Sunday, April 17, 2016

now what? (and other questions): life after dissertation

It's the inevitable question that follows the celebratory congratulations. Since I've been blessed with a wide-ranging support network, it's a question I'm asked just about every day by people who care.

So, yes, it feels amazing to be (almost) done!
Yes, it's a huge load off our shoulders, and the whole family is relieved.
Yes, I have a bit more freedom and flexibility now.

But no, I will not have a lot more free time. Here's why:

A Ph.D. is not the type of degree people earn for personal enrichment. As a matter of stewardship, the huge investment of time, mentoring, and other resources are designed to prepare the student for a lifetime of scholarship. Career-wise, like most of my colleagues, my hope is to be a college professor. I have already begun teaching at two schools, George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, and Multnomah University in Portland. I love what I do. I'm very grateful for open doors. However, these "jobs" are a bit like being a "temp" worker (minus the agency). They pay very little (last spring my pay worked out to about $5/hour), with no benefits, and no guarantee of employment beyond the current semester. Semester by semester, each school will let me know if they need me to teach for them again. So while I love my work, I do not actually have a job yet.

In order to get a permanent position, I must demonstrate that I will be a contributing member of the campus as well as the scholarly community by staying abreast of current research, participating in campus events, investing in students outside of class, and achieving excellence in teaching (as measured by student evaluations). Diploma aside, without several scholarly publications and stellar teaching evaluations, no school is likely to consider hiring me. In today's educational environment, very few schools are hiring permanent ("tenure-track") faculty. Schools that do post positions are flooded with qualified applicants. To walk away from the library now would spell the end of my career.

Getting a PhD is a bit like becoming an MD. Your medical doctor did not stop studying when she graduated from medical school (thank goodness!). She reads medical journals, attends medical conferences, and even collaborates with other doctors to ensure quality care and accurate diagnoses for patients. Likewise, I cannot stop studying and writing. A professor who ceases to learn, ceases to teach.

And so my days are still full. These days I'm revising my dissertation (almost done!), prepping for class, grading student papers, and preparing for upcoming gigs:

In May I'll be presenting a paper at an academic meeting in Idaho (Northwest Regional Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature) and serving as a respondent for a colleague's paper.
In June I'll be teaching a one-week intensive course on the Old Testament Prophets at Multnomah University.
In July I'll be filming brief lectures for an online course on the Prophets at Multnomah, to be offered beginning in October.
In late August I'll begin teaching 2 new courses on campus at George Fox (Exodus and Psalms) and another section of Prophets at Multnomah.

On top of this are the opportunities to invest in the church—speaking at a women's event in May in Dallas, Oregon, helping with VBS, and speaking at a women's retreat in September in Wisconsin—as well as finding a publisher for my dissertation and beginning work on my next research project.

All of these great opportunities require long, quiet, focused hours of preparation. Studying the Word, crafting a message or a lecture, preparing visual aids, and coordinating logistics. In fact, with 4 classes this fall (3 on two campuses and one online), I'll be teaching the equivalent of a full-time load. I expect to be just as busy as ever. But I'm not complaining.

That was the whole point of all this schooling.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;
and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
(Luke 12:48 NIV)
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 
(1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV) 
At the end of the race, may I be found faithful!

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