Category "Family Matters"

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

May 10, 2010


I distinctly remember when I graduated from high school, thinking that commencement was a funny name for the ceremony. High school graduation seemed so much more of an ending than a beginning--why would you call it commencement?

I thought about that again when I graduated from college with my bachelor's degree. At the time, graduation felt like the end of security. During the time I was in college, my parents paid my way. Graduation was a marker of being out on my own, finding a job, and paying my bills.

Eventually, I found my way through two master's degrees, and my family made me go to two more commencement ceremonies. I remember very little from these events, except that Donna Shalala was the speaker at one, the same one I'm told was on a cold and rainy day in the pacific northwest. The second of these commencement ceremonies was on a sunny August day, and there was jazz music. But both of these again felt more like an ending instead of a beginning...I've never thought of finishing a degree as an opportunity to move on to something new. Maybe I've been living my life in the past instead of the present? Of maybe all of these commencements weren't really commencements at all, but just a temporary respite on the way to something more?

This past Friday, on a cold and rainy day, I participated in my final commencement.100_0369.JPG Beforehand, I attended a little reception thrown by my department. My advisor wasn't there, of course. The department chair, who is kindly but doesn't know me, mispronounced my name when he introduced me. I didn't really know anyone, except for one favorite professor who couldn't attend the ceremony today because of a family obligation. None of this mattered.

When you graduate with your doctorate, you get to wear a hood made of velvet. The velvet color varies, depending on your degree. In my case, it was dark blue, for the doctor of philosophy. At the University of Minnesota, the satin lining on the inside is maroon and gold. And, here at the U of M, you can choose the standard robe (black) or the centennial robe (red). Someday, if I choose to become faculty somewhere, I might purchase the centennial robe, but right now, I am content to have the doctoral robe of the former academic dean of General College. I did buy the centennial tam instead of the traditional mortarboard, though.

The talking part of the ceremony was short. The address was given by a geography professor who talked about graduate degrees and global engagement. It was interesting, but not all that accessible to my family. It didn't matter.

I was in the back of the line of maybe 300 or more doctoral degrees given out on that day. Eventually they called my name, and I was hooded for the first time. I don't know who the faculty were who did the hooding, although I think one is the chair of the educational psychology department. It didn't matter.

I walked across the stage and got my diploma cover, which I don't need since my diploma is already framed and on display in my office (doctoral degrees are awarded monthly--and mine's been done for awhile now). Some people got to get hugs or handshakes from faculty in their departments who were there for this auspicious occasion. I did not have anyone standing there, eager to hug me or shake my hand. It didn't matter.

I walked off the stage, and standing there at the end was C, eager to hug and kiss me. My parents, who were in the most awesome reserved seating, looked on with pride. THAT mattered.

When it was all done, I walked out with my little girl and my son, who have a doctor for a mother. They say that the educational attainment of the mother is the most important factor in the social mobility of a child. J and S, I might not have even imagined your very existence back when I was graduating from high school, and my bachelor's, and my master's, but don't think for a minute that I didn't do it all for you, because I did. Because THAT matters.

So, I walked out of that auditorium wearing my doctoral clothes proudly, holding the hand of my son. I did it! I accomplished an important life goal. And now, as I look forward to what comes next, I understand the meaning of commencement. I think I just didn't get it before because I wasn't really done. I wasn't ready to commence.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:55 AM | Comments (2874) | Family Matters | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

December 25, 2009

Done, and done!!

Well, things never go exactly as planned, do they? When I was entering the data for my dissertation, I didn't really think that 22 days later, I would have defended my dissertation and now be Dr. Minneapolismama. But, I did, and I am.

I'm still taking it all in. The speed in which things happened had more to do with my adviser, than with me, although I'm certainly glad to be done. My adviser is going on phased retirement, and he will be in California for spring semester. I'll be surprised if he's around for graduation, although maybe he'll be back in Minnesota by May. But anyway, he figured, let's get this thing done before he leaves. So we did.

Now that I'm done, what next? Well, I'm happy with my job, so no changes there. I'm going to start sewing--something I've wanted to learn for some time. And, I'm planning to spend a weekend on a lake in Minnesota at some point as a little reward. That's about it.

Posted by chri1010 at 9:33 PM | Comments (1982) | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "Family Matters"

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

December 1, 2009

Second verse, same as the first

I just finished entering all of my data for my dissertation into my spreadsheet (yay for me), and I posted that information to my Facebook status. Someone remarked, "and with two kids--yay for you!" or something like that (it was better stated in the original). Yeah. And with two kids. And a husband who has a chronic pain condition. And with a full-time job. And did I mention the aging dog who requires us to be a little more vigilant in the clean up department, lest the baby try to assist with the cleanup? Ok, you didn't need to know that little tidbit. And yay for me for entering my dissertation data, and yay for my friends for being so supportive. I honestly couldn't do it without my friends.

But anyway, sometimes I wonder, "what the hell was I thinking?" And sometimes I wonder, "what the hell AM I thinking?" I've got too much going on, and I'm looking forward to "done dissertation" being one less thing I have going on. Maybe soon. I'll keep you posted.

And then there's a day like today. We went to the pain clinic, and found out that there are even more options for easing the pain. Like Tai chi, and accupuncture, and other drugs. And keep on doing what you're doing. And let's figure out what might be making you feel like you want to check out. And let's keep a little humor in the picture while we're at it.

And then a nice lunch together, like the friends who we are. And later on, the surprise of a belated birthday present, not so secretly hidden away for me to find when I would least expect it (a krumkake iron...with lots of jokes about it being a crumb cake iron, or a croom kake iron...No, that's not right! Crumb ka ka--that's right!)

And the realization that things could be so much worse. Sometimes I'm not sure how, but I know they could be. And recognizing that someday, we'll be past all of this, and C will figure out how to live with the pain. Why should anyone have to live with the pain? But he will, and life will somehow have moved on. And hopefully we won't have been too distracted by all this pain stuff that we won't look back in 20 years and regret not enjoying our kids more.

And so, a temporary lull in the cycle of dealing with chronic pain. Gotta enjoy it while it lasts. In the meantime, I leave you with cranberry girl (yes, cranberries are her new favorite food).

Cranberry girl.jpg

Posted by chri1010 at 11:32 PM | Comments (1533) | Family Matters | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

July 2, 2008


C and I have taken to disser-dating--that's going out to a restaurant or coffee-shop that has free WiFi and working on our dissertations. We treat ourselves to dinner as part of the motivation, and then work as long as we can, even if only an hour or so at a time. I think we're gonna get there if we keep things up.

Right now, though, the motivation is lacking. I'm feeling overwhelmed by my data, and overwhelmed by the amount of writing I need to do. I just want to get to read for awhile, but frankly, I'm past the point of luxuriating in one more book. It's time to write!

I've written a few words tonight, and tinkered with a few previously written sentences, so the disser-date is not all for lost, but I sure hope I get some motivation soon. Gotta get this thing done before the baby is here!

Posted by chri1010 at 6:36 PM | Comments (2565) | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

May 2, 2008

Writer's Block

I have been working on this project with renewed effort for a week now, and to show for it I have a huge stack of papers in my office, some books piled up next to me, and nearly 20 pages written. Yet, right now, I'm feeling like it's hard to continue, even though I know at least 5 more things that need to be written next. I'd rather be shopping for shoes, or playing the Wii, or sleeping. Let's face it--dissertating is not supposed to be easy. But it's definitely one thing that makes balance a challenge. In the interest of meeting my writer's block with writing something, I'm writing here about an article I've read recently, that speaks to me on multiple levels right now:

Recently I've been reading the article "Teaching Smart People How to Learn" by Chris Argyris (published in the Harvard Business Review). It's an interesting article that observes that people tend to use defensive reasoning rather than productive reasoning in responding to criticism. The article doesn't really fit into my dissertation directly, but I think that productive reasoning CAN be a useful approach to the dissertation process. It's important to make transparent one's premises, inferences, and conclusions to test them in an independent, objective way, as Argryis points out. But I'm not really sure that our educational system encourages us to put ourselves out there like that. There's so much risk involved and potential face to lose. Faculty don't really model productive reasoning, either, so it's hard for us to learn. Yet we have to, because responding innovatively to what gets thrown at us requires the critical insights that can come when only when we're honest with ourselves.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:18 AM | Comments (742) | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

April 29, 2008

Yet Another Pictureless Post

I feel like I've gotten away from knitting a little in the last couple of weeks. In fact, I still haven't finished my last trip socks, and I feel quite strongly about wanting to get those done. I was working on those socks in the airport waiting for my flight out to LaGuardia, and a woman and her friend looked over at me. The woman said, "What are you making?" Surprisingly, people never seem to expect to hear "socks" as the answer to that question. So, I said "socks" and she looked at me and said, "And how many years older will you be when you have them finished?" Clearly a non-knitter.

At any rate, I've been working on a few small knitting projects lately (I don't seem to really know how to work on big knitting projects--I have yet to make a full-sized blanket or an adult garment of any kind other than hat/scarf), but mostly I've been distracted with things other than knitting:

1. DISSERTATION! The first three chapters are due to my adviser on Friday. I have 10 pages written....I need to get to work!

2. Hubby is in Hawai'i and I am a single parent. I think he makes a better single parent than I do, but J and I got out the door on time today, so I can't complain too much. I DO need to clean out the catbox though.

3. Wii. Need I say more? Oh, it's soooo fun! I'm totally into the Wii fitness thing, and watching my numbers improve. Needless to say, my arms are killing me, and that feels so good. But, if I'm playing tennis in my living room, I'm not knitting, that's for sure.

I'll get back to the knitting eventually. I want to start sewing sometime soon, too. But FIRST, I gotta get that dissertation done!

Posted by chri1010 at 10:00 AM | Comments (1390) | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

April 24, 2008

Write On!

The Dissertation Train has left the station! Whoo hoo!

I have a new prospectus meeting scheduled (or almost scheduled), and a plan for a dissertation defense.

I'm working on my diss right now, and it feels good!

Posted by chri1010 at 11:53 AM | Comments (3416) | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

April 18, 2007

The Emergence of My Pragmatic Self

So, I've been knitting and knitting and knitting, and then, oh yeah. There's that thing called a disseration. Truth be told, there are several reasons why I haven't quite made the progress I'd like to have made by now:

1. Concerns about J, documented over time on this blog, have been a major distractor. And they should be! Who can do a good job dissertating when you're worried about your kid?!

2. We've had some interesting rental challenges since we've been in MN. I'd rather not say more, but let's just say that this has been QUITE a distractor. We're set to move--yet another thing to keep me from the dissertation--and after we're moved, I think things will finally settle down.

3. A problematic research question. Note that this one ACTUALLY relates to the dissertation itself. It really has been a hurdle, this problematic research question and subsequent complex reaction to my soon-to-be previous research topic.

So, challenges one and two are resolving themselves. We've figured out a schooling option for J. We're almost ready to move, and we should be settled for a little while anyway after that. But, problem three--the disseration question--doesn't get resolved quite so easily.

Yes, I've come to realize that the dissertation really is not the time to do something too innovative. Maybe it can be innovative. Sometimes. But, if innovation is the timely application of new knowledge in context, then timing is everything. Sometimes the timing might not be right. I've also come to realize that, to some degree, innovation is best when it's situated in context, and in order to be an innovator, one must be in that context. Doctoral students are still being initiated into the field--they may have innovative ideas, but the timing might not be right.

On the other hand, timing is everything. What if you just finished a project for your work that felt like a dissertation? What if said work project had another component that needed to be examined? What if it were meaningful? Had policy implications in a real-world context? Had data that you did not have to actually collect?
Would you change your dissertation topic?

Well, I am changing already did. And, even though my new topic has virtually nothing to do with the old topic, I'm feeling really good about it. I'm going to have to have a new prospectus meeting. I have to do a new lit review. But, I'm excited about it, and I've even already started!

So, stay tuned. In between knitting projects, I'll post a little more about my new topic and my progress toward that thing called a dissertation.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:40 PM | Comments (1578) | That Thing Called a Dissertation