Tag Archives: dissertation defense

the final throes

Last week, I returned to Berkeley to defend my dissertation on the Day of Atonement (ironic, eh?). This involved both a public dissertation talk and a private defense. The public talk was an opportunity for me to share my findings with my department. The private defense was an opportunity for my committee to share their critiques and feedback with me. For those sitting on pins and needles, don’t worry, I passed. What this means is that my committee has now handed me a tree’s worth of paper covered in red pen and 2.5 hours worth of feedback to integrate in the next 6-8 weeks. Luckily, their general attitude was: “Good job! You’re almost there! Here’s a few thoughts for the dissertation and a large stack of thoughts for the book.”

This now means that I’m officially in the final throes of my PhD. I’m not yet Dr. but I’m close… real close… the kind of close where failing to finish is not an option. The kind of close where looking at my dissertation makes me want to vomit. The kind of close where I’ve started dreaming about the next project. The kind of close where I’m no longer convinced that I’m going to fail and where I’m completely shocked that this is for realz. Of course, it’s not yet over… I still need to edit this puppy and get it into a format that the Borg will accept at which point I will need to deftly enact circus tricks to get it through the layers of UC bureaucracy. But still… close! I can see the light!

The whole defense process was pretty emotionally overwhelming. I’m super duper thankful for the most amazing committee a girl can ask for. I call them the goddesses because they have been truly supportive in ways that I wasn’t really prepared for. That said, I can’t help but miss Peter. I wasn’t alone in this thought. Right before my defense, Mimi posted a Tweet that got me all choked up: “happy to get to play proud advisor today though really wishing a certain other advisor was here to share the moment.” We were all missing him. Many of those who attended my public talk had him on their mind and when I got to the end of my slide deck, I concluded with a dedication to Peter. Upon seeing tears in the eyes of people in the room, I had to choke back my own for the second time that day.

It’s weird to be nearing the end and to realize that I’m about to move on to a new phase in my life. Everyone says that post-PhD is much better than grad school. I hope they’re right. My body certainly hopes they’re right. At the same time, it’s been an unbelievable 5.5 years. I can’t help but think of all that I’ve learned and done and the amazing people that I’ve been able to work with. I still can’t believe that Berkeley’s iSchool and my committee let me get away with all that I’ve done. When I started at Berkeley, Peter promised me that it would be the perfect place to cause trouble and grow into my own kind of scholar. He vowed to protect me as long as I vowed to kick ass and take names. I can’t help but smile thinking about those conversations and I hope that, somewhere out there, he’s smiling too.