Dr. Colleen Harris-Keith, At Your Service

I have been a nerd since I was a toddler. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to get a doctorate. 

At 7:00am PDT this morning, I defended my dissertation research, "An exploratory study of the relationship between academic library work experience and perceptions of leadership skill development relevant to the academic library directorship." After my 30 minute presentation, Q&A session with the audience, and discussion with the committee members, I left the Zoom instance (I defended from a distance). When I was reinvited after the committee's consultation, the inimitable Dr. Ted Miller (my chair, or He Who Is Responsible for Wrangling Colleen and Committee) let me know that the committee's decision was unanimous:

They are recommendaing that the Graduate School of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga award me the degree of Doctor of Education in Learning and Leadership.

From here on out, it's paperwork. My committee members are dealing with signature pages, and will check with the Graduate School to see if I can walk (attend graduation) in May, or if I'll have to wait and attend the ceremony in December. 

I am giddy. Fabulous Husband Jed actually came to my office to sit through the presentation, so I was able to celebrate with him immediately upon signing out of the meeting, immediately followed by a call to my uber-proud mom. My library chair presented me with a congratulatory bottle of pink champagne (how did she know I love that stuff?!). Friends and family have been congratulating and hugging via Facebook and Twitter. I can't decide whether to drop from exhaustion, or run laps around the house. 

I surprised myself with my emotional reaction to the committee's official approval. I've lived with the idea of Actually Finishing for the past few months, knowing that it was A Thing That Would Happen. But. I laughed. I danced. I cried. I kissed and hugged my husband. I posted to Facebook, and grinned every time someone liked or posted a comment. I kissed and hugged my coworkers. I sweated. I had shivers. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said to myself, "I am a doctor." It feels surreal.

Now, I know that having a doctorate doesn't mean a person is any smarter than anyone else. I've worked in higher education for too long to be under that illusion anymore. Really, it's a badge of perseverance more than anything else, I think, and passion for a subject area. But I am so proud. 

Layering on these feelings is that fact that I'm a first-generation college student. My cousin, working on his own doctorate, posted to my Facebook wall noting that I'm the first doctor in the family. (Graduate work isn't a rarity, though - my sister has her teaching MA, my brother has his Master's in accounting, one of my cousins is a Physician's Assistant, and another is working on his Ph.D.) I hadn't considered that--I'll be the first doctor on either side of my family tree. I have complicated feelings about this, and expect to blog about it in the near future.

For now, I'm just going to bask in the completed product of five full academic years, with a tough chronic illness diagnosis, a marriage, and a cross-country move happening in the middle of it. And I'm going to hug my husband and bassets.


Mark K. said…

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