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Faculty Spotlight: Josh Wludyga Successfully Defends His Dissertation

My name is Josh Wludyga, and I am an Exercise Science and Fitness Faculty member here at Bryan University.  I have a diverse background in the field of exercise and wellness, but I have a better story to tell.

Just a short time ago, I defended my dissertation and will officially have a doctorate in Health Science!  I will let you in on a little secret though:

I thought this day would never come.

On the day of my defense, I sat in the locker room on the Bryan University campus and stared at the mirror.  With about 45 minutes left until I was about to give the biggest presentation of my life, I wanted to do anything but think about the presentation itself.  So, I began to reflect on the process I took to get here.

I have worked in multiple settings in the exercise industry: college athletics, high school athletics, corporate wellness, cancer care, and general personal training.  However, nothing gave me more satisfaction and purpose than when I taught others about the industry.  I wanted it to be my lifelong career, so I went back to school to set myself up for a longer career in higher education and a better life for my family.

However, there were many, MANY instances where life wanted to tell me that this was a mistake, and that you are better off putting school on the back burner.  For instance, a technological issue delayed the completion of my final project in my first semester.  With hours left until it was due, I built up so much anxiety in my body that I broke down and started feeling sick to my stomach.  Not only did my assignment get completed on time, but my professor let me know that if it was a few hours late, I would not be penalized so that I could relax a little.

Almost a year later, during finals week, I had to break the news to my wife that her dad had passed away in his sleep.  Our entire family was devastated, plus having to explain to our 3-year-old daughter that Grandpa was no longer with us was not an easy conversation.  While my wife traveled to be with family, I would take care of our daughter at home during the day, then take my finals on the computer while she slept at night.

Then there was that one time, just a few months later and in the middle of a semester, when they eliminated my position at a cancer center and I lost my job.  I felt lost and overwhelmed with the idea of having to job search and keep up with courses at the same time.  I found support in one of the most surprising places: my classmates and my professors.  They shared the idea that being let go from a job is nothing to be ashamed of.  This just means you are meant to do something else.  They were right…I found Bryan University, and I cannot tell you how incredible the experience has been.  From administration to faculty to students, everything around me has made me feel grateful.

To top it off, my wife and I decide to have a baby and move to a new house around the same time of year…two weeks before I would take my comp exams.  Everything was such a blur, but I made time and took as many opportunities as possible to sit down and read in order to prepare for those exams.  I passed both, but then came the hard part: writing my dissertation.  The hard part was not the paper as much as having two young daughters and a full-time job pulling me in multiple directions.  Our baby girl also had difficulties sleeping, so there were several nights where I did not want to open my computer and write.  However, I arranged certain days with my wife to go disappear for a couple of hours and write my paper, and other days I mustered the strength to stay up and write even when I knew my daughter might wake up right as I would finally close the laptop.

Even once the paper was finished and the defense was set, my mind played tricks on me.  You are not a scholar.  They are going to find out you should not be given a doctorate degree.  You are not as bright as the people on your committee.   If you leave the building right now… All these thoughts tried to derail my focus.  I would not let it, though; and I walked right into that room looking everyone in the eye and gave my greatest effort on that presentation.  And passed.

Dr. Josh Wludyga…I thought this day would never come.

I tell you all of this because I am certain you and I are not so different.  If you are signed up or are thinking of signing up to be a student at Bryan University, you may have similar insecurities.  You may have similar households.  You may have similar barriers that life will throw at you.  You may have “signs” that make you feel this is not the right time.  I certainly had those moments.  I never let them get the best of me.

Purpose, effort, and support.  Carry these three things with you throughout your journey, and you will have accomplishment.  Always remember why you started school in the first place.  Always remember that effort will be rewarded.  Always turn to the support of those closest to you, or turn to the support of people at the university if you need it.

The moment I was told I had passed my defense, a weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  I had sought this accomplishment for so long.  All of a sudden, the long hours made sense.  The stress and struggle meant something.  My purpose was fulfilled.

My day has come.  And so will yours.

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