Friday, April 21, 2006

First defense

I ran my first MA thesis defense today, and it went really well.

The student's work was really different and original, to the point where, if I typed the topic and you did a search with the appropriate engine in a couple months, this MA thesis would be pretty unique. And it wouldn't be unique because it's a bad topic, boring, or whatever, but because it requires a pretty unusual skill set.

I learned a TON working with her, which made it a real pleasure, but there were some rocky moments along the way. Our conversation today was just grand, about as interesting, fun, and exciting as I could wish.

One moment of bragging: the external member (whom I'd never met before) went out of her way to say how my important my contribution to the thesis's organization was (one of the rough spots that worked out well in the end).

It felt REALLY different on the other end. I've been reading Ancrene Wiseass's blog about her upcoming, and now happily done oral, and thinking about my role in my own situation (AW isn't at NWU, just to clarify). I mean, I tried to be supportive in the right ways, to make sure the student got my honest, critical response to her work, to push her to make the thesis as good as she could make it in a reasonable time, and so forth. But to be absolutely honest, it takes more work than I'd realized, and I'm sure I wasn't as good a responder as I should have been.

When I was headed into my big exam, my director told me that he wouldn't let me go forward with it if he didn't think I was ready. I felt my MA student was ready, but I didn't feel especially confident that my jugdment was all that accurate, somehow, so it was hard to push and reassure her at the same time.

Anyways, congrats to my soon to be newly hooded MA student, and congrats to Ancrene Wiseass! And to all those folks working through exams of all sorts, good luck, and congrats to those who are or have passed!

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