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!
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