When I was an undergrad at Concordia University in Saint Paul, MN, my adviser was an older male named Dr. Bredehoft. His last name threw me for a loop more than a couple of times: was it pronounced Bred-EH-hoft or Bread-hoff or something else? In the end, he and I settled on Dr. B. Dr. B was only my adviser for one year, but he was great one.

I remember towards the end of my last spring semester at CSP, I sat down with him to talk about my future. I was looking at applying to grad school and I wanted to know if I should even consider looking at schools that were “competitive.” I don’t remember my exact phrasing, but I’m fairly certain that I asked him in a truly Minnesotan way, “Should I look at the cream-of-the-crop-type schools?” (That’s right, US News and World Report, forget Division 1 or Research 1 institutions let’s go with “cream-of-the-crop-type.”) He looked me square in the eye and told me “You are the cream of the crop. Of course you should.”

I went on a worked for a few years in residential treatment, completed one of the best Marriage and Family Therapy masters programs in the Midwest and decided to apply for my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. Truth be told, I was not expecting to get in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great student, hard-working, and really want to be a systems-healing researcher, educator and clinician. That said, the University of Minnesota is a big deal around here. The MFT specialization in the Family Social Science Ph.D. at the U is a particularly big deal. I applied and did my best and absolutely had back up plans.

Turns out though, I didn’t need them. When I got the call from Dr. Shonda Craft in the middle of January, I was working in the brick and stucco main building at Boys Totem Town and my phone kept cutting in and out. I thought she said that I got in, but just to be sure, I asked her to hold on while I ran outside to confirm that yes, she was calling from the University and yes, I had gotten in. In my excitement, I left my keys on the desk and locked myself out of the building that night.

So now, here I am. I’m nearing the end of my first semester as a Ph.D student at the University of Minnesota in Family Social Science, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy. My days and evenings (and some nights) are way more busy than I was anticipating, but I’m finding all of these delicious pearls (or kernels?) of goodness, joy, productivity and hope in all of the work.

I’m participating in this great research work for marginalized and minimized families. I’m getting to engage with community organizations and colleagues who are working in these beautifully integrative ways- where we, individually and collectively, see our own hurt, see our community’s and world’s hurt, and work to heal for the next generation of clinicians, scientists, researchers, educators, students, institutions and people. We work to heal. Those days, evenings, nights spent working for something better make the hours worth it.

The next generation of people and the next generation of institutions will know that there are systems like theirs, that there are frameworks that describe and predict what they are experiencing, and that hurts can be healed. For the hurts that I and my colleagues don’t or can’t anticipate, they will have a more solid framework to work from, because we will have spent our time building and solidifying those frameworks.

While I am still adjusting to how many hours it takes to build that something good, durable and long-lasting, I’m convinced that it will be worth it.

In this small way, I’m working towards being someone who can contribute in a unique way to building something better. I’m getting my Ph.D. My last name, “Bohlinger,” can also be difficult to pronounce.

I’m on my way to becoming another Dr. B.