Commencement 2005: PhD Student Takes Things Two at a Time
Posted: May 19, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
On Saturday, May 21, George Mason will hold its 38th annual Commencement at 10 a.m. in the Patriot Center. This week, the Daily Mason Gazette highlights a few of the university’s many outstanding graduates.
How do most PhD students get through their courses? With lots of planning, organization, and—they hope—plenty of time to work. Of course, things don’t always happen as expected, and they certainly didn’t for Cindy Buckley, BA English ’92 and PhD Education ’05. But she couldn’t be happier. Buckley and her husband, Patrick, are the proud parents of two sets of twins that were both born during her doctoral studies.
The couple had been trying to start a family for a few years. “We weren’t taking vacations….We basically put our lives on hold for two years,” says Buckley. They finally decided that children might not come and went on with other things they wanted to do. “So I applied to the PhD program and bought a cute little car.”
Buckley began the doctoral program in January 1998 and found out she was pregnant in March. “It was a total shock, and it was twins! There was a scramble to get everything done.” Three years later came another shock—she was pregnant again, with another set of twins.
Buckley, who worked 20 hours a week during her studies, advises other students with children to prioritize. “It’s a day-by-day thing. You have to figure out what’s important—and let some things go.” She says she would never start something and not finish it; especially her classes.
“At that level, I knew it was up to me to follow through and finish a class, and I never took an incomplete,” she says. “It’s not the professor’s fault I have all these children!”
During her doctoral studies, Buckley worked as a graduate assistant for Education professors Kristy Dunlap and Betty Sturtevant, and served as an assistant editor for Sturtevant on the College Reading Association Yearbook. She was the Literacy Program outreach coordinator for a year.
She says she was never in a rush to complete the program and did what she could with the time she had. “As important as it was, it wasn’t my first priority. If I didn’t finish one semester, I always had the next semester.” It took her about six years to finish the program, and she plans to walk this week at Commencement.
Buckley, who teaches Literacy and Curriculum Integration for Specialist Teachers for the Literacy Program, says the two sets of fraternal twins, Regan and Connor, 6, and Devin and Lauren, 3, keep her and her husband busy. “I work at night after the kids go to bed, and my husband is able to come home early on the day that I teach class.” She hopes to continue her career in research. “I like teaching at the college level, but to do a good job, you really have to have a lot of time. This will probably be my last class for a while.”
Buckley says that twins are special, albeit tricky. “They’ll sneak downstairs at five a.m. and put in a video. They have a partner in crime; sometimes I overhear them plotting, ‘You get the chair and I’ll stand on it!’” Of course, they also have a built-in playmate. She says they play so well together that she is able to sneak in an hour of work now and then.
Buckley has never had to hire a nanny, babysitter, or housecleaner, but she knows the value of having family close at hand. “My mom watched the kids while I was doing field research during the day, and my husband’s mom is only 40 minutes away, so she has been a great help.”
Twins run in Buckley’s family, but she is still surprised at people who ask her why she would want so many children. She just replies, “I never planned it that way, it just sort of happened! You have to take life as it comes.”
And she is still taking it in stride. Pregnant again and due in September, the Buckleys are looking forward to the newest addition to their beautiful family: another set of twins. “At this point, it’s hard for me to imagine having just one!” she says.
This story originally appeared in a slightly different form in the Mason Spirit.
Cindy Buckley with her husband, Patrick, and
their children (left to right), Connor, Lauren,
Devin, and Regan.
Courtesy Buckley family