Dissertation Defense & Beyond

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On Wednesday, I defended my dissertation, which is the final evaluation for the PhD. Good news: I passed! And I’m now done with the PhD. All that remains is filing my dissertation with the graduate school. It’s kind of a weird feeling to be done. I’ve been working on this thing for so long now, it just felt like a way of life. Now onto something else, I suppose! But I wanted to share a little about what the defense was like before I move on completely.

Defenses in our department typically last for two hours. The first half hour is open to the public and the candidate gives a 20 minute presentation about the research, followed by 10 minutes of open Q&A. The atmosphere at this portion is really jovial; everyone is there to celebrate and it felt like such a wonderfully supportive community coming together for this event.

I was hugely anxious about this part of the defense. I’m not sure why — if I can’t talk freely about my dissertation for 20 minutes, I really have no business getting a degree, but in the days leading up to the defense, I was pretty much a total wreck worrying about what I would say and whether I would pace myself well enough to fit everything in. My anxiety manifested in a wacky ways, too. The day before, I went into my advisor’s office and blurted out, “Should I make blueberry muffins or blueberry coffee cake in muffin shapes for the defense?!” and then outlined the pros and cons of each for five minutes. He was so nice; he just smiled and told me that either one would be great. I went with the blueberry coffee cake recipe in muffin shapes (I will have that recipe for you soon, because it was a great recipe!). Anyway, I woke up at 5am on the day of the defense, got Eric up and started cooking. I made food for the dogs and then got to work making a bazillion muffins. I woke up and my face was super swollen! I had had some bizarre allergic reaction in the night and my eyes were so puffy, my vision was slightly obstructed. I took one look in the mirror and burst out laughing. Of COURSE I would wake up on the day of my defense with hives! I took some Benadryl, which helped, but my face remained puffy throughout the day. Oh well!

But back to the defense. After the public portion, everyone except the committee left the room (including me) and the committee talked about secret things. Then my advisor (Michael Brown) came to get me and we began the exam portion. This portion lasted for a little over an hour and involved each committee member (Lucy Jarosz, Victoria Lawson and Maria Elena Garcia) asking me questions about the work and making comments about what they thought while reading it. They had great questions and suggestions for ways of developing it in the future for the book and for articles on the subject. This portion felt amazingly productive and got me excited about next steps. I just kept feeling so lucky through the whole thing to have these brilliant scholars in a room together to discuss my work and help me think through ways of making it better. What a treat!

After everyone had asked their questions and made their comments, I was sent out of the room so they could discuss the verdict. Within a few minutes, Michael was coming out to greet me with a big hug and ‘congratulations!’ I went back into the room and we talked for another 15 minutes specifically about turning the dissertation into a book and they agreed that I should send it out to publishers pretty much right away. After the defense was over, I went out for vegan pizza and beers with friends from the department and then I went out for a wonderful dinner that night with Eric and his mom and her husband. A really special (and really tiring!) day!

And so, I guess that brings me to the question of what’s next? I’ve got a bunch of writing projects going on right now that I need to finish. And I’m excited to get a book proposal written up and sent out to publishers to move toward publishing the dissertation as a book. I’m teaching this summer, which I’ll do another post about at a later date. And I’m lined up for teaching at UW next year. I’ll go on the job market in the fall and look for an academic job. And I’m looking forward to making more room for blogging this summer and putting out another e-cookbook, as well as launching online classes through Serenity in the Storm. So, lots of exciting projects on the horizon! As always, thanks so much to all of your for reading, putting up with my inconsistent blogging lately, and being part of this little online community here. I’m so grateful for all of you!

If anyone would like to read the dissertation, feel free to email me at serenityinthestorm@gmail.com and I’ll send you a copy to read. Also, the article I wrote and blogged about a while back on sexualized violence and gendered commodification of the cow, is available to read online for free right now until July as part of a feminist geography reader released by Gender, Place and Culture, so feel free to check it out if you missed it last time, along with the other feminist geography articles in the reader!

Stay tuned for an awesome muffin/coffee cake recipe, coming soon! [And thanks, Jason MacLeod for the picture above!]

Join the Conversation


  1. Katie,
    Congratulations! What a wonderfully joyful post. I really feel as though we (your dedicated readers) have gotten to share in a small part of your journey through Serenity in the Storm.
    I’m sure the muffins were delicious.
    I will eagerly await what comes next!

    1. Thanks so much, Elizabeth! I’ve been so grateful for the way you have shared your thoughts, experiences and reactions on the blog here over the past year or two. Thank you!

  2. Doctor KATIE,

    Congratulations! I know it sems to you as though this has taken such a long time, but my first response was “Jeez, that was quick!” You’ve had a truly charmed graduate school career, working with dedication and extraordinary grace, and you have accomplished amazing things, both as a scholar and as an activist. I feel privileged to know you, inspired by your progress and confident that, regardless of what you decide to do, yours will be a life well worth living.
    Eric, too, must be congratulated. I recall the dark warnings of how much graduate study imperils relationships. You two are most fortunate in each other. Blessings to you both.

    1. PA, Indeed! Eric must *really* be congratulated. He put up with hell of a lot of my shit through these graduate school years and he did it with such warmth and generosity. Thank YOU for the extraordinarily kind words (which immediately made me tear up), for all you have taught me, and for the endless hours of talking with me about these subjects. I am so grateful to know you and have you as a friend and father. Love you.

    1. Shannon — Thank you so much!! 🙂 I really hope you enjoy the coffee cake!

  3. Congratulations, Katie!!! You are seriously amazing and inspiring and wonderful and I couldn’t be happier for you. Take time to enjoy your accomplishment. Xoxo.

    1. Carrie, Thank you!! You’re so sweet. I’ve definitely been taking some time to celebrate here with friends (maybe a little too much celebrating…ha!). You have been such an inspiration to me over the past few years. Thanks, friend! 🙂

  4. Katie,
    Many congratulations!! I agree with Peter’s comments above – you are graceful, dedicated, thoughtful and thought-provoking. I’m so grateful that you’ve chosen to work so hard to share your wonderfully broad-ranging talents with all of us. So proud!!

    1. Sara, You are so kind. Thank you! And I got your lovely card in the mail. I got so excited when I saw who the envelope was from… I was like, “YES!!! Pen pals!!” Expect a letter soon! xoxo

  5. Congratulations! I am sure that no matter what you do next, you will do it with the same intelligence and care that you share with us on your website and for which we are grateful.

    1. Laurie — What a really nice thing to say. Thank you! I’m so grateful to have you as a reader/community member here on the blog. It makes it all worthwhile. I hope you are doing well!

  6. Dear Katie,

    I am so proud of you! This is a tremendous accomplishment and done in such astoundingly incomparable style. Wow!!



    1. Thank you so much, Barbara!! You and Gordon have always been such a wonderful support and source of love and family in our lives. xoxoxo

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