Thursday, March 01, 2012

PhD Oral Exam date set

Soooo, my oral defence for my dissertation is now set for April 4 at 1pm. As of today, that's next month and the time seems to be hurrying by. I got that news last week Thursday and since then, it was a flurry of activities for two days. I had to print 7 copies of my dissertation - a total of 3661 pages and I had to send 6 copies by courier to Toronto. The box weighed about 32 pounds. I looked at one package and was amazed that I had written so much! No wonder there were times when my schedule felt overwhelming - especially in the last 12 months when I was dealing with Dad's illness, moving Mom to my home, selling their home, disposing of furniture, making funeral arrangements, sorting through mounds of papers, and all the 1001 things you have to do when people are ill, die or just have a change-of-life experience.

My exam committee has about a month to read my dissertation and make a list of questions that they'll ask at the exam. The exam is open to the public but I hope that no one I know personally will be attending. The day is going to go something like this:
  • I arrive in the designated exam room where the six examiners will be
  • They'll spend a few minutes telling me the schedule for the rest of the oral  exam
  • They ask me to leave the room so that they can discuss as a group who will ask what questions and in what order (generally, order is like this:
    • External examiner (external to York U) will ask the first question,
    • External member (external to my faculty but internal to York U) will go next
    • Dean's representative will go next
    • One person from my supervising committee (not my supervisor)
    • Second person from my supervising committee (not my supervisor)
    • My supervisor will ask the last set of questions 
  • The committee asks me to return to the room where I have about 15-20 minutes to provide some highlights of my dissertation
  • The committee then starts with the first round of questions
  • There may be additional questions after everyone has had a turn
  • The audience can also ask questions but they are not allowed to vote at the end
  • When the committee is satisfied that all the questions are answered, I will be asked to leave the room again so they can discuss their decision
  • They invite me back to the room to render their decision which will be one of four results:
    • Pass with no revisions (that would be ideal)
    • Pass with minor revisions (e.g. typing mistakes or minor additions to content; I would have up to six months to do these)
    • Pass with major revisions (I would have up to one year to do these)
    • Fail (the dissertation is not examinable but this would reflect badly on my supervisor if she allowed me to get all the way to the exam without sufficient guidance
Assuming that the committee passes me with no revisions, I have to submit 3 more copies to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and then I am done. Assuming that I have to do some minor revisions, I hope to get that done by April 30 so I can graduate in June. I hope that I won't have the other two outcomes but if I do, you'll all be hearing about it.

While I am waiting for next month, I have a few things still to do. My last teaching session for the course I am currently teaching in Brandon is tomorrow and Saturday. I should have completed it last week but when I started driving on Friday, it was a total white-out in some parts of the TransCanada highway so I turned back after about 30 kms rather than risk my life in a 2.5 hour drive in adverse driving conditions.

Next week is shaping up to be busy. I am doing a 1 hour presentation by Skype to a class of graduate students at my university (a course that my supervisor teaches). I'm excited to hear their comments and feedback on my last chapter. Then on Wednesday evening, I will be facilitating a strategic planning session for an organization in Winnipeg. It's a non-work related project that will probably take about 10-12 hours over 3 months to complete. Of course I will have to mark the course assignments (only 12 versus the usual 20) which I want to complete by the end of next week. That's next week. I'll see what the next week is like. 

How is your weekend shaping up? Whatever you're doing, enjoy it. I'm buying pizza for my students and I made biscotti to take for them as well. Before I leave Brandon, I'll visit a friend I have not seen in some time.