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.

Recent Posts:
  • Hey Stephen,
    Congratulations! Good to hear you made it through the gate alive.

    steve martin´s last blog post..Evolution and Original Sin: George Murphy Replies (Part 2)

  • Hey Stephen,
    Congratulations! Good to hear you made it through the gate alive.

    steve martin´s last blog post..Evolution and Original Sin: George Murphy Replies (Part 2)

  • Horaaaay! Congrats, my friend.

    Josh H.´s last blog post..Give Heed to Your Priorities

  • Horaaaay! Congrats, my friend.

    Josh H.´s last blog post..Give Heed to Your Priorities

  • AMW

    I was accepted to UGA’s linguistics program with only a BA in Bible and Theology, but moved directly into this consolidated doctoral program.

    I did the same in economics (not at UGA), but they gave me an MA along the way. Does your program not allow that?

  • AMW

    I was accepted to UGA’s linguistics program with only a BA in Bible and Theology, but moved directly into this consolidated doctoral program.

    I did the same in economics (not at UGA), but they gave me an MA along the way. Does your program not allow that?

  • Thanks, Steve and Josh. BTW Steve, I’ve enjoyed your current series immensely!

    AMW, they do not do that with my program. It was 30 hours plus thesis for MA or 45 hours plus dissertation for PhD. I could have taken a Master’s by taking my comps and writing a thesis and subsequently moved directly into the PhD program, but my goal was to get it all over with as soon as possible. What was possible, however, was not as soon as I envisaged, but a fair sight sooner than getting two different degrees! 😀

    Interestingly, there is no linguistics department at the University of Georgia. It is a “program”, which basically means it has no departmental funding from the university, but the program may award degrees. This is a win-win situation: not only is the University getting lots of students from this program (over 200 majoring in linguistics right now) for very little overhead (there are a handful of linguistics-only professors), but the professors in the program get a large degree of leeway in structuring the program, without so many niggling University-mandated requirements.

  • Thanks, Steve and Josh. BTW Steve, I’ve enjoyed your current series immensely!

    AMW, they do not do that with my program. It was 30 hours plus thesis for MA or 45 hours plus dissertation for PhD. I could have taken a Master’s by taking my comps and writing a thesis and subsequently moved directly into the PhD program, but my goal was to get it all over with as soon as possible. What was possible, however, was not as soon as I envisaged, but a fair sight sooner than getting two different degrees! 😀

    Interestingly, there is no linguistics department at the University of Georgia. It is a “program”, which basically means it has no departmental funding from the university, but the program may award degrees. This is a win-win situation: not only is the University getting lots of students from this program (over 200 majoring in linguistics right now) for very little overhead (there are a handful of linguistics-only professors), but the professors in the program get a large degree of leeway in structuring the program, without so many niggling University-mandated requirements.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    I understand COMPLETELY what you went through, and what you are GOING to go through. My wife has her doctorate, and as the spouse of an EdD, having stepped through all the phases with her, you should truly appreciate what your wife is going to have to endure as you run up to your dissertation and defense.
    My advice to you is to pick your committee and chair carefully. They have astounding power over your life, and if you don’t get along with them, it can be the make-break factor to your success.
    Of course, as you said, it is really a “God thing”, and as such you have nothing to fear. God bless you on this journey.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    I understand COMPLETELY what you went through, and what you are GOING to go through. My wife has her doctorate, and as the spouse of an EdD, having stepped through all the phases with her, you should truly appreciate what your wife is going to have to endure as you run up to your dissertation and defense.
    My advice to you is to pick your committee and chair carefully. They have astounding power over your life, and if you don’t get along with them, it can be the make-break factor to your success.
    Of course, as you said, it is really a “God thing”, and as such you have nothing to fear. God bless you on this journey.

  • Dad

    And as your father I am glad the testing was as we, your mother and I, suspected. More a time of confidence building and awareness of your abilities and capabilities. This next step will be finalized with your determination and the will of your beautiful and supporting wife. You are indeed a blessed man so follow the leading of our God and enjoy the journey. You’ll definitely only pass this way once.

  • Dad

    And as your father I am glad the testing was as we, your mother and I, suspected. More a time of confidence building and awareness of your abilities and capabilities. This next step will be finalized with your determination and the will of your beautiful and supporting wife. You are indeed a blessed man so follow the leading of our God and enjoy the journey. You’ll definitely only pass this way once.

  • So happy for you, Steve. But, considering your observed powers in the English language, I’m not too surprised. I don’t mean to minimize your achievement, only complement your scholarship and eloquence. I hope you find employment soon … and it wouldn’t bother me if you found it out here on the West Coast. The University of Oregon has a linguistics department.
    ~ Cliff

    Cliff Martin´s last blog post..Epicurus and the "Problem of Evil"

  • So happy for you, Steve. But, considering your observed powers in the English language, I’m not too surprised. I don’t mean to minimize your achievement, only complement your scholarship and eloquence. I hope you find employment soon … and it wouldn’t bother me if you found it out here on the West Coast. The University of Oregon has a linguistics department.
    ~ Cliff

    Cliff Martin´s last blog post..Epicurus and the "Problem of Evil"

  • Doug,
    I appreciate the voice of experience. I know I’ve got some trying times in the near future, and this is the reason that, come the new year, I want to plow on ahead and get them over with!

    Dad,
    Thanks. 🙂

    Cliff,
    I might well end up on the West Coast somewhere. In general, I’ll go wherever the job is. So Oregon’s definitely in play. 🙂

  • Doug,
    I appreciate the voice of experience. I know I’ve got some trying times in the near future, and this is the reason that, come the new year, I want to plow on ahead and get them over with!

    Dad,
    Thanks. 🙂

    Cliff,
    I might well end up on the West Coast somewhere. In general, I’ll go wherever the job is. So Oregon’s definitely in play. 🙂

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    You are welcome, and BTW< I was thinking of you yesterday, and it occurred to me there were two other bits of advice I should have passed on:

    1. GET IT IN WRITING! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen college students go through an entire program only to think they had something (a diploma) waiting at the end, only to find out they took the wrong course of study or the wrong classes. So, get the dean to sign off on all classes required to graduate BEFORE you take them.

    2. GET CERTIFICATION TOO! My wife was in a cohort that all took the same classes as her, but along the way they neglected to advocate for themselves for their professional future as well as their academic one. My wife looked into teaching credentials and found out that by taking just two more classes, she could be certifed and licensed as a school superintendent and principal at the state level. So, she graduated with her doctorate AND licensure – something her peers didn’t get. So, just be your own best advocate and you will do fine.

    Blessings….

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    You are welcome, and BTW< I was thinking of you yesterday, and it occurred to me there were two other bits of advice I should have passed on:

    1. GET IT IN WRITING! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen college students go through an entire program only to think they had something (a diploma) waiting at the end, only to find out they took the wrong course of study or the wrong classes. So, get the dean to sign off on all classes required to graduate BEFORE you take them.

    2. GET CERTIFICATION TOO! My wife was in a cohort that all took the same classes as her, but along the way they neglected to advocate for themselves for their professional future as well as their academic one. My wife looked into teaching credentials and found out that by taking just two more classes, she could be certifed and licensed as a school superintendent and principal at the state level. So, she graduated with her doctorate AND licensure – something her peers didn’t get. So, just be your own best advocate and you will do fine.

    Blessings….

  • Hi Steve,
       Congratulations!  I have a friend that recently completed his PhD and got a pretty close hand look at how much work it was. 

    — Vance

  • Hi Steve,
       Congratulations!  I have a friend that recently completed his PhD and got a pretty close hand look at how much work it was. 

    — Vance

  • Just back from SBL and catching up on what’s been going on in the blogosphere. Congratulations!

  • Just back from SBL and catching up on what’s been going on in the blogosphere. Congratulations!

  • Doug,
    Thanks again for the advice. I will take both suggestions to heart.

    Vance,
    It was almost worth going through the exams just to have you reappear! 😀 Good to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

    James,
    It’s good to hear from someone who’s personally gone through something like I currently am! I don’t suppose there’s any way you could post your paper on Mark’s ending on your blog, by any chance…? I’ve heretofore been convinced that Mark originally ended with the fearful flight from the tomb, as a typical stinger at the end of a Roman closet drama, a genre of which Mark might be considered a specimen. I’d like to know your take. Thanks for dropping in!

  • Doug,
    Thanks again for the advice. I will take both suggestions to heart.

    Vance,
    It was almost worth going through the exams just to have you reappear! 😀 Good to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

    James,
    It’s good to hear from someone who’s personally gone through something like I currently am! I don’t suppose there’s any way you could post your paper on Mark’s ending on your blog, by any chance…? I’ve heretofore been convinced that Mark originally ended with the fearful flight from the tomb, as a typical stinger at the end of a Roman closet drama, a genre of which Mark might be considered a specimen. I’d like to know your take. Thanks for dropping in!

  • Brian

    I understand where you are coming from having finished my dissertation one year ago. I dont understand why you would solicit prayers for passing your written and oral exams. Seems a little self-serving and needy to me. God has a plan for you either way and i would dubt soliciting a few prayers will impress Him too much Brian

    • Originally Posted By BrianI understand where you are coming from having finished my dissertation one year ago. I dont understand why you would solicit prayers for passing your written and oral exams. Seems a little self-serving and needy to me. God has a plan for you either way and i would doubt soliciting a few prayers will impress Him too much Brian

      Good question, Brian. The fact is, I’m not sure exactly how prayer is supposed to work. On one hand, God’s sovereignty seems to render special requests unnecessary. And as far as miracles per se go, I don’t generally expect, nor hence ask for, those. I do humbly ask that God ordain the events of the future to meet this or that desire of mine, and rest knowing that a Father knows how to give good gifts to His children and can do so however He wills.

      Re: my request for help being self-serving and needy, I must agree. If I weren’t concerned for myself and my family’s well-being, I wouldn’t trouble to do much of anything; even my devotion to God is given out of my own self-interest (cf. this post on that topic). And if I weren’t needy, I wouldn’t ask for help. Gosh, that was simple! 😉

  • Brian

    I understand where you are coming from having finished my dissertation one year ago. I dont understand why you would solicit prayers for passing your written and oral exams. Seems a little self-serving and needy to me. God has a plan for you either way and i would dubt soliciting a few prayers will impress Him too much Brian

    • Originally Posted By Brian

      I understand where you are coming from having finished my dissertation one year ago. I dont understand why you would solicit prayers for passing your written and oral exams. Seems a little self-serving and needy to me. God has a plan for you either way and i would doubt soliciting a few prayers will impress Him too much Brian

      Good question, Brian. The fact is, I’m not sure exactly how prayer is supposed to work. On one hand, God’s sovereignty seems to render special requests unnecessary. And as far as miracles per se go, I don’t generally expect, nor hence ask for, those. I do humbly ask that God ordain the events of the future to meet this or that desire of mine, and rest knowing that a Father knows how to give good gifts to His children and can do so however He wills.

      Re: my request for help being self-serving and needy, I must agree. If I weren’t concerned for myself and my family’s well-being, I wouldn’t trouble to do much of anything; even my devotion to God is given out of my own self-interest (cf. this post on that topic). And if I weren’t needy, I wouldn’t ask for help. Gosh, that was simple! 😉

  • blogster99

    @Brian: I think prayers of this nature can be beneficial. Is it conceivable that God could refresh ones body, mind and spirit, so one could perform at their best? Surely ! Why not?

    I know i take tests better when I’m not weary, stressed, troubled or feeling ill.

    That is too say… that you also put in the work, and were well studied.

    IMO

  • blogster99

    @Brian: I think prayers of this nature can be beneficial. Is it conceivable that God could refresh ones body, mind and spirit, so one could perform at their best? Surely ! Why not?

    I know i take tests better when I’m not weary, stressed, troubled or feeling ill.

    That is too say… that you also put in the work, and were well studied.

    IMO

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    “Good question, Brian. The fact is, I’m not sure exactly how prayer is supposed to work. On one hand, God’s sovereignty seems to render special requests unnecessary. And as far as miracles per se go, I don’t generally expect, nor hence ask for, those. I do humbly ask that God ordain the events of the future to meet this or that desire of mine, and rest knowing that a Father knows how to give good gifts to His children and can do so however He wills.”

    You keep thinking like this, because Christianity is all about the relationship of a son with a father. Those who never had a good relationship with their fathers have a hard time understanding how just “hanging out” (prayer) with a dad has its own rewards, far removed from any special requests the son may ask of the father. In fact, I can’t remember too many “special requests” that I DID make of my own earthly father. I just KNEW that IF I needed something, he would provide it. I think that’s why Jesus, in His own prayers to The Father, often preceded his prayer with “Father, I thank thee…” Or, when He asked The Father, He even stated that the prayer wasn’t for His benefit, but for the benefit of those who were listening and watching. In other words, Jesus’ confidence in The Father’s providence for Him was so supreme, that when or if He asked something, it certainly would be provided. Yet, that never stopped Him from asking when it was appropriate. I think of it as a part of the relationship we have. We talk to our friends on earth, why not even more talk to our Father in Heaven, and at times, bring up the desires of our heart. The stronger the bond with our Father, the more certain one is as to when or if to bring something up. That’s why it can’t be analyzed on the basis of God’s sovereignty. It’s a relationship issue, not a debate about sovereignty. And no one has the right to tell you or me HOW that relationship ought to work. It works differently for every person, hence, the answer to prayers work differently for every person too!

    • @Doug Moody

      That’s why it can’t be analyzed on the basis of God’s sovereignty. It’s a relationship issue, not a debate about sovereignty.

      Wow. Good thoughts there. Thanks again, my friend!

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    “Good question, Brian. The fact is, I’m not sure exactly how prayer is supposed to work. On one hand, God’s sovereignty seems to render special requests unnecessary. And as far as miracles per se go, I don’t generally expect, nor hence ask for, those. I do humbly ask that God ordain the events of the future to meet this or that desire of mine, and rest knowing that a Father knows how to give good gifts to His children and can do so however He wills.”

    You keep thinking like this, because Christianity is all about the relationship of a son with a father. Those who never had a good relationship with their fathers have a hard time understanding how just “hanging out” (prayer) with a dad has its own rewards, far removed from any special requests the son may ask of the father. In fact, I can’t remember too many “special requests” that I DID make of my own earthly father. I just KNEW that IF I needed something, he would provide it. I think that’s why Jesus, in His own prayers to The Father, often preceded his prayer with “Father, I thank thee…” Or, when He asked The Father, He even stated that the prayer wasn’t for His benefit, but for the benefit of those who were listening and watching. In other words, Jesus’ confidence in The Father’s providence for Him was so supreme, that when or if He asked something, it certainly would be provided. Yet, that never stopped Him from asking when it was appropriate. I think of it as a part of the relationship we have. We talk to our friends on earth, why not even more talk to our Father in Heaven, and at times, bring up the desires of our heart. The stronger the bond with our Father, the more certain one is as to when or if to bring something up. That’s why it can’t be analyzed on the basis of God’s sovereignty. It’s a relationship issue, not a debate about sovereignty. And no one has the right to tell you or me HOW that relationship ought to work. It works differently for every person, hence, the answer to prayers work differently for every person too!

    • @Doug Moody

      That’s why it can’t be analyzed on the basis of God’s sovereignty. It’s a relationship issue, not a debate about sovereignty.

      Wow. Good thoughts there. Thanks again, my friend!

  • RBH

    As someone said, congratulations on getting through the doorway.

    I skipped the Master’s too. Like you, I could have picked one up along the way but being married and wanting to get done and out of school I skipped it.

    I got an academic job after my dissertation research was done but before the dissertation was written. I’d strongly recommend not getting a full-time academic job (unless your circumstances require it) until you are at least at that stage. Even then, getting the thing written while teaching full-time was tough. Working up course materials, writing lectures, doing grading, advising students, etc., etc., are time sinks, and it’s way too easy to let the writing of the dissertation slide. I finished mine on time, but it was a killer year.

    RBH´s last blog post..Creationist Evolution in Texas: Updated

    • @RBH
      Thanks, RBH — your advice certainly rings true here. I understand what you mean from my days of being a T.A. for two intro to linguistics courses while taking three of my own; I made it through just fine, but I can imagine that the added responsibility of an actual faculty position might well limit my ability to put in as much effort to my diss as it will require. Thanks again.

  • RBH

    As someone said, congratulations on getting through the doorway.

    I skipped the Master’s too. Like you, I could have picked one up along the way but being married and wanting to get done and out of school I skipped it.

    I got an academic job after my dissertation research was done but before the dissertation was written. I’d strongly recommend not getting a full-time academic job (unless your circumstances require it) until you are at least at that stage. Even then, getting the thing written while teaching full-time was tough. Working up course materials, writing lectures, doing grading, advising students, etc., etc., are time sinks, and it’s way too easy to let the writing of the dissertation slide. I finished mine on time, but it was a killer year.

    RBH´s last blog post..Creationist Evolution in Texas: Updated

    • @RBH
      Thanks, RBH — your advice certainly rings true here. I understand what you mean from my days of being a T.A. for two intro to linguistics courses while taking three of my own; I made it through just fine, but I can imagine that the added responsibility of an actual faculty position might well limit my ability to put in as much effort to my diss as it will require. Thanks again.