A conversation with Chris Temple

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Chris Temple has worked in the Office of the Registrar for 18 years. During that time, he spent 12 years working toward a doctoral degree. He adds this to his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Notre Dame and two master’s degrees (in science from Indiana University, and in history from Notre Dame). It is only fitting that an assistant registrar should be so well-versed in the pursuit of education. Here, Temple shares a little about himself and the road to obtaining his doctorate while working full time.

It is my understanding that you achieved your doctorate from ND by taking classes here and there over the years. What is your doctorate in?

My doctorate is in history, and I am very grateful for the guidance and mentorship of my doctoral adviser Professor Chris Hamlin in the Department of History. I am also grateful for the University’s employee educational benefit that enabled me to take courses (three credits of graduate courses, free of tuition charges, each semester) and thankful for the support of my supervisors in the Registrar’s Office who allowed me to pursue part-time graduate studies.

When did you start, and when did you finish?

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I took my first graduate history course at Notre Dame as a non-degree student in fall 2008, and I was accepted as a doctoral student in the history department in the fall of 2011. I completed my doctoral degree in January of this year after a successful defense of my dissertation titled “Fostering Elite Science at an American Catholic University: The Rise of a Research Culture at the University of Notre Dame, 1842-1967.”

Did you have any breaks in pursuing it? Did you ever consider giving up?

I established a long-range academic plan and took one course per semester for most of those 12 years. I never seriously considered giving up.

How has achieving it impacted you? 

This is difficult to answer because I graduated so recently, but I think my graduate studies have made me both more open-minded and more analytical. In particular, I believe studying history has reminded me of the significance of perspective.

What did you find most interesting in pursuing your degree? 

I enjoyed the pure intellectual challenge of my quest and the wide range of reading assignments in my courses. I also enjoyed working in Notre Dame’s archives and discovering the array of interesting topics related to my dissertation.

Where did you get your undergraduate degree? What is it in?

I completed my bachelor of science in electrical engineering degree at Notre Dame in 1992.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Louisville, Kentucky; my dad was in the United States Army so my family moved around a lot growing up.

Do you have any hobbies/interests related to your doctoral program? If not, what are your other interests?

Besides my interests in history, I have recently completed my certification as an Indiana Master Naturalist, and I volunteer with the trail maintenance crew at Potato Creek State Park. In the context of history, I am interested in the evolving place of Catholic colleges and universities in the American higher education landscape and in the challenges associated with the identity of an institution like Notre Dame that strives to be a prestigious Catholic research university.

What advice would you give to other full-time employees pursuing a degree?

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If you are interested in graduate studies, pick a research topic that you can be passionate about for a long time. Then make a plan and stick to it.

What’s next?

I have not decided on my next challenge yet. But I am thinking about editing my dissertation to submit the manuscript for publication. I am also interested in another potential Notre Dame history project because I think Father Nieuwland is a fascinating figure who deserves a full-length biography.  

Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you would like to add?

I think a brief explanation of my research is worth mentioning. In my doctoral research of Notre Dame’s institutional history, I have learned that an emphasis on science has been the underlying key to the University’s rise as a research institution. The University’s quest to join the nation’s circle of elite research institutions has leveraged science as a means for doing so. As part of the institution’s evolution, academic freedom has been taken to imply a separation of disciplines from one another and from any coherent whole. Along these lines, arguing that there is no conflict between religion and science overlooks the harder question: What should the relationship between faith and science be? My dissertation taught me the historical roots of this ongoing challenge at Notre Dame.

Temple was recently interviewed by Ted Fox for Research Uncorked. You can view that here.