Thursday, January 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Taking my first of three written preliminary exams (September 2007)
It's throwback Thursday! This week I decided to get a jump on the paperwork required for me to walk with my PhD in May. I registered my name to graduate and filed the title page of my dissertation. The email accepting my title page noted that it has been more than five years since I passed my last preliminary exam (an oral prelim, a defense of my dissertation proposal, back in fall 2008). Therefore, I needed to take a second preliminary exam to prove my knowledge was current in order to defend my dissertation. ?!?

There must be some loophole, I replied, I'm a dual-degree student. Nope, it's a university-wide rule. I've been here 10 years; how had I never heard anything about this?? I sent emails to my advisers and posted an outraged message on facebook while I tried to figure out how to accomplish yet another task this spring.

The responses on facebook were quite interesting: colleagues who are "behind" me in their programs uniformly responded with outrage. What kind of requirement is that? Don't they know we have enough on our plates? Somebody should do something about that!

Meanwhile, colleagues who have already completed their degrees told me this was quite common and really only a formality. Usually the defense committee just asks you about the most important book(s) in your field in the last five years. It's an easy enough question to answer, since you've probably been citing it/them in your diss. Then the rest of the defense goes on as scheduled, only with twice the usual paperwork.

So that is what I will do. I've filled out the form to request a day, time, and room for my dissertation defense, which will likely take place the first week of April. What frustrates me is that if I had known of the rule earlier, or if anyone in my department had been paying attention, I could have filled out the second prelim paperwork in advance of my pre-defense, which happened this past fall and could easily have doubled as the required examination.

As it is, no harm no foul. Maybe my little outburst even served to educate a few of my friends about this hoop they may have to jump through. I've traded my "stressed kitty" t-shirt (above) for my "happy camper" t-shirt. T minus 7 or 8 weeks until I have to turn the final draft in to my committee!

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