Thursday, January 3, 2013

Giving my ideas: My Ph.D. story

I feel like my initial posts have been really wedding heavy. While getting married is a huge highlight of my life, there's another high point that I'm living for:

I'm 'bout to give birth, y' my dissertation! 

I've been laboring for about 4.5 years, and it's time to see it through. So here's a little back story about my journey to the Ph.D. This is a true illustration of God laughing at our plans. 

I was a high school math teacher for almost 10 years. During 3 of those years, I was also the head of the mathematics department and a math coach for my school. 

A picture of me with the teachers in my math department at my former school

I earned my master's degree really early in my teaching career, so I taught for about 8 years before deciding to apply to a Ph.D. program. I always said I wanted to earn a Ph.D, even before I really knew what one really was. I threw my hat in the ring; I applied to a program at the local university, a program that just happens to be among the best in the country. I wanted to go part-time and save some money in order to go full time in a few years. 

Ha! Here's the part where God intervenes. 

I submitted my application for acceptance as part-time student. I submitted it around April, long after admissions staff have selected the full-time students awarded fellowships. My GRE scores had expired, so I had to retake the test. I barely made the deadline to submit. I applied, forgot about it, and decided to cast my net widely and apply to out-of-state schools in a year or so if I didn't get in. 

I can remember it as clear as day. It was early May 2008. The final bell had rung. I could hear kids bustling through the hallways to make their buses. I was sitting at my desk in my little makeshift office when my cellphone rang. 

One 3-minute call turned my life on its head. 

The woman who would become my advisor (and role model and supporter), Dr. C,  was calling to see if I would be interested in enrolling as a full-time student in the program. Even better, she was wondering if I'd be interested in receiving a 4-year, fully-funded fellowship. I have goosebumps typing this. The conversation was short, sweet, and to the point, true to Dr. C's character. We went over how I could change my application status to full-time and some other stuff and I made plans to go visit the campus and the faculty later in the week. 

I could barely get off the phone before I had a hallelujah moment. I'm not a holy roller by any stretch of the imagination, but I finally understood why folks say things like, "I can't hold my peace!" I ran out of my office to the classroom of a fellow teacher who was a trusted friend. I was crying and shaking. I could barely get the words out to explain why I was so happy. I was full. I couldn't hold my peace. In that very moment, I felt the presence of God and saw his face. In that moment, I was Jeremiah 29:11 personified: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

My time in this Ph.D. program has been amazing. I've made great friends, learned so much, published an article, written a book chapter, and gotten some great life lessons. It was worth the sacrifice, worth turning my life on its head and stepping out on faith to do something that wasn't in my plans, but was in His all along. 

Fast forward to the present. I'm almost to the finish line. Like, if I were running a 5K, I'm about 1K away. I've done the coursework. I passed my comprehensive exams. I successfully defended my dissertation proposal. I've collected my data, analyzed most of it, and now I'm writing. And now I'm STUCK! Let's just say 2012 was a busy year, but not necessarily all that productive on the dissertation front. Between wedding planning, family illness, my hubby needing surgery, moving, and a bunch of other stuff, life got in the way. My husband and I call 2012 the year of peaks and valleys. The highs were super high, and the lows were super low, but we survived it! As a matter of fact, we survived it with victory. 

So the dust has settled. I've said goodbye to 2012 and all of the valleys and peaks that it brought. I have about 4 months to make it happen...and graduation is possible.  

What my life needs to look like for the next few months

Keep me lifted. Refer me back to this post and the moment when I couldn't hold my peace. Remind me that He has plans to give me a hope and a future and that graduation is in my future. 

I could write a dissertation about writing a dissertation, so I'll end here...until next time! 


  1. I will be right by your side wagging my tail.


  2. I will be waving at you from the finish line (and wagging my tail for the pooch).....