In search of a path forward …

Yesterday and the day before were filled with emotions, hugs, and visits with so many people.

One of the things that happened yesterday was a meeting with my PhD thesis committee and the director of the PhD program. I presented a quick overview of my project (from my proposal seminar) and an update on the data that I had. I was disappointed that one of my committee members didn’t attend. The meeting was setup over a month ago, so I feel a little disrespected.

After much discussion, the conclusion of my committee and the program director was that I do not have enough data to write a dissertation. The path forward at uOttawa has two options:

Option 1 involves a change of methodology – from Educational design research to Case Study – and would require doing another round of interviews, which would require ethics approval from two ethics boards. It would involve a lot of reading on this new methodology, and preparation of new interviews / surveys to align with the new methodology.

Option 2 involves a new project. I would not need to do comprehensive exams or a formal proposal seminar as I have already met those requirements; however, I would need to write some form of proposal that my committee agreed to. In addition, I’d need to change supervisors (my supervisor is retiring) and form a committee that better aligns with the new project.

An additional option would be that I transfer universities. That, however, would involve having to re-do comprehensive exams and the equivalent of a proposal seminar as well as additional coursework. Changing universities would be a three year commitment and would be expensive (since I’m on full scholarship at uOttawa).

My issue now is to figure how I want to be spending my time. I was ready to commit to writing a dissertation based upon the data I had. I figured that if I focused on it for eight month, I could finish before my scholarship ran out. However, that is not an option.

My challenge now is to figure out what I want to do? How do I want to be spending my time? I may very well look at taking a second year of medical leave, giving myself more time to figure out where I want to go. A second year of medical leave would mean that option 1 is dead, and option 2 is the path that I would be taking. It would give me some more time to explore where I want to go, and to self-study new methodologies, so that when I do go back I can “hit the ground running” so to speak.

One thing that has changed over the last year is what I value in research – my axiology. I began my PhD journey as a very pragmatic researcher. I am now much more interested in participatory research. I am intrigued by autoethnography and collaborative ethnography. I value innovation – that is something that has not changed. It is, however, something that is not seen as research at uOttawa.

I also do not want a plan forward that requires that I fly to Ottawa on a regular basis (once / semester is OK, but once/month is asking a lot). I enjoy my visits to Ottawa, but the travel takes a lot of energy. It is expensive from both a financial and physical health perspective. In changing supervisors, I would need to have a supervisor that is willing to supervise remotely. uOttawa isn’t the best place for remote supervision. It has been suggested several times that I look into transferring to a school close by where I live. For me, the location of the school shouldn’t matter. I should be able to do my research from anywhere in the world. There is a philosophical distance that may be harder to surmount than the physical distance.

An so, part of the reason for the meeting yesterday was to help determine what my options were for paths forward. Although the path that I wanted (I guess I didn’t even realize I wanted it) is not a valid path, at least I now have some clarity on that. I know better what my options are, I just need to decide what I want to do about it.

5 Comments on In search of a path forward …

  1. Just catching up and am shaking my head with these hardships you are facing. So sorry that so many things seem to be conspiring against you in various ways. If it is any consolation, I started and left 4 doctoral programs before I found the right fit (and finished). While this is a longer projectory than you may want, finding a fit may make all the difference to you. BTW, this was rather related to my doctoral thesis itself!

    Hang in there.

  2. Sounds to me like your powers of self-direction are leading you away from U of Ottawa? I know Leslie struggled with getting her second Masters at RRU because it seemed limiting to attend the same school twice. But I think she was spoiled by the place and I wonder if your experience there opened up higher expectations for how you invest your life?
    Would you be considered a ‘foreign student’ in the US? If not would you consider an American University? I think of you as more of an Anthropologist or Sociologist of Web participation and communications.
    Maybe the thing to do is to honor the new person you are. After a rough ride going back to previous plans, even if they have incentives like the scholarship, may not satisfy you. I feel restless and out of place now that my illness identity has fallen away. How about you?

    • Scott, your comment about being restless and out of place without the illness identity is something that rings rather true – but also something I’ve been working on. I am aware that my illness blog has been beneficial for me in may ways that in some ways it is difficult to move beyond it. The need feeds the fear or recurrence, so I’m working on detachment in some ways, but in others, that is an important part of the story too – the journey from illness back into health.

      • Rebecca, the journey does have to continue. Though I don’t want to settle into and expert cancer patient I do want to continue helping people if I can. Hate to “waste” the experience by walking away–not that all this can just be left like it didn’t happen. Also the healing doesn’t accommodate forgetting, it asks for strength and respect. The worry doesn’t go away and I’ve learned with the recurrence of my heart problem to try and reason with it and take the check-ups seriously even though I’d rather ignore them.
        Some part of my life is a chronic heart condition and a, hopefully, single brush with cancer. I’m thinking my blog needs a new challenge to escape the rehashing of my disappointing treatment. To show I can move beyond the mess would help me and maybe others.
        How about for you? The new adventures of BC Becky sounds good:-)

  3. well, boo. that’s rough and i’m sorry. both that you didn’t have everyone at the meeting – and that you’re meeting so many barriers with your program.

    i guess it boils down to choices and which ones you have…i wish you luck with the decision and hope, whichever way you go, it opens interesting doors.

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