Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wrapping It Up

Graduation cake of Dr. Sara Moslener, CGU Religion Ph.D. '09

Wrapping it up. There are still a few steps left in submitting your dissertation after a successful defense.

Edris Stuebner (Assistant registrar) came to one of our sessions (see April 7th blog) with a handout containing instructions for turning in the dissertation to the registrar, format, fees, microfilming, binding, etc. I tried to follow the information on the handouts to a T, and this helped on the day I actually submitted my dissertation to Edris (and yes, she does count all the pages!).

The handout can be located at

On the day I decided to turn in my dissertation, I took one copy to Edris for her to ok before I made the second copy (no point in having 2 copies with mistakes). She okayed the format, etc. and I went to make the additional copy and fill out all the forms (there is a national survey and forms for microfilming and copyrighting).

I also needed a personal check and a cashier's check. One of the options is to copyright your dissertation. I decided to do this and therefore needed a $65 cashier's check with an expiration date later than 7 months from that day's date.

This was one of the most challenging aspects of the final wrap up.

Bank of America's cashier's checks have a 90 day expiration date (although they claim they can be cashed after the date, but I didn't want to take any chances). U.S. Bank's cashier's checks have a 6 month expiration date. Chase bank's cashier's checks have no expiration date, so I opened an account on the spot (with cash, or else my personal check would take 7 days to clear before I could access my new account and get the free cashier's check).

When I returned to Edris for final submission I mentioned how hard it was to get a cashier's check with a late expiration date and she said Stater Brothers (the grocery store in Claremont) would do them for a fee of $1. Had I known that, I would have saved myself the hassle of running around to 3 banks.

I also chose not to have the same company that officially microfilms and binds your dissertation, bind my personal copies. I chose Kater-Crafts in Pico Rivera to bind my copies. Their minimum charge is $75, but that binds three dissertations. The other "official" company that microfilms your dissertation charged something like $147 for two copies. Plus, Kater-Craft's turn around time is 4-6 weeks (much quicker than the "official" company). They accept dissertations in person, by mail, or by email.

I also should mention that I wished I had done my dedication and acknowledgments much sooner than after my defense (perhaps in one of those lulls when I couldn't seem to get anything written). By the time I was done with the defense, I just wanted to turn in my dissertation to the registrar, and never see it again. Instead, I had to take a couple of extra days to complete these items.

(note from Tara: this is a guest post by Margaret MacKenzie, newly minted Ph.D. Thanks for the great advice, Margaret! For more of Margaret's tips, see here).

Tips from the Other Side: Margaret Finishes!

There may be days when it feels like you'll never finish...but someone in our group just has!

On July 6th, Margaret successfully defended her dissertation! As the most recent member of our group to pass the finish line, Margaret offered some sage advice about her experience.

Dr. Margaret MacKenzie

This included:

  • BUY A DECENT PRINTER. The little aggravations, like having a crappy printer? They're not worth it. I invested in a laser printer...I bought it for $800 a few years ago, they probably sell for a lot less now. I got a Hewlett Packard 3005 Business Printer. Prints 5000 pages on one ink cartridge. It's high volume - you can print up lots and lots and lots of pages and it lasts forever. (Tanya also bought a printer specifically for her dissertation). I printed 1,200 pages at home, which was was cheaper than going to Kinko's. You can get some printers that have the photocopying function as well.
  • MAKE IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE FOR YOUR COMMITTEE MEMBERS. I printed every chapter out all over again before giving it out to my committee members one final time before the defense. I binder-clipped individual chapters, and then gathered all the binder-clipped chapters together in one expandable file folder (since the whole thing is too big to staple). It was 326 pages long. I went to Staples, put each professor's name on a label sticker and put the labels on the folders, then put the folders in their mailboxes. The professors later thanked me for giving them their own binder-clipped copies. Ideally, I'd put these in their boxes 2-3 weeks before the defense.

    On the day of the defense, I brought Some Crust cookies and cold bottles of water for my committee. If my defense had been in the morning, I would have brought coffee.

  • PRACTICE YOUR PRESENTATION. I slept the night before my defense, no problem, because I knew I was prepared. My committee chair had suggested, "PowerPoint is quite useful at this stage," so I put together a PowerPoint presentation and practiced it twice a day, every day. I don't know if that's typical for other defenses, but I made 60 slides and used them as notes / outlines for myself as I talked. The defense was at noon, so I set up my breakfast preparations the night before.

  • DRESS AHEAD. My defense was in McManus 31, a basement classroom, right after the 4th of July, so I knew the room would probably be warm because CGU turns off the air during holidays. So I wore layers. I dressed dressy casual (dress pants, sweater top, short sleeves), hair back. I get warm when I'm embarrassed, so I wanted short sleeves.

  • KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. In my department, they announce the defenses to the whole listserve and invite everyone, so a totally random person came. But that was good - I could explain more basic material to her, and she didn't ask questions (although she could have). My defense lasted about 90 minutes. I got in there half an hour early to set up with AV - the secretary of my department reserved the room and AV.
  • BRING FORMS. The secretary had taken care of the official form, but had asked me to bring the title page and signature page to get them to sign then and there. It's good to remind them to sign it at the end, because they often pack up and leave soon afterwards. And who wants to track them down later?

  • THANK EVERYONE BEFORE YOU START. Thank them, then introduce everyone before you start.

  • GET EDRIS TO OKAY ONE COPY BEFORE YOU MAKE THE OTHERS. I took Stephanie's advice (Stephanie McKinney, recent CGU Ph.D. in History who came and talked to our group) and only took 1 copy in to Edris. Then, only after it cleared with Edris, did I go and make the other copies.

Congratulations, Margaret! Tullach Ard!

(the MacKenzie war cry)

Curious about Margaret's dissertation? She kindly made an extra copy for the Writing Center's library. Stop on by and take a gander at it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dissertation Boot Camp

Are you looking at this blog right now, when you should be writing?!

On Saturday, July 25th and Sunday, July 26th, the CGU Writing Center had its first official Dissertation Boot Camp, open to all students at CGU who are ABD and working on their dissertations. The camp filled almost immediately, so there is really a demand at CGU for this type of event.

The "hard core" writers in the back room.

The idea for the Boot Camp originally came from a trip Tara made to the Graduate Writing Center at Yale. (CGU's Writing Center and Yale's Graduate Writing Center are some of the only graduate-only writing centers in the U.S.) Tara met with the center's director, Elena Kallestinova, who told her about Yale's Dissertation Boot Camp. Tara liked the idea so much, she brought it back to CGU!

The philosopher and mathematician gravitated to the middle room.

Campers arrived early in the morning (8 a.m.!) and staked out workspaces in one of the Writing Center's rooms.

Campers came prepared with coffee mugs, book stands, laptops, and roller bags.

All of the tables were covered in butcher paper so that you could jot down ideas, sketch, or write notes to yourself throughout the day.

A sample work station.

One room had background music playing, the others were silent. Tutors Tara and Eric worked in the front room, making camp near a cabinet and on the sofa.

Whatever is happening in this picture, it is *intense*!

Some people like to spread out.

Like the earlier test run, the boot camp featured a very Californian take on the typical boot camp under the oak trees and fresh sushi!

On Saturday, Nancy Sassman lead the group in a one hour yoga session.

Nancy leads the crew in Warrior II.

On Sunday, boot camper Marie lead the group.

A shady respite from dissertating.

After stretching and relaxing, it was back to work!

Fingers furiously typing.

At 12:30, everyone broke for lunch. This was a great opportunity to meet other people at CGU who are also working on their dissertations, hear about their projects, and commiserate!

Sharing advice over chow.

At 2:30, everyone headed to the back yard for a stretch break, in this case, involving Affirmation Frisbee (great idea, Fay!)....where it doesn't matter how bad you are at throwing or catching, because everyone will find something positive to say about it!

A common sight during Affirmation Frisbee...picking up the frisbee.

It was a very productive weekend for everyone! The Boot Camp was so popular, we hope to offer it at least once a semester in the future. Stay tuned for the next one!

The end of a long, productive weekend!

You're Not Alone - Here are some of the members of our group!