HJJ, Ph.D., Evanston, IL

September 1, 2012

I found myself in a unique situation – with a job, without an advisor, and without a completed dissertation. My first advisor left academia after my proposal defense so one of my committee members stepped in as an “adopted chair.” Unfortunately, this particular member was stretched too thin to give me the kind of support I needed and he was going on sabbatical…overseas. On top of that, I had two young boys at home and accepted a job in another state. I moved my family and started my job assuming that I was months away from finishing. But, I found myself in a holding pattern with my dissertation work at this very hectic time: I did not know how I should approach my analysis; I was confused about the story I wanted to tell; I had limited time to work with my new job. After almost six months of spinning my wheels and only one conversation with my chair while he was overseas, I remembered a talk Alison Miller gave at my university and I pulled out her book. I started to believe I was making excuses for myself – allowing myself to fill my time planning for courses, or giving enormous amounts of feedback to my students, or saying I could not work on a piece of the dissertation until I talked to my chair. The dissertation was not getting done and I needed help – I had to finish to keep my job. I put in the call… and Alison connected me to Kathryn Peterson. Kathryn was what I needed. She agreed that I was in a challenging situation – but not an impossible one. She worked with my schedule to squeeze in times to get work done – and checked on my progress during these work sessions. She pushed me to be more assertive with my chair so we could connect more often and move forward. She helped me break down my overwhelming tasks into reasonable goals that could be accomplished within the timeframe I had allotted. More than anything, Kathryn was a weekly conversation that I could count on. It helped me see that I was making progress – even during the times when it was difficult to reach my chair. This reinstated the motivation and confidence I needed to continue working. I am so happy to say that she brought me all the way to the end. I can now say the dissertation is behind me and I can put my time and energy back into my family and my job!