Grad school was my Shawshank


Have you ever seen the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”? You know the one I’m talking about. It is about a guy who is wrongly sentenced to life in the Shawshank Penitentiary for murdering his wife and her lover. Tim Robbins plays innocent man Andy Dufresne, and he meets a wise old prisoner named Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding played by Morgan Freeman.

If you haven’t seen it, you should. And if you have, I’m sure you’ll remember that Andy’s character tunneled out of the prison. The kicker is, do you remember what he crawled through?

That’s right. It was the sewer. He literally put up with a lot of crap to escape.

I recently received my master’s degree. I got my diploma in the mail just the other day, and after going through that crap, I really know how Andy felt.

Grad school was my Shawshank. I knew I had to get out. I knew it would take time, though. I knew I would have to jump through hoops and wait for the right opportunity to be presented.

Basically, grad school was an incredible practice in patience.

The entire program was online, which was convenient and allowed me to earn my degree. I’m very thankful for the opportunity it provided me. However, it also meant contacting the teachers wasn’t always the easiest task. On several occasions, I waited for a week or more to hear back. Never mind that I need to turn an assignment in for him or her. I was responded to when it was convenient.

Also, some of the teachers clearly teach the same classes semester after semester. I get that. But would it have killed them to update the documents so the school year, semester and months listed matched the semester I was in?

Oh. And I hated it when I was graded down for a simple grammar or spelling error that occurred because I was hurrying because I lost count on how many typos I found the teachers had made.


Some of the assignments were beyond pointless, too. They were little more than busy work.

However, as I said, I practiced patience. I knew this was simply a hoop I had to jump through. If I wanted my master’s degree, which would allow me to make more money, then I had to stop sniveling and just swim through the crap.

Much like Andy in “The Shawshank Redemption,” it took me a longer than I would have liked to tunnel my way through the coursework, and the closer I got to the end, the more frantically I craved freedom of those constraints.

But once I broke through, I felt the relief and joy Andy felt when he flopped out of that sewer pipe into a pond as rain fell on his head.

Holding my diploma in my hand was refreshing. I felt cleansed. I was out of the crap and ready to move on with my life. Was it all worth it? Heck yes it was.

Sadly, a thought has occurred to me since then, though. I do want to be a college professor. That is going to mean earning my doctorate.

Considering going back to school already? Call me Brooks. I think I’ve been institutionalized.

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About toddvogts 843 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Journalism Education Association (JEA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), among others. He earned his Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA in 2022. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at or via his website at