Things don’t always work in order

Posted: May 14, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

The process of getting a PhD is pretty straight forward. You get a bachelor’s degree. Then a Master’s degree. Then you take however much coursework your program requires. Next come exams. Then a prospectus. Then a dissertation. Then a defense. Then, hopefully, a job.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But that’s not how it always happens. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my life, is that ‘the way it’s supposed to be’ is almost always different from the way it is.I got my bachelor’s degree in 2002. Then I went into a PhD program that included a Master’s in the process. But the point of that was just to have 5 years and get both degrees at once. So I would, in theory, have been finished by 2007. Instead, I left the program in 2004, and was awarded an MA for my troubles.

Okay, so BA, then MA. Still on track. But then I decided that I wanted a degree that would help me get a job, that all important ‘final’ step (I mean, there’s still tenure and all that, but that comes later). So I decided to study rhetoric. Rhetoric is like philosophy, but with employment. But that meant getting an English degree. A second MA.

BA, MA, MA. Starting to sound like the beat of a song, but doable. So I did my coursework for the PhD, and got through that relatively unscathed (if you leave out the little nervous breakdown). Then I took my exams. I passed two, failed one. So I had to retake the third. Then would come the oral exams.

Only I didn’t do it that way. I started working on my prospectus between the re-taking of my third exam and the oral exams. The prospectus was a hell of a process, and though I managed to get through it, things outside of work got even harder (my cancer, death of my father, etc).

Only I haven’t, technically, gotten through it. My adviser likes the prospectus. He told me to keep working, to go ahead and work on the dissertation, while I waited for the prospectus meeting. No point sitting around doing nothing while waiting for the planets to align just right and get the four members of my committee in the same room at the same time.

So my prospectus isn’t ‘approved’ officially. That said, I’ve got about 30 pages of my dissertation finished. Not in a row, though. I have most of the first chapter (except for one large part in the middle), and a good portion of the second done.

I’m starting to worry that my prospectus meeting will be only a few weeks before my defense. That would be weird.

There’s also the possibility that I won’t be able to finish in time. My contract was only for 5 years, and that 5th one is coming up fast. I can apply for further aid, but it isn’t guaranteed.

Then again, I think I can pretty convincingly argue that this last year has had enough difficulty to explain why I didn’t make more progress, and even make the progress I did make more impressive. It’s hard to deny that someone had a hard year when they lose a parent and a testicle to cancer within 3 months of each other. Hard to expect someone to recover from both of those things quickly. And I don’t think I have. Not entirely. But I still kept teaching, and did a relatively good job of it. (Fall semester didn’t go so well, but that was right when my father died). I only cancelled 2 classes when I had cancer, so my commitment to teaching is pretty clear.

I hope I don’t have to make that argument. But if I do, I think I’ve got a lot on my side.

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Comments
  1. Beriso, Husen says:

    I deeply admire the progress you have made in your life. You never gave up the good hope to the challenges that you have faced. You have continued to learn from the challenge, and you finally made a sensible meaning from the difficulties that you have come across at each steps of your move. I learned so many things by reading your blog besides being your student. Your narrations apply to my life history. You are my true hero, and I am deeply honored to have been your student. I will continue to read your blog and learn from you.

  2. cogitas says:

    Husen,
    Wow, no pressure there. 🙂
    Thank you for your very, very kind words. I was very happy to have you in class, very impressed with your work and the effort you put in to the issues with language barrier; it was that much harder for you than for the rest of the class, and the fact that you did everything required to overcome those additional hardships and still come out on top is very impressive.

    Knowing that you’re reading, maybe I’ll post more often.

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