Julia has always taken an interest in the topics of my studies—asking questions, offering thoughts and insights, and setting her books up next to me so we could study together. I have always valued our discussions about research and the impact it can have on improving our world. Most recently, her reflection on and appreciation of the fact that, after being diagnosed with SLE myself, I centered my dissertation research on the experience of SLE in the hopes of improving the health and well-being of those struggling with SLE, served to confirm for me that our children see the real-world impact of educational pursuit. Her insights always amaze me and I look forward to seeing where her intellectual curiosity takes her in life and to many more thought-provoking and heartfelt discussions over the years. I am so blessed to be her mother.
Tyler has been tenacious in his support of this goal—he has always been able to sense when the balance between family and scholarly pursuit felt overwhelming to me, stepping up with a well-timed “You can’t give up, Mom, I’m so proud of you!” His passion for the importance of this pursuit and his unwavering confidence in me have been more important to me than I can express. He is, without a doubt, an incredible son. I look forward both to supporting him wherever his commitment, tenacity, and passion take him and celebrating his many inevitable accomplishments.
Ava’s big heart and unconditional love have also been instrumental to this journey. Her patience with this process is unparalleled. After a full day of work and a full evening of reading and writing, Ava was always right there to sit and cuddle with me, make me laugh, tell me that she loves me, and make me feel so special even as I sat there exhausted from the demands of the day. She has always been able to help me re-focus my attention onto our family even during my most stressful times over these last four years. She is a true blessing, and I look forward to both many more cuddles and laughter and to seeing how she ends up putting her unique personality and talents together to make her dreams come true.
I am so proud of each member of our family and the way we all worked together to earn this Ph.D. I am so grateful for each of them and their unconditional love and support. I hope and pray that the path our family has followed will inspire our children to find happiness both in the pursuit of their dreams and in the love, comfort, and support of their families.
I would also like to acknowledge my siblings, Tim Ford, Tom Ford, Jodi (Ford) Safris, and Anne (Ford) Wegner, whose love and support have always provided me with a sense of security and whose unique personalities and approaches to life have long served as a foundation for one of my most fundamental beliefs—that all perspectives are inherently valid and necessarily incomplete. This foundational personal belief has served as a guide for my personal life as well as for my academic career. Each one of them is amazing, and I am proud to be a member of this incredible family.
In addition to an incredible family, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge those individuals who have been instrumental in shaping my education. First, Dr. Kathleen Krone, who advised my master’s thesis and encouraged me to pursue my Ph.D. It was because of her that I believed I was well-suited to doctoral studies. Second, though many of my educators encouraged me to think beyond my own perspective, Dr. Phyllis Japp was instrumental in helping me to challenge myself to do so in every situation. Dr. Kristen Lucas, a friend and mentor, who recognized the need to push me out of stagnation and into the next step in my educational journey. Without her, I fear I may have never taken that leap into applying to the doctoral program. Dr. Jordan Soliz, who both encouraged me to work toward my Ph.D. and who has, on so many occasions, said just exactly the right thing to help me embrace the struggle inherent in the educational process. Dr. Dawn O. Braithwaite, who has been so supportive of my education over the years and who has helped me develop an incredible respect for the value of qualitative research. I also extend my gratitude to Dr. Jody Koenig Kellas, my doctoral advisor and mentor, who has gently yet consistently challenged me to interrogate what I think I know. Her commitment to my success, both as a scholar and in balancing my personal and academic life, has been key to my achievements. It is through her guidance and tutelage that I was able to come to terms with who I am as a scholar of communication studies—and that is a gift for which I will forever be grateful.
I would also like to thank the women who shared their SLE experiences with me in interviews or surveys. Their stories have shaped my own sense-making about SLE in powerful ways. I am so appreciative of their trust and candor, and look forward to building from what I’ve learned to improve how we live with and relate in SLE.
In sum, I am grateful to have had the great fortune of knowing and developing relationships with a host of incredible people who have nurtured me in some way or another over the years. I am as humbled by as I am appreciative of these individuals and so many others who have been instrumental in shaping my life today. I hope and pray that I can have a similar influence on the lives of others over the next several years.