Personal news

Looking through this site, you’ll probably notice that there is a minimum of personal info about myself. It’s largely unintentional, since this site is about ideas more than about me as a person living a normal life. I just don’t have much to say about me here on this blog.

One area of my personal life that I’ve purposefully let bleed over into posts and comments, mostly in attempts to explain my absence this last summer and the past few weeks, has been my request for prayer, but I’ve also been purposefully obscure about what exactly was going on. This reticence was caused by personal insecurity. Now that the storm has passed, I thought I’d share for the record what it has been all about.

Yesterday morning, I officially became a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. Having completed all the coursework towards my doctorate (in historical linguistics), I was required to take a comprehensive written and an oral examination in order for me to be eligible to write a dissertation, the final step of the doctoral program. I have been studying for these exams for over a year now, and finally this Fall I took and passed both of them. The oral examination was yesterday morning, and upon my successful completion of that, I am now considered by the University to be a “doctoral candidate”: a more common, colloquial term for my current position is ABD, which stands for “all but dissertation” — a quite accurate description of where I am in the program right now.

Being ABD is a much better place to be. In the next few months, I will begin research on my dissertation topic (once the proposal is finalized), and as soon as that has happened, I am actually hirable by colleges and universities as-is, although I will not actually be rewarded the doctorate until the dissertation is completed and defended (this is still a couple years in the future). It is assumed by academia in general that, even though it might take a few years, doctoral candidates will eventually complete their dissertations, so that those still in the process of working on their dissertations are not necessarily barred from employment by prospective employers (once again, in academia, anyway). One possible contingent factor for me is the fact that I do not have an intermediate graduate degree (a Master’s Degree, for instance): I was accepted to UGA’s linguistics program with only a BA in Bible and Theology, but moved directly into this consolidated doctoral program. So as it stands, I have a Bachelor of Arts and almost a PhD; this will discourage some schools from hiring me because on paper, I don’t have any graduate degree whatsoever. However, sometimes an MA student who has not completed his/her thesis will be hired in a temporary status contingent upon its completion, which is analogous to my situation and so might apply.

That said, I’m not looking for new employment yet. For one thing, I still have some work to do in order to be able to demonstrate that I’m working on my dissertation, beginning with the dissertation proposal that kicks the whole thing off. But it’s a great feeling knowing that all those headaches and all that heartache has paid off. I’m actually looking forward to getting into the research and analysis that will go into my dissertation (whose precise subject is TBD and TBA).

See, I was very much afraid and convinced that I had worse-than-average chances of passing my comprehensive finals. The biggest reason was that, rather than taking my comprehensives a couple months after completing my coursework, I completed my coursework in May of 2005 and just now took the exams. What this means is that I was practically out of it for two solid years. And do you know what “comprehensive” means? It means that I was responsible for knowing everything I was taught in my two years of coursework, plus material from about thirty books I had to read on my own. I forgot so much in that interval, but at the time, I had little choice but to get a job and take care of my growing little family. But after we found out that my wife was expecting our third child, I realized that I had to get busy and get this thing finished! By then, there was so much catching up to do — and I don’t have the best memory. I was faced with the very real possibility that I’d not pass my finals and get kicked out the program. How humiliating!

So that’s why I held this somewhat close to my chest when talking about what was going on this last year: flunking the program would have been embarrassing enough in front of all my loving family and friends, so I had no intention of suffering such humiliation writ large (i.e. all over the internet)!

But I passed. And believe me, I know more than ever that God guides the steps of the righteous. If God hadn’t put me here where I am, I wouldn’t be here – couldn’t be here – and that’s all there is to it.

To all who pledged their support and prayers, thank you. Your encouragement meant a lot to me.

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