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Columns by Ernie W. Webb III

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The Ichabod
Spring-Summer 2014 alumni magazine

Read Ernie W. Webb III's column in The Ichabod.

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Master of Liberal Studies program

The Master of Liberal Studies degree is one of several graduate degrees offered by Washburn University.

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Washburn Faculty

Mark Peterson, professor and chairman of the political science department, is one of dozens of outstanding faculty who make the Washburn experience what it is.

Meet the Faculty

Webb: Back to School

Professor Mark Peterson

By Ernie W. Webb III
ernie.webb@washburn.edu

When I told Barbara Burgess, a longtime professor of mass media and my adviser, that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after graduation, she had a simple solution: “You really should just go straight to graduate school and get your master’s degree. It’ll only take you a couple of years.”

My response, in addition to an agitated groan, was just as simple: “Absolutely not. I’m done. Eighteen years of school is enough. I don’t need a master’s degree.”

I’m certain she remembered that brief conversation when I called her 14 years later asking for a letter of recommendation, a requirement for admission to the master of liberal studies program at Washburn.

“Oh, really? Of course I’ll give you a letter.”

Now, she didn’t say “I told you so.” She didn’t have to. The chuckle was more than enough.

I was a little surprised she even remembered who I was, though I shouldn’t have been. This is, after all, Washburn.

I thought about Dr. Burgess as I walked to my first class in more than 14 years last August, and I thought about all the things I learned as an undergraduate student.

I also remembered how nervous I was during my first day on campus in 1996, partly because Dr. Burgess made us speak in front of the entire class (I’d pretty much planned the first 20 years of my academic career around avoiding public speaking).

That familiar “What am I doing here?” feeling settled into the pit of my stomach as I sat down for an Intro to Research Studies course, step one in earning an, ahem, master’s degree.

Each student had to get up in front of the class, taught this time by Mark Peterson, chairman and professor of political science, and introduce themselves. Talk about Déjà vu.

The nerves fizzled during the next few classes. As is the case with every course at Washburn, it was a small class. That meant more personal interaction with the professor. It also meant more time to bond with classmates.

Just as I had more than a decade ago, I looked forward to class every Wednesday evening. We all did. Outside of the classroom, we often discussed how much we enjoyed Dr. Peterson’s lectures, candor and support.

There have been plenty of changes inside the classrooms at Washburn. New desks, new equipment, new technology and, of course, new (mostly) students. But the things that matter the most (excellence in teaching, the atmosphere) haven’t.

Besides, if I’d taken Dr. Burgess’ advice at age 22, I might not appreciate the Washburn experience as much as I do at age 37.