Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My dissertation is DONE! Now what?

This morning I submitted my first complete draft of my dissertation to my advisor so now I can sit back and relax until the comments come back. I have just over one week before I have to send it to my full committee. I am not in the least bit concerned or anxious about it. I know I will have to make some changes and I know I will have to boil it all down to a 20 min. talk for my defense, but that is relatively easy.

What has been weird and different about writing my dissertation compared to what many other psychology PhD candidates do? I've done the entire thing 3,000 miles away from my home institution, my advisor, and my committee. Am I getting my degree online? Well, no, and YES. Without the Internet and email, I could not have done this dissertation "my way." Sure, I have done a fair amount of it "their way" which is what you have to do, but I have: a) avoided having to interact too often with my advisor, b) done most of my dissertation on my couch wearing pajamas, c) did it all in a far more pleasant climate, and d) avoided paying about $1500 in fees. That's what I call doing it my way!

I think I can confidently say that I work well independently. That should give me an advantage when I try to land a t-t job at a SLAC given that in those positions, you have to work alone. There is no such thing as a lab full of graduate students and post-docs doing your work for you.

But what is my plan?

Leave academia like so many other women in science? Science Woman lays out an entire laundry list of reasons why people, and women specifically, opt out of tenure-track academic jobs. I can relate to quite a few of them.

I don't know what the future holds for me.
Here's a multiple choice test for all of you clairvoyants out there:

I could work off an on in a "visiting" capacity at the SLAC here and never really make any real money or have a real impact on students and my field, but it would be relatively easy money and I would have lots of free time, comparatively, to write a book, raise a family, and/or explore hobbies. It could be like semi-retirement.

I could work in a non-teaching/adminstrative job at the SLAC and make a decent income doing something valuable and still having a positive impact on students, but I would have constant reminders that I am not teaching when that is what I really want to do and I would have to work in an office M-F including summers. I would not be "bringing my work home" with me as often, but on the balance, I might not have as much free time. I would have tons of money, comparatively, to spend traveling but I'd have to limit it to 2 weeks at a time.

I could work on and off doing odd jobs through temp agencies, earning just enough money to contribute enough to the household economy to kepe us afloat. I would have little job satisfaction and I would have to figure out how to survive and thrive in the real world, albeit only periodically. I'd meet lots of new people, many of which I might have at least one thing in common with, but I'd always have to watch out to not appear to be too smart. I'd probably get fired a lot for stupid reasons.

I could apply for any and every academic position that looks remotely achievable and uproot my family to move to wherever I landed a position. I'd make some money, but we would probably still struggle to make ends meet either because of the high cost of living in this new location or because my husband can't locate a good job. I'd make a valuable contribution to science and to my students but my relationship and mental health might suffer in the process.

I could take a vow of poverty and put my artistic talents to use by becoming an artist. I could paint monkeys that I could turn into educational greeting cards. I could make and sell beaded jewelry, paper boxes, and soap. I could try to make tables and carved wooden frames for mirrors. The possibilities are as endless as my imagination and skills. I would actually have to sell the stuff, which means, I would have to force myself to market my art by getting it into arts/craft fairs and jurying for shows. I'd have to hunt down galleries and stores that would take my stuff for a large cut of the profit. I'd a be just another starving, manic-depressive artist.

Anyone want to take a stab at predicting my future?
You can leave me your answer in a comment!


Twice said...

Congrats on finishing your dissertation!

PonderingFool said...

Congrats on the dissertation. Did you find it anti-climatic? I found it to be so. First when I went to deliver it to my committee members. Known of them were in their office, so I just dropped it off. Then after my defense and then after dropping of my thesis with the grad school administrative office. It is stacks of work that know one is going to read again. I guess that is why I am writing articles based on them.

Is there any possibility you husband can move? Why is his current job valued more than the possibility of your dream job if I may ask (at least that is how I read it)?

I am in a similar boat. My significant other has a job she loves, she can move but who knows if she will get a job that fits her so well.. Not to mention a move would take her away from her family. Feel very guilty for being the cause of this down the line.

Rose Connors said...

Congrats on the dissertation! I won't be so callow as to predict the future, but I hope it involves self-fulfilment and enough money, too.

Stormy The Sheltie said...

I think you should do what makes you happy and puts a smile on your face... no matter what it may be.

Holly said...

Thanks you guys!

Ponderingfool, my huzzy can move and he would if I wanted us to. It's just that I am very happy where we live - with the climate, quality of life, safety, access to both our families, etc. There are drawbacks, but the personal cost/benefit ratio of moving away isn't as favorable as staying put - at least for the time being. A year of having no satisfying employment will change that! If my dream job comes a long and that requires us to move, I am sure my huzzy will make the move with me. He has already once before :-) for grad school.

DancingFish said...

Congrats on the dissertation! Quite an accomplishment!

comebacknikki said...

Congrats on finishing! That's fabulous! :)

B said...

Congrats on finishing! I hope you find something that you enjoy.

Cheryl said...


I did exactly the same thing; I accepted a dream job NOT in academia and, 3000 away and isolated from the dysfunctional environment of academia, did more focused work on my dissertation in 4 months than I had in four years. I managed my committee (albiet, via email and mailed packages), rather than vice versa. All excuses for completing the task were removed. I just defended and was signed off for "approval" this past Monday. I jumped through a few additional university hoops, and got on a plane for the west coast. To say the entire process was anti-climactic... is a gross understatement. I realize there were so many aspects of my life that I put "on hold" until "after the dissertation was done". Now that's not an obstacle.

I thought the process would make me a better thinker, a more holistic person, a broadly educated scholar. I thought it would greatly challenge me - the defense was so uneventful. Not a single challenging, insightful (or inciteful) question or comment was raised. I have not been challenged - I have read a mountain of literature, challenged theorms, thought deeply about my discipline, read broadly and deeply... for what?

I would love to hear others' comments about the "doctoral experience". I imagined I'd be overjoyed, relieved, "expert"... or something.

I found the entire experience...flat.