|Me, in my new suit shirt, celebrating with the hubby|
The dissertation proposal defense is what allows you to move forward and conduct the research study you are proposing to do and it is also what advances you to "candidacy" for your doctorate. You need to have the first three chapters of your dissertation (introduction, literature review and methodology) completed and approved by the chair of your dissertation committee. You then schedule a date and time for your "defense" (basically an overview of your three chapters, defending why this research you are proposing to do is significant and needed in the field of education).
The road to my proposal defense was a hectic one. I had hoped to have completed it by June, but needed until September to get it right. The introduction was pretty solid all the way through this process because it's basically a intro to the problem you are addressing and a summary of your literature review and methodology. Your literature review, also called "lit review", documents all prior research related to the problem you are attempting to solve in your research. Your methodology outlines how you will conduct your research, which instruments you will use to collect the data and details on how you plan to analyze it once the data is collected.
I went through many iterations for chapters 2 & 3, as I worked with my chair to get down to the root of how and why my study will be conducted. Within that timeframe: my husband and I also celebrated our wedding with over 200 close friends and family, over a 3 day weekend extravaganza; I completed summer school (our doctoral program is designed for us to take classes while completing the dissertation simultaneously); I was invited by a foundation to write a full grant proposal for my organization, Message Media Ed - which was to be completed a week prior to my proposal defense; and I conducted our first youth leadership workshop for the school year, Diversity Leaders Boot Camp for Message Media Ed. Phew! All of this occurred in the August and September months!
I typically try to plan out my life - balancing my business, school, work (the job I take to pay the bills while building my own biz) and my new role as a wife - as best I can, but the grant proposal was a major surprise. Although it was wonderful to receive the news that I had the opportunity to apply for funding, I was also quite overwhelmed with the timing for completing it and my dissertation chapters... it was time to pray lol.
The two weeks before the defense, I spent much of my time in the library at school and the cafe where I love to write and at home in bed (my other writing space). I went from completing a 55-paged dissertation proposal one day, to writing an 8-paged grant proposal, to organizing (and coordinating with my co-facilitators) the 4-hour curriculum for Diversity Leaders Boot Camp, to creating the powerpoint for my proposal defense - all back to back to back!
But I did it!
I ended up pulling an all-nighter before the proposal defense, piecing together my powerpoint. By 10am, Monday morning, September 27th, I completed the powerpoint. Hopped in the shower and put on my new suit. It was 113 degrees that day. We have no AC at home and I have no AC in my car. It was hot! I was anxious, but excited... feeling somewhat confident but just needed to get to school, relax and focus on the presentation at that point.
At 10:50am, I called my favorite cafe, Vegan Village Cafe, to order vegan jambalaya and vegan red velvet cake, for my committee members. They prepare you as a student, to provide refreshments for your committee members during the defense. Since my defense was around lunch time, I decided (after consulting with a few people), to provide lunch for them. By 11:10, I was at the cafe purchasing the meal and hit the road to school. I also bought a smoothie, to keep me cool for the ride. It helped tremendously. I was still sweating though lol.
I arrived at school by 11:45am and drove around for 10mins looking for a parking space. Good ole' LMU... NEVER has parking when you are in a rush! I still wanted to review my powerpoint and make notes for the presentation... (I hadn't had the opportunity to do that yet). I finally found a parking space and made it to the doctoral center by 12pm. I met the department assistant there who printed out my final dissertation draft (it's always a draft until you graduate - and even then, I hear, it is still a draft in your eyes). She printed copies of the powerpoint for me to pass out as well. We then headed over to the conference room where I was presenting.
Now, I have have 3 committee members (who shall remain nameless for this blog). They are all Ph.D's: One is the Chair of the committee (who has been the primary person guiding me through this process), one is another professor at LMU and the other is a professor at a university in Boston. My external committee member was conferenced in via phone and could see my powerpoint via a file sharing program. We needed a bit of time to set up the technical side to this so all was well. While the assistant set this up, I heated up their food.
After everything was set up, I had a brief meeting with my Chair. It was now, 12:50pm. I noticed my demeanor at this time. Once everything was set up, a calm came over me. I still hadn't had an opportunity to look over the powerpoint, but I was feeling somewhat okay with that. My meeting with my Chair was good because she explained the protocol of the defense.
She was to run the entire thing, make introductions, set the parameters, give me the go ahead to begin and facilitate the question and answer session once I completed. She would take notes for me during the Q&A time so I wouldn't have to worry about that. She would then ask me to leave, and she offered her office to me to wait it. During that time, my committee would decide to give me:
1. No pass - meaning, there were still some major concerns with my research or my understanding of it all and it would be best for me to basically start the entire process over
2. Pass with revisions - meaning, the work is solid and good, but they may need me to re-think my methodology or I may be missing some major research in my lit review, that needed to be fixed before moving forward
3. Pass with no revisions - meaning, my work (the dissertation and presentation) are solid and I will be able to move forward to the next step without making any corrections.
My Chair then explained that I would most like receive a "Pass with revisions". It's what most students receive and she knew my work was good enough, but that they may decide as a committee, that I need to change some things here and there. She then said they would invite me back into the room and announce their decision.
By that time,... it was time!
1pm came and I was still a bit nervous but ready to go! I made my presentation. The powerpoint was organized just as it needed to be for me. The beginning was a bit rocky, but I found my footing as I kept talking. I felt good. Their questions and feedback were both helpful and positive afterward. I felt like the master of this research. And they confirmed that for me. After 10 mins of waiting for them to make a decision, after my presentation, I was invited back only to hear that I received a "Pass with NO revisions!"
I was sooo happy, and surprised and thankful, all in one. A tremendous amount of pressure was lifted off of me and I remember saying thank you over and over again lol. My chair hugged me, my other committee room kept giving me her royal smile of approval and I could hear my other committee member on the speaker phone giggling. It was such a special moment... I will never forget it :). We had class afterward, from 4:30-6pm and my husband and I immediately went out to celebrate and I was in bed by 9:30pm! Went right to sleep! lol
I have been floating ever since. But now it's time come back down to earth and commence the data collection phase... Onward. Forward. March! :) Thanks for reading and for sharing this special moment with me.