, and beer, it is a “B” eautiful thing. I hope that those of you in graduate programs now will find ways to develop these enduring and special relationships with others in your cohorts, as well.
The Director has left the Deck.