November 30, 2016
People slowly fill up the seats in a green and gold room before Jay Borchert even arrives. It’s the day of his dissertation defense, a day that is perhaps the most important milestone in a doctoral student’s career, a culmination of five or more years of intensive work; they’re presenting their research publicly and receiving feedback from their mentors and, if all goes well, their soon-to-be academic peers.
As if this moment weren’t already soaked through with the weight of its significance, Jay Borchert’s defense was uniquely meaningful. Prior to beginning his academic career, Borchert had spent over seven years in prison. He said that the defense was “the final step in turning my life around from the last time I was arrested and incarcerated in 2004.”