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Reflections on my Dissertation Defense (with pictures!)

Boston harbor

On May 16th I defended my dissertation. For the most part I was able to enjoy the experience, though the actual defense portion with my committee was a little intimidating!

Because of my experience presenting about this work at multiple conferences over the years I felt very prepared to speak for half an hour about my work. Mostly I saw the experience as an opportunity to speak to the public about something I'm passionate about and what to share with others so I wasn't terribly nervous. At the same time, as you can imagine it was a much anticipated moment when my advisor turned to me and said,  "you're a doctor!" 

I don't often go to the University of Massachusetts Boston campus anymore so simply finding the room where I was to defend was a new experience. At first I was in the totally wrong building, somehow near the art studio classrooms, but some students sent me in the right direction! I knew I was getting close when I started to see the signs:

When I finally got to the correct room I decided it was important to take a pre-defense selfie. I also wanted to send a pic to Margaret who was out of town at a conference, but pumping me up all the same. After the brief selfie sesh, I made my way to the room where I was to make my defense. It was a new room in a new building where I'd never been before, but I quickly settled in because I actually only got there about ten minutes before my defense was schedule to begin!

Fortunately my friends Jason and Sophie were there, so we chatted which helped to settle my nerves before the big event. As you can see by my stance here, I was channelling all of the calming energy I could muster before beginning the presentation. Also thanks to Jason for taking many photos during the presentation.  I asked Sophie to audio record the presentation as well, but I'm not quite ready to listen back.

We had some minor hiccups with getting all the committee members situated, and then it began. I wowwed the crowd, they were riveted, enthralled and spellbound.

A mere 30 minutes later, I rounded the corner and hit them with the conclusion. The audience listened with rapt attention as my slideshow came to a close, hand gestures in full force.

After the presentation came the 30 minutes for questions. This is the moment where you hope there are lots of questions about something you've just spent five years working on. Good news! They had questions and even better news: I had answers. 

After the questions I breathed a sigh of relief, gave a side eye to my friends, and took a much-needed seat.

The actual defense where I chatted with my committee members has no photographic evidence because everyone was kicked out of the room for this top secret discussion. My committee members each talked to me about questions and concerns they had about my manuscript, future writing prospects and what's next for me after the defense for about half an hour. The time flew by and although I was advised to simply see the experience as an opportunity to get valuable feedback, the situation had a me a little tense.

At this point I was asked to leave to room and roam the halls like a normal person for an indeterminate time until they called me back in with their decision on the biggest pass/fail of my life. Cue elevator music.


Friends, guess what? They all decided to pass me! And now I'm:

Dr. Jamie J. Hagen, PhD

I immediately started to talk to my advisor about timeline for edits and what I needed to do next and he basically looked at me like I was bonkers and asked me to please go leave and have some fun somewhere else now. Cut to the nachos I had at Taco Party afterwards with Jason: 

The reality that I've come to the end of my doctoral program is still settling in. In less than a few weeks I begin my post-doctoral work as the ISA James N. Rosenau Post-Doctoral Fellow and will work on turning my dissertation manuscript into a book. Until then, I'm doing my best to enjoy a little down time this summer with lots of travel, adventures with friends, petting of cats, time with Margaret and even more vegan nachos before a busy fall of writing, writing, writing. 

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