Update: Finishing Up and Starting Anew

Partial page from a medieval Hebrew manuscript of the Psalms. The main text is interrupted by an enlarged and stylized

Well, it’s been a long time since I last posted. I guess some years you blog a lot and other years you have an infant, finish a dissertation, and graduate with a PhD in the middle of a global pandemic. Every year is different!

Here’s an update to bring everyone up to speed:

At this time last year, I was finalizing the first few chapters of my dissertation so I could send them to my committee for review.  I had been working on the underlying research for a couple of years already, but the strands didn’t come together into something coherent and submittable until last May. From there, it was less than a year before I sent a complete draft—397 pages of glorious, heavily footnoted nerdery—to my advisors. The date was March 8, and my defense was set for the 20th.

It had been planned out for months. We had conscripted my parents to fly out from Colorado. They would watch the girls, while Kristin and I went back to Boston for the defense, some celebration, and our first trip away without children in more than five years.

But alas, dear reader, it was not to be.

On March 10th my department sent a note that defenses were likely to be virtualized, and to await further guidance. It was still very early in COVID times, and it was the first hint we got that life would start to be affected in the United States. Kristin’s job had recently made work-from-home mandatory, and some of her coworkers in China had not left their apartments in weeks already, but it was still largely business as usual over here.

Needless to say, things did not get better over the next ten days, and so I found myself sitting at my computer before sunrise on the morning of the 20th, defending my dissertation to a committee with members spanning two continents and nine time zones. The circumstances were surreal, but the experience itself was supportive and encouraging. My dissertation passed with enthusiastic support, requiring only a good proofreading and some  formatting corrections before submission.

Now it is done. The final version has been deposited for posterity, my email signature has been appended with the three fateful letters P, h, and D, and…

And, well, I sure picked a doozie of a year to graduate.

As I’m sure several (hundred) emails inform you every day, these are uncertain times—unprecedented times, even! This is very much the case in higher education, as universities have closed down for the semester and are now weighing when, how, and in some cases whether to reopen. Many universities have announced full or partial hiring freezes for the upcoming academic year, and in all likelihood the job market will be especially slim for years. 

So a lot of things are up in the air these days. School is canceled for the kids and we are operating without child care. I’m taking on full-time lead parent duties, though Kristin is taking the lead on their crisis schooling since most of the materials are inaccessible. In the gaps, naps, and evenings I’ll keep on keeping on—writing articles, revising the dissertation, and perhaps even posting around here some more. 

I’m glad to have you along for the ride! Let me know how you’re doing in the comments!