the hot seat

This small uninspiring room is the waiting area outside the University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies defense rooms. Here candidates take, or try to take, the final steps in their PhD process. In the rooms leading from this area candidates 'defend' their thesis before a committee of renowned scholars who examine whether their work not only has rigor and trustworthiness but also whether it makes a significant enough contribution to knowledge for a PhD to be awarded.

After defending my thesis for two hours I was asked to leave so that the committee could decide my fate. I sat here in the corner hot seat and as they debated my work behind closed doors I debated it within my head. Perhaps I have not explained my theoretical framework adequately. Maybe my methodology is inappropriate. Likely I missed things in my literature review. There must be alternative ways of interpreting my data that I have not seen. Maybe my conclusions are not adequately supported by the data. Surely I am going to fail! Have I just wasted five-years of my life?

The exam room door opened and my thesis supervisor emerged and walked toward me looking serious and solemn. As I stood up he reached out to shake my hand and said, “Congratulations doctor….” It was done! That was four-years ago and still I am smiling, but it was only recently that I had the courage to go back and take a photo of that very hot seat!

No comments: