I’d Like to Thank the Academy…


You know how when actors hear about their Oscar nods they always say some version of “It’s just an honor to be nominated!” Most folks look truly thrilled that they have gotten this far in their career and that their hard work has been recognized. Most importantly, they always thank the people who have supported them in all kinds of ways throughout their life.

Now I am certainly not an actor (a one-night stint in the Vagina Monologues is my first and last foray onto the stage) but as I have finally gotten to the point where I am starting my dissertation interviews for my doctoral program, I find myself with a similarly goofy grin and that same feeling of appreciation—it’s honestly a privilege to be at this stage (no pun intended)!

Since starting this program in the fall of 2009 this degree has been an uphill battle. On a near daily basis I have felt not smart enough, not conceptual enough and have been plagued with self-doubt in ways that I have never experienced before.

I once said to my dissertation Chair: “Why is this so hard? I have a Bachelors and 2 Masters degrees!” He calmly responded “How many doctorates do you have?” Ouch. Point taken.

Another member of my dissertation committee told me that once coursework is finished you are 20% done with the degree. Wait, so if I go for three years full-time student and successfully complete all of the required class I am only 1/5 of the way through? Arrgh.

I have a confession to make. I used to think that the people who completed all of their coursework and then didn’t take steps towards writing the dissertation were just lazy. How, I wondered, could they endure all of those hours of coursework and then stop when they were so close to the finish line??

Answer: it’s because when you complete classes you are not actually close at all to finishing!

Oh, and the allure of not having to work on school-related activities on a daily basis can be very compelling. Like the three months I kept my candidacy paper draft (with edits from my committee written all over it) hidden under my bed. When forced to decide between working on edits or playing around Chicago in the summer, a rooftop patio always wins.

But eventually I dusted off that paper and got down to work. Write, edit, get feedback, revise again. In February, I defended my proposal (chapters 1-3) and a few months later I applied for and was granted IRB approval. That could be a whole other blog post entitled “How I got through Irritable, Repetitive, Boredom (IRB).” One more hurdle completed!

But now I am finally at the point I wanted to be at when I started the program in the fall of 2009—I will be interviewing female college Presidents from all over the United States during the next 45 days. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to learn about their professional journey, understand their leadership style and get to hear their advice for aspiring women coming up the pipeline.

It is a true privilege to hear their stories and it is my hope as a researcher (yes, I am finally allowing myself to have that label) to do their stories justice and to share them in meaningful ways that adds new knowledge to our profession and our understanding of what it means to be a female leader in higher education.

I’ll save my acceptance speech for graduation but there are so many people to thank as it truly takes a village to get this far. As the curtain rises and falls on this next act I am appreciative of all of the support. But for now I am excited and ready!

And…Action!

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About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
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11 Responses to I’d Like to Thank the Academy…

  1. Julie McMahon says:

    Great post (as always) AMK! I am especially intrigued by your thoughts as this will be my next challenge.

  2. Liz Gross says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. Sometime during this last year (my third and last year of full-time coursework), I told my professor (who’s also chair of the department), that I totally understood why people quit. She got very stern with me and told me she wouldn’t let me quit, and I appreciate her support and belief in me….but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. I know I want to finish, but I’m also not committed enough to come home from work every day and do more work. I’ll finish, a little slower than I had planned, but I will definitely finish. And so will you. 🙂

  3. J. Vincent Nix, PhD says:

    Thanks for sharing, AMK. I cannot tell you how many times I thought: “ABD isn’t half bad.”

    I was told by several that when I had written my proposal I’d be 60% phinished. Nah. Don’t believe it. If you are anything like I was, you’ll write and write your methodology section–particularly where the interviews and data reduction are concerned. Once you phinally get that done, you’ll need to focus on writing up the results. You’ll wonder, “was my data really saturating” every now and then when you run across an outlier/comment. You’ll go back and review your field notes, you’ll be tempted to interview a few more; you may even send out some email questionnaires and put up a Web-based survey in order to get more “triangulation.” Resist those urges if you can.

    The main thing I think that allowed me to phinish was hiring two editors. One has a PhD, the other had never completed college. I would have the doctor edit first, then I had the other person (who was an avid reader) edit second. By the time I balanced those edits with my bashful and identity-seeking “academic voice” my chair was nearly always pleased with my revisions.

    The main thing is to get feedback. It won’t ever be perfect, so don’t “keep it until it is worthy to be seen” as I did–for nearly a full year–with NO EXTERNAL editor comments.

    That’s right, it won’t ever be perfect. Even with those two editors and my chair bashing it and rearranging it, EACH AND EVERY time I decide to read a section now, I find an error or a typo. Remember, you, your family, an editor or two, and your committee will make up 90% of the reading audience. 🙂

    • Good pooints! ABD isn’t half bad–but it’s far from good, lol!!

      Really great ideas shared here. I recently hired and editor and it might be the best $$$ I have ever spent. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      • J. Vincent Nix, PhD says:

        It definitely was for me, the best $ spent. I’ve recommended that to a few, and not a one hasn’t said the same thing. 😉

        I wonder, if we pay somebody is it acceptable to expect and receive even negative criticism? Maybe the $ takes the “edge” off. If a “friend” was as critical as my editor was, well… I won’t go there.

        Glad to know you are progressing well. I truly look forward to reading your report. 🙂

        And I apologize for the lateness. I only today realized that WordPress notifies me of replies to comments. *rolls eyes*

  4. Cindy says:

    I had the same response to the notion of quitting after finishing coursework. I could never fathom why you would quit after you have come this far. Now, I TOTALLY get it! However, won’t be doing it either 🙂 Wishing you great luck as you hit the interviews!!

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They reflect several of my own doctoral journey. 🙂 Keep that “fire” burning as you get through the next 45 days. There is still a lot of work to be done, but you are so much closer to finishing! Enjoy the experience of interviewing. That was my favorite part of the research experience, other than the day I had completed a full draft of all 5 chapters! 🙂

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