In the next couple days, I’m wrapping up Draft No. 3, the penultimate version of my dissertation. Kenda Dean, my advisor, will look it over, and early next week she’ll distribute it to the other three members of my dissertation committee. How this works is, Kenda tells them which page numbers of the dissertation will most interest them — usually, the sections where I deal directly with their work. While they, of course, can read the whole thing, professors’ schedules being what they are, they may not get to it.
Kenda will then funnel their observations back to me, later this month, and then I’ve got until March 15 to make those revisions, format the thing to very exacting specifications, and get it in hard copy to the PhD Studies Office at Princeton (Theological Seminary).
Among the finishing touches I’ve had to put on is the acknowledgements section. While I won’t disclose the entirety just yet, here’s what I wrote about Kenda,
First and last, thanks are due to Kenda Creasy Dean. At a Princeton Youth Forum some years ago, Kenda said to me, “I’m a Methodist, and Methodists don’t talk like this. But if I weren’t a Methodist, I might say to you, ‘God is telling me that you should come to Princeton at get a Ph.D.’” Be it prophecy or self-fulfilling prophecy, I arrived on campus less than two years later, and Kenda has shepherded my journey from then till now. Doctoral candidates are known for telling stories of absentee advisors who disappear for months at a time during coursework, exams, and most panic-inducing, during the dissertation. Kenda has never once disappeared on me. For almost a decade now, she has been a coach and a cheerleader, believing that I would finish even when I and others doubted. And when it came to writing, Kenda knew what it took for me to write in a Princeton-worthy fashion, but she was also adamant that I maintain my own voice throughout. That anyone will ever call me “Doctor,” I owe almost entirely to Kenda.
I get a couple dozen emails per year from folks who want advice about PhD programs. I don’t have a lot of great advice, because my experience is pretty narrow. However, I will say that if you can get an advisor like Kenda, you’ve got a much better chance of successfully completing your doctorate (even if it takes you nine years!).