A matter of degrees
A Dash for cash
All the men in Rangadhar Dash’s family live deep into old age. His father, his uncles: all 98 or 99 when they died. By the time Dr. Dash is that age, maybe he’ll have paid off his student loans.
The senior lecturer in business has six degrees and a fellowship on his résumé. He earned a doctorate before leaving India 30 years ago and has hardly quit going to school since. He tallied so many degrees because when he couldn’t find work he used student loans to support his family.
Dash has worked as a senior researcher for NASA, a senior engineer for LTV Aerospace and Defense Co. in Dallas and for Hughes Helicopters/Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles. That’s not to mention his 33 published papers and three books in the making.
“I was very happy to use my time in a good way,” he said.
One boss didn’t think staying in school was such a good idea. Dash lost his job at NASA because a supervisor didn’t like his constant class work.
“I already had a doctorate,” Dash said. “He thought I shouldn’t go on.”
But Dash did just that. He left stability working at the forefront of aerospace engineering for a run-of-the-mill field job while he pursued a master’s degree at Stanford.
Ironically, Dash’s education worked against him when he was out of work. He was too old or too qualified, prospective employers told him. Months passed without a paycheck.
So he landed more student loans and his second doctorate, this one from Texas A&M. He graduated in less than two years and intended to work full time as a college faculty member.
Résumés that said “Rangadhar Dash, Ph.D., Ph.D.” went to universities across the country. Few recipients were interested. “I got one [academic] job offer in Minnesota. I had seen them on TV cleaning snow off the roads in Minnesota. I’m from India. I didn’t like that at all.”
He turned down the job because he was confident that something more suitable would come along. Still, he had been unemployed since 1993. So he took a route that by now had become familiar.
“I’d gotten nice letters, but no job,” he said. “Why am I wasting time? I could go back to school on my time, and if I got a job I could quit.”
So Dash enrolled at UTA for his third master’s degree. He graduated for the sixth time more than 40 years after he started college. He still couldn’t find work and considered pursuing a third doctorate. That plan stalled when the College of Business Administration hired him.
“My family had been neglected for the last 10 years while we were living off student loans, grants and credit cards,” he said. “Let me stop here.”
His work at UTA is rewarding, Dash said, even if it doesn’t pay as much as jobs he has left. He’s stable and content in what he’s doing.
“Money is important,” he said, “but education is priceless.”
Too bad student loans aren’t.