On January 5, we started the Comprehensive Qualifying Exam – our first real “checkpoint” through which we have to pass as students on our way to earning a PhD in Public Policy. Four days later, we turned it in and the wait began. The exam is basically a pass/fail measure which covers the material from our core courses and requires that we apply it.
I won’t bore you with the details of the test other than to say I was very happy to turn it in; not because I knew I did well, but because I was glad I could come out of my four-day sequestered state. We were told that it would take about two weeks for the faculty to score the exam and let us know how we did.
I have to say that waiting for my score was excruciating! Each passing day was worse … would this be the day I got my results? … what if I failed? … what could I have done differently? … did I answer everything they asked? As the days went by, the self-doubt mounted. There were points in time when I had resigned myself to having to take the exam again in May. There were others when I thought I probably did “ok”. But I never knew.
That all changed at 4:16 PM today. I got my results – and I PASSED! HOOAH! It was a great feeling of relief knowing that I had successfully maneuvered through the first gate.
But that wasn’t the only bit of good news for the day. Back in August, I had applied (for the third time) for a program at work that would allow me to split my time between work and school (20 hours at work, the other 20 allocated to academics). It’s a pretty competitive program and only about a dozen applicants are selected each year. In return for the reduced workload, the program requires a 3-to-1 payback of the time spent devoted to academics. It’s a pretty good program if you can get into it.
Three semesters as both a full-time PhD student and a full-time employee have been pretty trying. By the end of each semester, I’m usually exhausted; both mentally and physically. All that is about to change!
I learned that I was accepted to the program. I don’t have any of the particulars on when I’ll start my reduced work schedule, but just knowing that I’m now in the program has lifted a great weight from my shoulders.
After three semesters of full-time study, I’ve now completed all the core course requirements for the PhD program – woohoo! Although I feel a sense of both relief and accomplishment, I won’t have much time to relax. The comprehensive qualifying exam is next – and is actually just around the corner. We receive our reading packets on January 5th, and a mere 2 weeks from today, I’ll be sitting in Arlington for the in-class portion of the exam. By the following Monday evening, another milestone will be in the books and I’ll be able to focus on my fourth semester.
Speaking of my fourth semester, I’ll be changing focus from the core course requirements to courses that support my fields. I know I’ve been wavering back and forth between information technology policy and nuclear policy, but this is the point in the movie when things get serious and I need to choose. So I will be focusing my research on nuclear policy. I do enjoy the idea of information technology policy, but I’m definitely much more passionate about nuclear policy. I’ve chosen a chair for my committee, and the search is now on for two more members.
As for the academics, what’s in store for the upcoming semester?
PUBP 754 – GIS and Spatial Analysis for Public Policy
PUBP 710 – Science and Technology for Public Policy
PUBP 713 – Policy and Program Evaluation
This is the schedule so far. I am considering GOVT 739 – Nonproliferation and Arms Control. If I do pick up this course, it will affect the courses above, but I’m not sure how just yet. At this point, I’m just considering the course and will be able to focus more on whether it will be a part of my schedule after I’ve completed the comprehensive qualifying exam.
In two weeks, I’ll have three full semesters in the books – wow! I have a couple of papers left to finish – no matter how good my intentions are throughout the semester, it always ends with me pushing right to the due date. I noticed I’ve been a little more comfortable this semester than during the two previous ones (almost like I’m getting the hang of this!).
I’ve met with the professor who is the resident expert on all things nuclear and he agreed to be my field chair. I’ll be meeting with him again soon after the semester ends to finalize things and move forward. Now I need to find two other members of the faculty to serve on my committee. It’s all coming together.
But I also have to keep my eye on the CQE – the Comprehensive Qualifying Exam. It’s the first weekend in January and yes, it’s a little daunting. We’ve all been told that we have the skills to successfully navigate the exam, but the thought of an all-weekend exam that covers our core courses is, I must admit, intimidating. I’ll be gearing up for it once my papers are finished. Stay tuned!