Thursday, March 6, 2014

I failed… and that helped me succeed.

On Thursday, February 20th, I had my oral exam…again. And if you aren’t familiar with what brought me to this point, check out here and here*. However, this time was different, I passed. And I didn’t simply just-get-by, or, do-just-enough, I knocked it out. As in, it was a 450 foot blast to deep right center. One faculty member said that he has never seen such a dramatic turn around in just six months. So what was the difference? Why was my performance miserable in September, but outstanding on Thursday? Well, here is my best attempt at explaining this phenomenon.

Proof that I passed!

In reflecting on my recent success, it wasn’t one moment that helped me reach this point, rather it was a journey (overused metaphor alert!). It began with having breakfast with Frank the morning after my first attempt at the exam. After sharing everything, Frank looked at me and said, “You’re here to get this degree, so that is what you are going to do.” From there I sat down with Lyndsy and sketched out my supporters. 

You see, just like the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” education is not an individual journey. Having different types of supporters, from those willing to converse about the topics I was studying to those who were cheerleaders, kept me moving even when momentum was dying. So here is a list, and it’s not exhaustive (so I apologize if I accidentally left you off), of all those who in some way, supported me along the way:

Lyndsy, Frank, Adam Stafford, Eleanor Finger, Frances Keene, Martha Glass, Jamie Penven, my parents and family, Lyndsy’s parents and family (especially Brenda!), Claire Robbins, Patty Perillo, David and Wendy Chinn, Joe Racek, Crystal Fink, Lucas Johnson, Suzie Baker, Delight Yokely, Nicole Johnson, Sam Albimino, my church family, my neighbors…

All those people, plus many more, are playing a role in my education.
My Family celebrated my success. Heath was represented by a pic from my phone.

I’m certainly thankful to have completed my exams and to have done them so well. Not passing the exams in September, certainly contributed to my success. As I stated in my first post, “Fail Faster,” it is through (sometimes repeated) failure that can often lead to success. The key is embracing that failure and using that new knowledge to help garner success.
This experience is still very fresh. I can’t honestly say that I am completely comfortable with how things played out and I don’t think I’ve finished reflecting on it. Yes, it would have been much nicer to have passed the exam the first time. Maybe with time I will realize how much I have learned from this experience and appreciate it more. Now, I will celebrate this success, and use it for motivation to reach my next goal…a successful dissertation defense!

For those curious of my next step, I’m officially ABD – all but dissertation. First I need to solidify my dissertation chair and my topic. From there I work towards developing my prospectus, which is the first three chapters of my dissertation (introduction, literature review, and methodology). I then defend my prospectus in front of my committee. After a successful defense, I will have permission to collect my data and analyze it and develop my conclusions – which are chapters three and four. I then have my dissertation defense. Unlike my prelim defense, I will not have a prospectus or dissertation defense until my chair is confident that I will pass.

Ideally all these steps will happen in the next year to allow me to graduate next May. However, for many students the dissertation phase is quite challenging because for their first time ever in their academic career, they don’t have deadlines (tests, assignments, etc.) that they have to meet. I’m going to strive to develop and keep aschedule and work with a few colleagues to hold each other accountable. While the dissertation is a major undertaking, the finish line is much closer than it was in August 2011. Marching forward…

*I'm having a hard time getting the links to work correctly.  Here are the two posts referenced:
Post 1:
Post 2:

1 comment:

  1. We are cheering you from afar, Jonathan! Keep up the great work! And regarding the timeline -with the exception of data collection (it can take a short time or a long time depenting), you can 100% get your dissertation done in a year, if you focus and put the work in. I think that for me, chapters 1-3 took about 6 months to get polished, maybe a little less, then I kind of lollygagged around data collection/cleaning (another 3 months - could have been done in 1 if I had not been working and had been focused). Then chapters 4 and 5 really write themselves - 3 months to polish, tops, if you are really focused. (all this while working 20 hrs a week, like I think you do) Now, granted, I had a 'baby deadline" but you seem to be pretty good at bearing down and focusing even without that looming over you, so I'm sure you'll do great!