Trust me… I’m a Doctor

On May 17th, I successfully defended my thesis, Social Presence in the Asynchronous Online Classroom: The Asynchronous Online Video Conversation, thus becoming Dr. Time H. Barrow.

It was a whirlwind tour. I flew into Lubbock on a Wednesday, having read and re-read the diss most of the travel day. I was picked up by and grabbed dinner with my Dissertation Chair… ahhh Shrimp Etoufee at Jazz Cafe: my fave meal in Lubbock. Over a casual dinner conversation, he actually hinted toward some questions I might be asked: JLC would ask me something on implications (what does this all mean to TC) {No problem, I can address that}, FK still had many issues with Media Naturalness theory, so I might have to defend the use of that one {no worries, I mostly agree with his stance on that theory and can defend the parts of it I DO support}, he (chair) would probably ask me about other applications… beyond academia {I’m on it, I can respond to this one strongly}, CB would probably ask me something on McLuhan, etc.  I panicked: Wait, what? McLuhan?!? Damn, I barely reference him in the Diss, what could I be asked on McLuhan? Does this mean there will be trick questions… or at least questions relevant to the most obscure tangential portions of my diss?

Little bit of Faulkner, Atticus Finch, Hemingway, and Dali.

In the weeks and days leading up to the event, I really did not have any concerns or stress over the dissertation defense. Now, checking into my hotel, I began to perspire. I got to my room and got right to perusing the Diss., paying particular attention to anything  about, or said by, McLuhan. In doing so, I found a number of sections I had not examined in ages. Transactional Rhetoric? What the hell is that? What relevance does it have to my topic? Good god, did I write this? Why did I include it? What was I thinking? I (re)read that and many other seemingly tangential topics. Eventually, I acknowledged that the anxiety of this event occurring in 12 hours was getting to me in a somewhat irrational form. Ah, the hotel bar was open ’til 11:00, I had time to get down there and have a couple to ease the nerves and prepare me to retire for the evening. Alas, the bartender quit that day, so they could not open the bar. Back in the room, I relaxed with bottled water and Family Guy reruns. In the AM, I partook in the free hotel breakfast and then cleaned up in the room, then donning my blue and white seersucker suit, bow-tie, and of course my well-waxed, too long handlebar (now Dali-esque) moustache.

At 10AM, the defense began. I was introduced and then presented my topic for 15ish minutes. Then, the questions began. Any fears I had were pretty quickly quelled… not assuaged or completely abated, but calmed. The next two hours were largely a pretty comfortable conversation about a topic I knew well. Exceptions? yeah, some. I am always quite uncomfortable being in a room–no matter if I am speaker, questioner, or audience member–when a speaker responds to a question and completes the responds with the inquiry “Does that answer your question?” only to find it did not. That sort of happened when the Grad School Rep asked me a question about the role of convenience and the role of normative behavior. I sort of addressed it, but his retort was something along the lines of “you did not really answer the question; you are getting close to it, though.” HOWEVER, two questions later, I was able to circle back and address his question more fully. Other questions I fully nailed or talked through comfortably. In essence, it was not an event to be overly-concerned about. It is MY paper, and one I’ve been working with closely for a few years. Also, they do not let me schedule the defense until they are 100% sure I am ready.

After almost 2 hours, I was asked to leave the room, where I had good conversations to take my mind off any stress that might be associated with the fact that the committee was still in the room deliberating whether I was to succeed or not. Seemingly only a couple minutes passed and my Dissertation Chair came out and shook my hand, announcing, “Congratulations, Dr. Barrow.” And there it was: 6ish years in the making and now coming to a close. We talked a bit more and I left with a very few changes to make on the Diss. I’ve now made all requested changes, which were approved, and sent it off to the grad school for format approval. I do not expect many changes from them, and then my hands will be clean of this topic.

The final product: 58185 words. That’s a fine odd-number palindrome to end on.

It is exciting to be closing this chapter. Next phase? On to other writing projects, making music, and more time with the fam.

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