I started reading “Write Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day” by Joan Bolker in hopes that it would offer magical secrets about how I can get away with only doing 15 minutes of work a day. Not so much– turns out the title was only an attention-grabbing ploy to sell books! Who would have thought? Nonetheless, this book is pretty good, and I plan to read it in pieces as I move through the stages of writing as a form of “dissertation therapy”. There is a whole chapter about how to choose a good dissertation committee, which I believe I have already done, so I thought I’d write about them.


“The Committee” is made up of four faculty members at MSU. Their function is to guide me in “The Proposal” stage and then again at my “Defense” a year from now. I chose these four people myself because I have worked with them these past four years at MSU and they have similar research interests as I do and expertise in my topic.

Anne-Lise is my advisor and my Dissertation Director. She’s the lucky one that gets to read a million drafts of my work and be closer to my project than the other members of The Committee. Her expertise is elementary social studies, which is why she’s my advisor in the first place. Not to mention she’s very smart, ambitious, organized, and driven like I am. Well, she’s much more of all of these things than I am. 

Kyle is the member of my committee that pushes me to think about things in other ways, which is why I need his views on my committee. His expertise is secondary social studies and I have worked with him all year with field instructing interns. Peter has the expertise in qualitative methods– I took a great class with him my first year and learned a lot from him about the kind of research I want to do. Cheryl is the literacy professor I worked with teaching the ELA methods course. I only got to know her this year, but I have learned a lot from her already and she brings more expertise in elementary instruction in general.

I think my committee is a very supportive group, which Bolker says is necessary. She gives a lot of horror stories in one chapter about horrible advisers and committee members, and I was relieved to reflect on the fact that this is not the case for me. I like that 3 out of 4 committee members love college basketball and other sports as much as I do (and who knows, Cheryl might too– we’ve never talked about it!). I’ve worked closely with them, and they’ve worked closely with each other, so there’s a friendly, caring vibe to the group. This is good–I’ll definitely need it.