Last Friday, I passed my MA thesis defense! My thesis title is “Contradiction, Paradox, and Irony: Philosophical and Theological Stances of Hegel and Kierkegaard.” For Geoff and Myles who asked, there it is.
John Wright was my adviser, and my two readers were Dr. Rob Thompson and Chris Simpson (my ‘external’ reader at LCCS). The defense went rather well, and it was oddly a lot of fun. My committee asked some great critical questions, and they tell me I handled them well. Turns out they are passing the thesis “with distinction,” which I’m extremely humbled about, as apparently I didn’t think this was even an option.
I know many have already asked to read the thesis, but I may have forgotten a few names. If you’re still interested, please leave me a comment below and I’ll e-mail it your direction (just put your e-mail address in the e-mail box, no need to put it in the comment itself–I’ll see it). The thesis is around 110 pages double-spaced, ~41,000 words. I’d love to hear your thoughts, further questions and criticism.
The evening after the defense, we had a small, casual graduation reception. The purpose of this particular reception was to allow our parents to meet the professors in the department. I introduced my parents to all the professors and it was a really pleasant time, enjoying finger foods and the like. As time was getting short with my parents needing to help my sister Jenna move out of her dorm, we had just enough time to introduce my parents to one remaining prof, Dr. Rob Thompson — one of my thesis readers. With apologies to Dr. Rob Thompson, Hegel, Schelling, and most of all my parents, the conversation ended with something that very much sounded like this:
My Dad: I have to commute a total of 3 hours every work day. It really puts a strain on my back. Of course Janet here only —
My Mom (Janet): Yeah, I only have to commute about 6 miles to work!
Dr. Thompson: When I was in Nampa, Idaho [at NNU] I would get annoyed if it took me longer than 5 minutes to get to work.
Me: Wow, yeah, it takes me 25-30 minutes to get to work in the mornings.
Dr. Thompson: The delays were almost always caused by a cow in the road. There’s another cow in the road this time–it was always a cow.
Dad: That happens a lot where we live too, and it gets incredibly dangerous. Not too long ago a whole heard of Blank Angus got out and were on the road — and you couldn’t see them!
Me: Whoa! That’s like the “black ice” of cows!
Me again: Even better, it’s like “the night in which all cows are black!!!”
Graduation the day after the defense was really cool. Apparently, graduating makes people forget awful philosophy jokes. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really think much about graduation until I was actually there. I was so focused on just getting the thesis done, and then trying to not focus on much at all in the week and a half of relaxation before the defense, that I kind of forgot that graduation is a big deal. That, and the PLNU campus turns into a crazy zoo. They have split the graduation up in to one graduate graduation and two undergraduate graduations, so it smooths things over a bit regarding the zoo factor. I must admit that it was nice to feel young at graduation: most of the people were slightly older than me, if not twice my age who were graduating. Aside from a friend of mine who is 65 years old in the MA theology program (and he has the energy and heart of a 20-year-old!), most of the students in our program are about 3 years younger than me, at least.
After graduation, Tiana threw a graduation party for me at our good friend Ester’s house. It was a totally awesome time of relaxation and conversation with good friends and family. In addition to my parents and sister, Tiana’s mom, sister Shalina, brother Stephen, and sister-in-law Shannon where all there as well. I was really thankful for being surrounded with good, loving people.
Okay, now rewind a couple days to Thursday morning, the day before my thesis defense. It was already a roller coaster of a week. I wake up, check my e-mail and decide to check out this page (I’d been hitting the refresh button on it all week). My name is printed on that page on the bottom, which means… It’s official: I GOT THE OVERSEAS RESEARCH SCHOLARSHIP!!! This means that the funding for my PhD tuition is basically paid in full! (technically it’s for a year of funding but it ‘renews’ each year upon ‘satisfactory progress’ or something like that). I was pretty emotional and immediately called Tiana who was still on her way to work to let her know the good news. She was super happy and relieved — we were not planning on taking out more loans on top of the undergraduate loans that we are still paying off. And then I called John Wright, who was also incredibly stoked. So, the next day I went into my thesis defense with the semester-long weight of worrying about the ORS lifted off my shoulders.
Tiana and I decided to wait until our parents arrived in San Diego before telling them. Now that they know and are super excited for us, they are all incredibly eager to visit us in Robin Hood country. So now, what remains is trying to figure out all the details on how exactly we can get over there so that they have somebody to visit. We’ve already received some extremely helpful tips from a couple of students already in the program (thanks Anthony and Aaron!). And, Tiana also found this incredible resource which, although that guy attends Durham University, should still apply pretty well to the UK in general.
By September 22, I will begin my PhD studies in theology at the University of Nottingham to study under Conor Cunningham. We hope to move to Nottingham a month ahead of that time to find a place to live and do some job hunting for Tiana. There will not be any employment restrictions placed upon on her from my student visa–the only restrictions will be on me. I will most likely continue doing work for The Centre of Theology and Philosophy, and perhaps some assorted side projects for some extra scratch, but my full-time computer programmer days are coming to an end. There’s a bunch of other details of the move to work out, of course, but this post has gone on long enough, and I’m sure we’ll figure those things out in due time.
Thanks to everybody for all the encouragement and conversations along the way. Special thanks to my wife Tiana for her encouragement, laughter, for reminding me what is really important, and most of all her love. She’s a keeper.
I honestly have no idea how we ended up in this position to be able to move to Nottingham for PhD work, but we are really very thankful for everything.