2019 has been a year of professional changes. The last six months have been about five years in the making.
My biggest accomplishment of 2019 was graduating with my doctorate in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As part of my doctorate, I wrote and defended a dissertation.
Many academics say, “A good dissertation is a done dissertation.” This advice is helpful because it encourages graduate students to focus on the bigger picture. While writing, I certainly felt bogged down at times by the weight of perfection. I wanted my dissertation to be “perfect,” but “perfect” really meant done. Writing a dissertation is a learning process, so there will be (and should be) areas for improvement.
A dissertation can be turned into a book, multiple journal articles, or both. However, the published version of one’s dissertation research is not meant to be the same as the version that one defended. After writing a dissertation (and going back and forth with one’s advisor about content), a graduate student submits their dissertation to a committee that has been chosen by the student to evaluate their work. As part of one’s defense process, committee members suggest a variety of revisions, some of which can be implemented quickly and others of which may take some time and reflection. In the next few years, I may revise my dissertation for publication, or I may just leave it on a shelf (or more correctly on a thumb drive).
Regardless of where my dissertation goes, I’m proud of what I accomplished in a year (beginning in about May 2018, not within the 2019 calendar year). I wrote over 350 double-spaced pages of content based on archival research. I worked daily to meet my writing goals. For me, writing a dissertation is a testament to the fact that even large tasks can be broken up into smaller, manageable ones.
Shortly after officially completing my degree in August, I relocated to the DC area to become the Content Development Specialist at the National Communication Association (NCA). I am about 4 months into my new position at NCA, and I am really enjoying it.
I continue to learn a lot about writing clearly and for popular audiences. While I have strong writing credentials from higher education, I’m enjoying the opportunity to flex other writing muscles. As an added bonus, I get to stay familiar with academic research by writing summaries of academic journal articles, known as Communication Currents, that are published on the NCA website and social media pages. Over the last four months, I have written 16 of these. I’m happy with the range of research covered in these Communication Currents pieces. I hope that people have found them useful and enlightening.
While in grad school, I tried to cultivate hobbies, but I often didn’t have enough time to spare. I hope to find more time in the next year for baking, painting Magic: the Gathering cards, and playing board games. I am also challenging myself to read 100 books in a year because my reading will no longer supplemented by dissertation research and academic seminars.
In the next year, I also hope to work on my public relations skills. If you have any recommendations for books or resources, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or social media (if we’re already acquainted).
Happy New Year! Bonne Année!