Earning that Ph.D.
January 18, 2015



This had to be one of my starting articles.  Earning that Ph.D. was going to be a cruise, or so I thought.  I had completed all my qualifying exams, I had defended my dissertation proposal and earned the ABD (All But Dissertation) status in 2009 – with projected graduation in 2011. Then I was lost, I lost the drive to keep working at it.

I did not quit, quitting was somehow never an option but I stopped working. Every obstacle became an excuse to not working at all. Collecting data became a bid issue, at places I didn’t know where to turn to and I left like all the doors were closing.

There were so many short-term projects to work at, so many new concepts to learn, so many online distractions to keep you busy. So many excuses to not click that folder that said “Dissertation”. Being a mom then just gave an easy excuse. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I know how life suddenly takes a turn from your time to her time. I remember crying those inconsolable cries missing my family back home when it had been years since I had moved to U.S. to pursue graduate education and had kept quite strong – I blame those on the dreaded postpartum hormonal changes.

I took a semester of break, my departmental funding had ended and owning full responsibility, I never approached the department for additional funding. I took a teaching assistant position in the Biology department, performed and guided interesting introductory biology lab experiments and then landed a position with McNair Scholars Program which gave me the reason, the motivation to finish my Ph.D.  I will write in detail about my experiences in the program in another article.  Working with the students and the emotional obligation to be a role model to these rising stars pushed me to keep going.

When, I let myself believe that I could , all the doors seemed to open and embrace me.  It took an entire village for me to get it done, but I had help from every direction – personal and professional.  Nothing seemed to get in the way, in fact working all night long, juggling multiple responsibilities and multiple roles, never seemed to be going so smoothly.

I defended in December 2013 and graduated in May 2014.  Would I do it again if I had to do it all over?  I would, I definitely would.  But, of course I would do so many things differently:

  • Staying close to your department.  The faculty, staff, and peers there are your support.
  • Asking for help whenever you are stuck is the key for you to keep moving forward.
  • Having an accountability partner is very important, more so you if you tend to procrastinate 🙂
  • There are so many resources out there (e.g., Academic Ladder) to keep you going to get you over that writer’s block, use them
  • Keep believing and continue learning

About Sudiksha Joshi

A Learning Advocate and Founder of WeAreAlwaysLearning.com, I am on a mission to give ourselves to think bigger and bolder to forge our way forward and change the world.