That’s the what the little counter on the side of this blog says: The big day is here! The countdown to my dissertation defense is over. Yesterday, I officially became a Doctor!
The defense went well I thought. Everything is always bigger in my mind than it is in real life, and this was no exception. I prepared a 25 minute presentation about my study that I tried to cut down to 20-22 minutes each time I practiced it. Anne-Lise wanted me to keep it to 20, so I was trying to be brief and not go into too much detail. I wanted to leave something for them to ask me about. I practiced it a bunch out loud to myself, to my cat, to Mike. My defense started at 2, and by 1:00 I was restless and ready. Mike & I had driven to campus and I tried to do normal things to keep my mind off it– ran errands around Erickson, checked my email while eating lunch in my office, etc.
In addition to my committee, some colleagues and friends of mine were also there– Gerardo, Yuhan, and Sally. Mike was obviously there too. There was a funny moment when the committee told Mike he could ask questions at the end. He replied, “I will be keeping quiet.”
I started in on my presentation and almost immediately Anne Lise motioned to me that I was talking very fast. At that point, I stopped caring about the 20-25 minute time limit and just talked. Then, it was question time… I didn’t get any questions that I wasn’t expecting, and sometimes the questions were mostly comments about things I could revise. Every person preceded their comments with kinds words about the work I did on the study, which made me feel good. Everyone took their roles:
Cheryl had comments for me that were about the One Hen unit and about what I could do to write about it. She kept referring to idea for future writing, not necessarily revisions. Like, “When you publish articles on this…” etc. Peter had sent me his questions that morning, which was so nice. I had worked on some possible answers on the car ride over. Sure enough, every time he went to ask me a question I knew exactly what I would say. Kyle commented on the things in my paper that I knew he would comment on. At one point, he talked for a long time about Chapter 5 and then said, “Would you like to comment on that?” I was ready for his criticism this time, but it was also very helpful to hear it. Anne-Lise helped me with answers when she felt I needed it. It was strange, but as we were all talking I got NEW ideas about different angles to examine this experience and ideas about different pieces I could write about these data. That’s how I knew it was going well. It felt inspiring to chat about the study with all of them. It felt like the beginning, not the end.
I could help but yell in excitement when Anne-Lise came out of their deliberations to tell me congratulations. After that, it was a whirlwind of hugs, signing forms, and Anne-Lise telling me we would talk later about revisions. After they all left, Mike & I just hugged each other, alone in room 116A. We were both a bit teary-eyed. I have had 4 defenses in that room over 5 years–practicum defense, dissertation proposal defense, ANOTHER dissertation proposal defense, and then this one. After each of the others, I left feeling the weight of all of the work I had left to do, and to be honest, feeling the weight that I still hadn’t quite gotten it right. This time, I felt light as a feather.
We had a mini-celebration with Danny, who defended his dissertation right before mine, up in his advisor’s office. It was nice to cram in there with my friends and toast to our success. Then, we all went to El Azteco and split a few pitchers of margaritas. A last hurrah with my MSU crew. I’m not sure when we’ll all be together on the same day again, sadly.
I am writing this blog post the day after the defense, and I have to admit it feels a bit weird to not have anything to have to do tonight. Or tomorrow. I can take some time, but then I need to contemplate my next move. The big day was here…and now it’s gone.