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Posts tagged ‘candidacy’

Three Week (and three day) Check In

May 16, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

This past Friday marked three weeks since April 21, the day that has become 100% memorable to me as the day when I passed my candidacy. The days leading up to this auspicious event I was on a daily blogging, check in kick, and I had secret thoughts that the twenty plus day practice might mean I’d keep up a daily (or almost daily) habit of writing and reflecting on what I’d been learning, reading, etc.

Turns out…not so much.

Daily writing taught me that as much as I applaud daily writing, daily reflection, etc. it’s hard stuff to both live and process in tandem. After the intensity that was April, self care looked more like watching a lot of HGTV and drinking craft beer and generally recovering from a years worth of feels that happened over the course of about 40 days.

But now…its three weeks (and three days) past April 21.

The ethics application is conditionally approved (which means apparently I’m not yet ethically fit for research with humans but with luck and a couple semantic revisions I shouldn’t mess people up too much with the interactions I have with them). So in anticipation of bigger stuff on the horizon, clearly time to get back to keeping up a daily (or almost daily) habit of writing and reflecting on what I’ve been learning, reading, etc. Though I’m mostly thinking this back to reflection thing isn’t a good idea…I think this era will prove to be quite an important one and worthy of something (somewhat) concrete recorded about its process.

First topic for getting back into things which is all based on reflection and zero based on reading: life post candidacy (*disclaimer: an overview for the uninitiated from the very narrow reflections of one person’s, highly personal experience.)

I don’t know if this is true for every institution or not but for me, candidacy felt like a rarified space, clothed in mystery. No one who had been through the process seemed to use anything beyond very non-committal adjectives to describe the process. This vagueness generally reinforced the idea that the whole thing is complete secret society level initiation. As I’ve now been through the process and been initiated into said secret society, I am no longer free to give specifics about what happens in the sacred space but…I can give away a couple hints about who you might be when you come to the other side which I will share below as my first tentative forays back into the saddle that is blogging.

Basically, you wake up the next morning post candidacy and have no more worries, problems, issues, etc. Even though legit all sorts of chaos might have prevailed in previous days, you feel fit and healthy and exude balance that others can’t help but notice and feel calmed by as they bask in your presence. You sleep deep and long. You exude a glowing radiance. You think, ”Wow…this must be what life feels like as a Doctor.” And related, “I will be very very very very good at life as a Doctor.”

This grounded zen lasts for about two days and then the realization hits you like a freight train that during your candidacy you spent about two hours convincing three strangers that:

  1. This super fringe area of research hasn’t been explored yet and this might be the reason all our lives are difficult.
  2. You are the best person to explore this super fringe area of research because you’re passionate, capable and have an airtight, foolproof plan for success.
  3. All of our lives are incomplete until you get approved to explore the super fringe area of research.
  4. It would really be a crime not to give you the green light because you’re basically going to bring world peace (albeit in a super fringe slice of the world) through your research.

After such a convincing argument….who could refuse?? Not the committee because you won them over with your charm, charisma, etc. Unfortunately, this now means….you actually MUST do said research.

You. Must. Do. It.

Pretty sure “must” is the ultimate zen-kill because “must” means all that you presented in somewhat airy, abstract terms has to land itself and work into the nooks and crannies of real life research. Describing a well intentioned, creative plan will get you past the candidacy but a full dissertation with actual data and such needs flesh and bones and blood (disclaimer should my ethics review committee happen to read this: all metaphorically speaking, of course) to actually work.

At this point you become amazingly adept at finding somewhat tangentially related diversions to make you feel productive yet also help you ignore the enormity of the task ahead. For me, finishing my ethics application and then endlessly pestering my supervisor to sign off on it was my task of choice. *Related: Whenever I’m stressed about anything my default is to begin pestering my supervisor. After almost four years, I think he’s become quite adept at indulging and ignoring me. Pretty sure this is the mark of a good supervisor. 

Skilling yourself in something software related also helps because learning a tool makes you feel competent and in control (even though honestly…tools are pointless without a good plan but still…feeling in control is a pleasant drug.) Over the past three weeks I’ve attended numerous NVivo webinars, practice importing data, made pretty word clouds, and generally “oooh-ed” and “ahhhh-ed” at shiny capability that I’m 98% sure I will never need but…still pretty epic.

What continues to remain tricky and I’ve yet to find a good solution to is life in the nagging now-but-not-yet identity that is a doctoral candidate. As I’ve basically brought a village with me along this journey coming one step closer has meant that there have been many village celebrations which have included the inevitable question of “how much longer until you’re Dr. Lisa?” My answer thus far has been “about a year” because I do hope sooner than later is when I can wrap all this up and move along to other things.

That said…I still Must. Do. Said. Research. And here is the hangup because in addition to carrying candidacy in who I now see myself as, I still have traces of all the steps that came along during the process…the times I didn’t make it and the ways I failed along the way.

Lisa the Doctoral Candidacy. At such points as close as this March, these words felt like something that was just as likely to happen as for me to visit the moon. Yet, here I am and here I have been for almost a month. I didn’t realize how comfortable being a doctoral student had become until I crossed the line into the next zone of candidacy. I am once again in the early stages of another new liminal space. Now looking back, student life all feels like warm fuzzy nostalgia and it’s hard to remember how hard it actually was to navigate. I have no doubt this era too will have the same warm patina when I’m Dr. Lisa trying to figure out what’s next. Learning, like being a human, is a weird thing because its never a binary experience rather it’s living in the fluid tension of succeeding and failing co-mingled.

Which is where things get sticky and voices start up again in my head and I remind myself yet again that I made it this far and will eventually make it all the way. First step: back to a daily (or almost daily) habit of writing and reflecting so this era, which I think will prove to be quite an important one, doesn’t pass by in a blur.


day 1 (of 20)

April 1, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

Today marks twenty days until I formally defend my dissertation proposal (April 21!!!)

Today also marks the first day of a new month and the somewhat recent beginning of a new season here in the northern hemisphere. The freshness of new and the round number of days until the “big day” clearly means I’d forever regret not starting a twenty day writing challenge (or at least…on the first day this seems like a good idea.)

In all seriousness, this feels like an important season in the long, liminal space of being a doctoral student. I feel I’m maybe on the brink of the next step (which I fully cannot imagine) and though I’m trying my best to be present in the moment…the emotions are running high and the days are far from being well curated mindful polaroids. I think if I don’t consciously leave some sort of trace—engage in some list making and reflection, I’ll lose some this season in a blur of just trying to stay afloat.

The Challenge:
500 words max each day outlining + updating the following:
1. Products
2. Process
3. Perspective

Oh, of course use Scrivener to compose all of the above because nothing like learning via blogging! And to Dr. Lisa of the future…I hope you are smiling as you reflect back on these salad days. : )


  • Further refined the presentation outline. With 14 sections and 20 minutes max things are looking good.
  • Began brainstorming a graphical model of traditional F2F studio pedagogy and studio learning in a more open/less transmissive space to show visually my study focus. Hopefully this will not “lull” (*committee member’s word) audience into thinking I’m going full online only to bait and switch that I’m actually more curious about the deviant motivations + behaviors of educators who have ever reason to go full traditional but choose to augment + expand their studio spaces vie the internet.
  • Added paragraph to the proposal on tacit knowledge a la Polanyi to Ch. 1 (fully aware no one will see this until post defense but still…good to put it in while its fresh in my head)


  • Bulked up on McLuhan reading…pretty sure he can get a passing reference and add “gravitas” (*committee member’s word) in the “Problem Statement” zone with his message + medium thinking re: interaction and spaces and pedagogy and medium
  • Summarized Polyani’s ideas to a cohort mate and now feel 30% more confident in his thinking re:tacit knowledge (bonus: told my parents too…now we’re all way more aware of the tacit knowledge sprinkled through our day…which might make it less tacit…hmmm….)
  • Began scouting out blended/hybrid lit to possibly incorporate into the lit review per committee feedback
  • Began trying to detangle “New Media” per committee feedback (spoiler alert: it feels super opaque and gimmicky but trying to keep an open mind) 


  • Realized this morning while running that I’ve already presented to two of my committee members on these ideas and I’ve lived through it (they might have even actually liked and been interested and encouraging in my ideas…shocking, eh?). Also, I’ve gotten over being scared of my supervisor so in all honesty, I probably don’t need to use mental effort to make up and play out scary stories of insecurity about what’s going to happen and if I will live. I could make up scary stories of insecurity about my external but as I’m still filled with warm fuzzies that he did in fact accept being my external, imagining him as anything but benevolent feels wrong. This all sounds quite silly when its written but it did feel like a giant exhale to realize…like maybe this whole thing will be okay after all.


  • Read blended/hybrid lit to see if it’s necessary or just a rabbit hole
  • Read New Media lit with a consciously nonjudgmental attitude to see if it’s necessary/beneficial to my overall narrative
  • Slide Design 1.0
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