For my 3800th post, I am pleased to announce that the week’s work has paid off and two people have agreed to serve as readers for my thesis.
Serving as my first reader is the director of the whole frackin’ doctoral program.
Filed under: Things I Really Didn’t Expect To Happen When I Woke Up This Morning
I wrote more, but didn’t want to consume your entire dashboard with it, so I threw in one of them there Read More links. So if you’re interested in more background/details, read on. If not, I’ll never know. But you’ll know. And the questioning will probably eat away at you, gnawing on your subconscious like that thing you did that one time.
So many of you know that I’ve been in Pittsburgh this week trying to get my thesis project proposal “finalized” (not the actual written proposal but the idea itself). I’ve been meeting daily with the Director Of The Program, who I’ll call Susan, on account of her name is Susan.
To back up a little bit: when I decided I was going to go back to school to get my doctorate, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. If you’ve ever had that feeling like you were “ready” to become a parent, you realize that it’s a stupid feeling because you can’t really explain it in a way that will make sense to anyone who hasn’t had that feeling and at the same time you know that saying you’re “ready” to be a parent is inherently foolish because none of us are ever really “ready” for some of what parenting throws at us.
It was like that. I had no good answer for “why” or “what” or “where” but had this annoyingly nebulous “feeling” that it was “time” and OH MY GOD I WANT TO PUNCH MYSELF just trying to describe this, but you get it, right?
I looked around at the various programs, even interviewed at a couple of schools. I came to Pittsburgh and the night before I was set to meet with the director of the program I was sitting there with printouts (REMEMBER IN 2007 WHEN WE USED PAPER?!) of the various “focus areas” available. I have a distinct memory of sitting there thinking, “Well, I like part of this one and part of that one but nothing is really grabbing me, I hope that when I meet with her, something will jump out at me” and so I went to sleep.
The next day I sat in her office and we hit it off big time, she was nothing like I expected but in a great way, with a lot of energy and ideas and enthusiasm. We talked about a bunch of things and when it finally came down to the nuts and bolts of “which program am I going to sign up for?” she said “Here is a new group that is starting in a few months, this information isn’t even on our website yet.” And the new group was an amalgamation of some of the parts of the other programs I was interested in, along with some new stuff. I was, as they say, sold.
The part of the conversation I was dreading came up: my grades. They required that you had a 3.0 GPA for your Master’s level work, and I wasn’t sure what my GPA had been, but my Master’s work had been, shall we say, rough. I told her that the first class I had ever failed was first semester of my Master’s degree. She said, “I think failure is an important theological event. You probably learned more from that than some of your other classes.” I told her I expected my GPA was “close” to a 3.0 but I wasn’t sure. She assured me that a “close” from Princeton was going to be sufficient.
Susan was also the instructor of the first seminar that we had as a class. I loved her class, I loved the discussion, I loved the 1,000 pages of reading that she assigned. (OK, maybe not all of them, but by and large.) The paper I wrote for that class was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had writing anything, even though it felt like I was wrestling out what I wanted to say.
She handed us back our papers as she handed mine to me she said, “You know you have a gift for writing, don’t you?” I mumbled some sort of a thank you and she said, “No, no, I’m not just saying this. You have a gift for writing. In fact you ought to see if you can get this published, either shorten it and submit it as an article or expand on it and make it the first chapter of your book.” (She compared my writing to Ann Lamott, which was perhaps the biggest compliment I’ve ever received, although I’m still not comfortable with the comparison because she’s Ann !(&@(#& Lamott and who the F am I?)
I later did an Directed Study (like an Independent Study, but with more, err, Direction) with Susan and enjoyed it immensely. I love her questions and the way she thinks about things, and she has the ability to get me to the point of being able to draw out from myself more than I thought was there, and put it together more coherently.
All of which explains why I wanted to talk with her about trying to get this final project/thesis moving. We’ve had great conversation and she has been essential in getting my ideas honed and focused.
The last hurdle was figuring out who would be my academic advisors (“readers”) for the thesis. There was a professor I took a class from in Arizona in January, but he’s overly busy and getting ready to go on sabbatical in March, plus when I contacted him before he indicated he was Just Too Busy Already (legitimately so). I met with another professor this morning after stalking him around campus. He seemed interested and had some good ideas and suggestions, but Susan had already told me to expect he’d say no because he was already committed to being a reader for other projects. He said he’d think about it, but it sounded like a “I don’t want to say no, but I’m going to say no, but not right away”. He was even non-committal to being a second reader (which is largely considered to be Not As Intense as being First Reader).
So I met with Susan again this afternoon and we talked about some other possibilities. I said “It’s too bad you’re the director, because I’d love to have you as my first reader” to which she said, “I could do that.”
I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the floor. This is like Denny Crane agreeing to help me study for the bar exam, except that she isn’t senile or a fictional character on television. She’s the director of the whole freaking program, I fully expect that if she wants to be a seminary president someday, she will be. But I also think that she loves what she’s doing now, and may stay at it for as long as possible.
She also said that since she knew what I was doing as a general idea she said I could consider the idea “preliminarily approved” meaning that I can start to put the pieces in order.
I emailed another professor and asked him to be my second reader. He’s an adjunct faculty member and lives about an hour away, but I offered to drive up to meet with him tomorrow to talk about it. He emailed me back about 20 minutes later to say that he was already on campus. We’re going to meet in about an hour.
Holy crap. This is really happening.