What strategies can a doctoral student employ to maneuver the trials and tribulations of a dissertation committee?
I am a social scientist, and I focus on economic and political development problems in the developing world. After attending Friends University in my undergrad and University of Texas at Dallas for grad school, I finally have All But Dissertation status while working toward my doctorate degree and am currently employed as a research consultant. I’m a formally trained artist (my undergrad work), and when I rejoin the world (when grad school is over), I’d like to get back into my painting and collage work. Additionally, years of waiting tables in high-end restaurants has made me an epicurean – which turned out well for me because I married a self-taught chef and certified sommelier. My wife and I love to travel abroad, eat good food, and drink good wine. We have a wonderful daughter, Olivia, who has been the joy of our lives as well as a brand new baby, Adelaide. Hobbies I enjoy include reading philosophy, history, and sci-fi fiction; I’m also a huge movie buff and am really good at Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
So you’re ready to pick your committee members; there are a few things to keep in mind first—after all, it is a 3–6 year process. It is essential that doctoral students take the time to reflect on who they will choose to guide and mentor them through the doctoral process and to eventually determine whether they have earned the degree. It should be said that I come from a social science background, so my perspective is tailored to my particular field, but the strategies I discuss in this series of posts can really be applied to any academic background. There is a lot to talk about so let’s start with the first two guidelines.
Choosing the right defense committee can potentially be the difference between a smooth transition of receiving your doctoral degree or dodging bullets in an all-out civil war. Hyperbole aside, I’ve been particularly lucky with picking my defense committee members. However, I’ve had colleagues who have struggled, so it’s easy to be on either side of this tough choice. As a new blogger to this site, I wanted to contribute to other great blog posts here and here, so I thought I’d create a series about important decision for grad students.
My name is Ryan, and I am currently in my final year of graduate school in the Public Policy and Political Economy doctoral program at the University of Texas at Dallas. My policy focus is on international development with an area specialty in Latin America and the Caribbean issues. However, I do find myself looking to Africa to see what development trends seem to be working there. I am fascinated with the intersection of politics and economics and how they relate to the development trajectories of countries abroad. I am currently in All But Dissertation status and am in the final stages of writing my dissertation with hopes to defend by January 2016. My dissertation is about how to conceptualize and measure rule of law in a new way and to systematically test what factors predict this conception of rule of law in a global data set.