I suppose for some, a dissertation is a means to an end–an analytic piece of writing destined to set a burgeoning scholar ready to start a career.  In this case, this piece of work has been nothing less than a journey–mostly of will, sometimes of intellect, and marked with the cliche set of blood, sweat, and tears.  And as with most journeys, it was not traversed alone.  So many people helped to make this happen; some worked in major ways and others’ contributions were so subtle or what they may consider minute that they may be surprised to find themselves here. In some ways, while technically considered “front matter,” this section means more to me than any other presented here.  While the rest of this conveys an intellectual journey, forged in many sleepless nights and training in a methodology and ideologies, these acknowledgments represent the meaning of the personal journey and celebrate those who helped me find my way, not in this project, but in the greater project that is my life.

I begin with my family–my parents Donna and Richard, my brothers Andy and Matt, their wives Kit and Megan, my human nephews Aaron and Jonathan, and my canine nephews Dewey and Lenny–most of whom have known me…well, for a long time.  To those who have known me all along the path here, I thank you for your constancy–in challenges, in providing “home” at home in Cleveland (which will always be my home) and in Milwaukee (which will always be my second home), and in whatever way forcing me to finish this so that I can give you the answers you need like, “What are you going to do with this?” or “What are you doing after this?”  In that is an implicit sense of knowing I’ll persevere…and I always knew that’s what you meant.  To those who have joined the family along the way, I’d like to tell you that you probably haven’t known me at my best.  Look forward to the years to come. And I’d like to especially thank my mom who, of all my family, I knew had my back and pulled for me every minute since I moved to Chicago nearly nine years ago to start this journey. I believe that in another life, she’d want one of these of her own; the fact that she doesn’t need one in this life to prove anything to anyone is a tribute to her forever grace and wisdom.  Emotionally, I share this with her equally and in faith she can use the title “doctor” as her own.  

Leaving a job and moving to Chicago to pursue something I really wanted was a reset for which I now know I was unprepared.  But from the minute I got here, my third home, a small “chosen family” stepped forward to form what I now see was a crucial network of support .  Whether in classes or late nights at the bar or watching the first episodes of “30 Rock” or debating the “intellectual importance” of sociology, I am certain that without the friendship of Monica Edwards, Meghan Burke, John-Patrick Workman, Sarah Schott, Lenore Johnson, Kim Fox, Pat Polasek, Matt Hoffman, Gwendolyn Purifoye, Nori Henk, Marc Rittle, Mike Law, and Patty…that I couldn’t have stayed in this as long as I have.  Those first years were crucial–thank you for sharing your ideas…and in some cases, your offices and your homes…and your beer.

In the life of a graduate student, there are formative moments–ones that happen outside of classes that mold who you are and what you think.  To Neil Holmgren: thank you for teaching me correct bar etiquette and suffering through all those “structure versus agency” conversations in the early years.  Of all people I miss debating something to the point of nothingness with, it is you.  And to my still-friend Andras Lukacs I say, “You are completely full of shit and possibly one of the best friends I’ll ever have had.  Whether watching hockey or sinking a canoe, we solved a lot of world problems over a world full of beer.  I miss that everyday.”  And to John Stover who led the way through the dissertation process; for the two of us to finish this was nothing short of a miracle I think.  Watching you do it made me know I could do it too. Thanks, JT.

Also in the life of a graduate student are all the people who assert themselves on and around you in your “sociological home”–your department.  I’m now a “very old-timer” in my department and have seen quite a few come and go in terms of professors and students. I will always tip my hat to Lauren Langman for giving the craziest reading assignments (i.e. “Read Marx Das Capital, preferably in German by Monday”; today is Thursday) and then delivering some of the greatest, sweeping lectures ever possible. To Fred Kniss and Japonica Saracino-Brown: I do really wish that I had more time to study with you.  I’m lucky for the influence I had while I had it.  Judy Wittner will forever guide my trust and reliance in grounded theory and the importance in finding the story that’s out there, ready to be found.  In Chez Rumpf I’ve found both a wonderful friend and an intellectual peer; thank you for all of those Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons that we made productive come hell or high water.  And of course, to Rhys Williams, my advisor and the chair of this dissertation committee, I say thank you for having mercy and taking on a quickly fading student at the moment it was sink or swim.  I’m less a caliber of graduate student than he usually works with but Rhys showed great patience and magnanimity in engaging me intellectually to the end–and thus I swam.

And then…there are those. Those people who, for whatever reason, invest in your project–or you–to a degree that astounds.  Even now as I think about those pivotal moments and people who really represented a turn in the trajectory of this journey, I am frankly stunned that they took such an interest and were willing to weather just about every possible shred of anxiety, moodiness, self-doubt, discouragement that I myself found.  Always standing next to me, sometimes keeping me on the straight and narrow, sometimes lending a formidable shoulder on which to cry, often engaging in conversations that were mighty boring, but always there, walking with.  Katie Cangemi–you know we share a brain, so you own half of this dissertation; that may be good or bad so be prepared for all circumstances.  And to my dear friend Paul who so many times talked me back into finishing this and who, really, would never accept anything less than “okay, I’ll keep going”: to you, Paul, here in writing I’ll say “you were right” and “thank you.”  You can hang this diploma in your office; on more than one day, you were the heart in this work and you pulled me kicking and sometimes screaming through to the end.  You should get a medal.

The rest of this work shows evidence of what I can do right now today as a scholar and sociologist.  This list here represents in another way what I can do right now today as student of a much broader field of lessons. So thanks to all of you.  The journey today is much more interesting because you were a part of it.

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