Pass

I got the results of my field exam today … and as the title of this post indicates, I passed.  With that, I move to the next stage – the dissertation stage.

Stage One: Core Skills
— Prerequisites and Core Courses
— Comprehensive Qualifying Exam
Stage Two: Policy Fields and Skills
— Elective Courses
— Methods Courses
Stage Three: Research Foundations
— Field Statement and Bibliography
— Field Exam
Stage Four: Dissertation
— Dissertation Proposal Writing
— Dissertation Proposal Defense
— Dissertation Writing
— Dissertation Defense

What does that mean?  I will be spending the semester researching and writing my dissertation proposal.  I’m not sure I will defend it before December, so instead of taking six credits of dissertation proposal credits, I will be taking three and will have three left to take next semester if necessary.

I’m also taking GOVT 731: Russia.  This course covers both Russian foreign and domestic policy and is being taught by a member of my committee.  Although I’m not required to take any more coursework, it will help build my foundational understanding of Russian politics.  This should strengthen my dissertation proposal.

Slow Progress … Is Still Progress

Yes, no matter what the pace of progress, it is still progress.  I have one of my three fields complete and my second is almost at the point where I can turn it in to make sure I’m headed in the right direction.  My goal is to begin my third field next week and have it ready for turn-in by late May or early June.  This schedule should provide enough time to do rewrites (which I fully expect) on these two fields in order to take my field exam in August.

Just to make sure I’m covered in the event I’m not able to complete my field exam and have it graded in time to exempt me from coursework in the Fall 2013 semester, I’ve signed up for two courses in the Fall:

GOVT 731: Russia
PUAD 651: Virginia Politics / Policy / Administration

The GOVT course will fit in nicely with my intended dissertation area and is being taught by a member of my committee.  Whether the field exam phase is completed on time or not, I will likely take this course to broaden my knowledge of Russia in preparation for my dissertation phase.

The PUAD offering seems a bit odd at first, but it will actually help me get where I would like to go.  It would be my third course outside SPP, so it may or may not count toward my degree, but I have taken enough other courses to cover all my coursework requirements already.  Why would I even sign up for the course, let alone take it this Fall?  This whole “PhD Experience” (as I’ve entitled it) has done much more to educate me about where I see myself in the future than I ever thought possible.  When I first started the program, I was convinced of where I was headed.  Now, I’ve “found” a new direction that still involves earning this PhD in Public Policy and focusing on international nuclear threats.  I’m happy to say that it also involves Virginia politics … but that is a post for another day. 🙂

Semester #6 Begins

Yesterday marked the first day of the Spring 2013 semester here at George Mason University.  It’s a bit different this time around in that I have no classes with other students.  I’m taking a directed reading (a.k.a. independent study) to round out my knowledge of bureaucratic politics in anticipation of my field statement.  The deliverable for the course cannot be a field statement, so I will have to work on the areas of my field statement separately from this course.  I’m starting with an approximately 1000 word prospectus to describe bureaucratic politics and which parts I will focus on as I continue my studies.

This is the first semester I’ve set my own schedule – it will definitely take some getting used to.  I plan to be on campus 2-3 days a week as has been my habit over the past 2 1/2 years, but I’ll no longer have to commute back home at 10:00 PM!

As for my field statement, it’s coming together, but I’m still not where I want to be.  My three areas of concentration are:
1) Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy
2) Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction
3) The Relationship of Russia with its Neighbors (this one may need to be fleshed out a bit more)

I have two members for my field committee, but am still looking for a third.  This means I’ll have to write and recruit simultaneously.  If I continue down the path of the three fields above, I will need a “Russia Expert” to round out my committee.  At this point, I’m still looking.

I still intend to follow the schedule in my revised plan: I’ll keep you informed as the semester unfolds.

 

No Plan Survives First Contact …

As I look back on my most recent post, I note to myself just how aggressive the plan I laid out 2 months ago really was.  Although I’m theoretically working only 20 hours a week and am theoretically able to dedicate the rest of my time to my studies, the theoretical and the actual don’t always match.  I’ve “donated” a lot of extra time to my employer over the past two months and I’m struggling to figure out how I can more efficiently organize my time.  As a result, I’m nowhere near as far as I’d like to be on my field of study plan, and will need to be more creative going forward.  After speaking with a classmate, I learned a couple of important pieces of information I will need to work into my plan.

What did I learn?  After completing all required courses (both core and elective), PhD students need only 6 credit hours to remain full-time.  Awesome!  I have carried 9-11 credit hours every semester since I started the program and, after this semester ends, I have completed all required courses.  Great news!  I also learned that I may be able to take those 6 credit hours as directed readings since I’ve not taken any directed readings yet.  A directed reading is an individualized course put together by agreement between the student and a professor with a syllabus and agreed-upon deliverable(s).  So, the combination of a reduced hours requirement and ability to take directed readings should definitely help.  I will be checking with the university staff to make sure everything works, but things are looking up.

Back to my plan … given the slow progress this semester, here is my updated plan:

201211 – 201304 – Write Field Statement / Finalize Field Committee / Finish Coursework (including directed readings)
201304 – 201305 – Finish Field Statement / Obtain Final Concurrence from Committee
201305 – 201305 – Take Field Exam
201306 – 201307 – Propose Dissertation
201308 – 201403 – Write Dissertation
201404 – 201405 – Defend Dissertation

We’ll see how well this plan survives … 🙂

Year 3, Week 1 – Complete

I posted early last week about how the summer months flew by and how I found myself back in class without having posted much in the intervening time about where things stand or where I’m headed this semester.  The first week of the semester is now complete and it’s (past) time to update you on what courses I’m taking.

So without further ado, here’s the list:
1) PUBP 705 – Advanced Statistical Methods for Policy Analysis
2) PUBP 820 – Technology, Science, and Innovation: Institutions and Governance
3) PUBP 880 – Doctoral Seminar in Global and International Public Policy

This is a great lineup of courses and I think they fit very well into my planned way forward.  I need to spend a little more time on my Field of Study Plan to define the lenses through which I will be analyzing nuclear nonproliferation policy in both my fields and my dissertation.  I think these courses will help me flesh out those areas in order to then define my fields.

While I am on the topic of fields, let me take a moment to provide a rough schedule for the next two years. As I was preparing this schedule, I took into account where I am in the program today and the fact that I must continue to take coursework until I have passed my field exam.

201209 – 201212 – Write Field Statement / Finalize Field Committee / Take Coursework
201301 – 201302 – Finish Field Statement / Obtain Final Concurrence from Committee
201303 – 201304 – Take Field Exam
201305 – 201306 – Propose Dissertation
201307 – 201402 – Write Dissertation
201403 – 201404 – Defend Dissertation

The schedule is in rough draft form right now.  It will change some here and there, and I will add more detail as time progresses.  I will also need to run my dissertation through a prepublication review by my employer, so I will need to build that in to the process.  As I am writing and submitting chapters to my committee, I will be able to submit them for prepublication review at the same time.  As the schedule is built right now, I will also need to take coursework next semester (as a result of not having completed my field exam before the semester begins).  Because I will have met all the coursework requirements, however, I may be able to take only two courses instead of three.

Well, that’s all for this update – stay tuned for future updates (which should be more frequent now that the semester has begun).

Year 3 Starts Tonight

The summer kind of got away from me. I meant to write a post this weekend looking forward to the upcoming academic semester. Now, I will have to write a more complete post after the first week of classes is over.

Briefly:
This semester, I will be taking 3 courses – 2 800 level courses and 1 700 level course. Tomorrow is a research day; it will be my first.

Here’s looking forward to the semester – more to come soon!

Nearing the End of Semester #4

It’s crunch time. There’s one week of classes left in the semester and everything is coming due at once. To close out the semester, I have to submit three papers. One is due next Thursday, and the other two are due the following week. At that point, I will have completed four full semesters in my PhD quest.  Woohoo!

There is one more administrative issue that I must address before the “official” end of my fourth semester. My Field of Study Plan is due. What is a Field of Study Plan? The GMU School of Public Policy student handbook states, “The Field of Study Plan (maximum 1000 words) will describe a Concentration or a proposed research area, including citations relevant to current research in that Field. The Plan must identify three substantive courses and at least one advanced methods course that the student intends to take that will serve as a foundation for the Field. The Plan must be approved by both the student’s Field Committee Chair and the Director of the Ph.D. program.”  As we are expected to update our research interests every May, it is my intent to submit an approved Field of Study Plan by the second week of May.

Assuming all goes as planned, the upcoming Fall 2012 Semester could be the last semester of coursework. I have two classes selected for next semester, but I’m still on the fence about which should be my third. Look for an update in the coming weeks in which I’ll share my schedule.

Over the summer months, I’ll be reading quite a bit as I work to put together my Field Statement (more on that in an upcoming post) and I’ll also be working to finalize my Field Committee (again, more to come later).

Anyway, it promises to be a busy couple of weeks – I’ll see you on the other side!