Monday, September 7, 2009

What Happens If I Don't Finish The Dissertation?

my desk at home while i am writing dissertationImage by .snow via Flickr
When people ask me what I am doing or what my plans will be for the weekend, I typically mention writing the dissertation. I find myself saying it so much that it just rolls off my tongue without a moments thought. With all this talk about writing, I should be done by now, right? Wrong!

Last night, before I went to sleep, I reviewed my mentor's notes and reread a few sections I wrote months ago. If the message was not clear before, I now understand the magnitude of this assignment. It is huge!

One of my earlier facilitators explained that writing the dissertation may be one of the most significant and challenging assignments of our lives. From where I stand today, I am beginning to agree.

In processing past assignments, I recall being able to sit down for a day or two and knock out most of my written papers. Unfortunately, that strategy does not work for me today. Why? Because there is no way I can read, process, and write what is necessary in a weekend.

As a result of my review, I silently asked the question, "What happens if I don't finish the dissertation?"

I hear my close family and friends yell at their computer screens, "Don't you dare think that!" To which I reply, "How can I not?"

To some, the fear of failure is enough to motivate action. Therefore, in order to scare myself into doing what I set out to do, I must look at the possibilities of not finishing my dissertation. Hopefully, I never experience the pain of failing, but what if? Below is a short list of things that come to mind.

  1. Loans - In order to pay for school I had to take out student loans. I guesstimate a series of loans equaling around $80k. Whether I finish the program or not, I am responsible for repaying this money. My belief has been with a degree comes more opportunities and the financial means necessary to repay obligations. Without a degree, I can look forward to paying the same bill but with my current salary. I prefer the first option.
  2. Self-Esteem - As a child, my mother repeatedly expressed her belief in me. She said that I could do anything I put my mind to and I believed her. Any failure I may have experienced throughout my life has always been a temporary setback. In almost every case I can remember, I have come through the fire and done what was required of me. To attempt a terminal degree in business is a huge risk. Many people I know have failed to obtain the degree. If I were quit or take too long to finish, I would carry a heavy weight that may plague me for life.
  3. Role Model - As a father of three children, I have young eyes watching me. I know they will forever love me regardless, but if I can finish a doctoral degree so can they, if a degree is something they really want. Outside of my children, I also have other relatives that may secretly look up to me. If I fail, some may never even try thinking it is too hard.
  4. Opportunity - There have been many smart and innovative thinkers who have done exceedingly well without a college education. However, I believe they are the exception and not the rule. Based upon my own experiences, I find that education has opened many doors for me and my family. To earn a terminal degree would provide an opportunity for career advancement. Having worked in higher education for over 10 years, I recognize the importance of a doctorate. Therefore, without the dissertation, I limit my opportunities in higher education and all that it brings.
  5. Graduation - One of my biggest fears in school was being left behind. From kindergarten all the way up to 12th grade, I completed assignments so that I could progress through life with my friends. If I were to fail a grade, I would miss the opportunity to graduate with my classmates. That would have been a great loss for me.

    Yes, college is a tad bit different. As an undergraduate, I took five years to finish but it wasn't that big of a deal since I made tons of friends that were younger than me. Additionally, I went to school outside of Washington State so I was a bit disconnected, anyway.

    In the doctoral program, I have made new friends. We have progressed through adversity and made plans to graduate together. If I do not finish this dissertation, I will miss out on the opportunity to walk, stand, and be hooded next to my friends. That is enough to bring nightmares.

As a student of the University of Phoenix's School of Advanced Studies, I have been challenged. Fortunately, my journey is not yet over and I still have something to learn. The most gratifying reward will be finishing this massive project we call a dissertation.

Currently, I still rest in DOC 733 while I finish the proposal (first three of five chapters). This class makes a second time around. Based upon the amount of work I still have left, it looks like I'll be back for a third. The question I have now is how long can I continue to take this course before I submit the proposal? The answer is not long.

Having looked at my schedule, my current date of completion is March of 2010. Graduation is somewhere between June and July, assuming I look at last years commencement schedule. This means if I do not pull my proposal together and submit successfully within a class or two, I may miss my graduation next year and that is totally unacceptable.

I would love to hear your story. If you are working on your course work, comps, proposal, dissertation, or just thinking about it, I would really like to connect with you. Together, we can finish strong.

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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