Yesterday (Sunday) I flew in a cigar tube from Denver to Winnipeg. A fifty seat plane for an international flight. Not something we Australians experience often. It was a baby plane and I had to duck when standing, or bump my head on the cabin roof. Thankfully I paid and extra US$19.95 to get a seat with more leg room, it was the second row from the back. With two seats on each side of the plane, it was cosy and led to speaking with your traveling neighbour.
My Cigar shaped baby plane
Stephen is 65, retired and lives about three hours south of Denver. He has been an avid fisherman since a child and was heading to Lake of the Woods, about a ninety minute drive south-east of Winnipeg. Three generations of his family have owned a small island in the lake complex and they fish there (for Bass) for up to six weeks a year. He was astounded that I had never fished. I’ve tried it but got sea-sick when in a boat and from the river bank I find having a beer, or wine and reading a book more enjoyable.
The previous day his son and wife had been walking one of the trails in the adjacent park to the lake, when they came across a bear and her two cubs. “The bears and Stephen’s son and his wife froze,” according to Stephen. Thankfully a larger group of people walked around the slight bend in the path at the appropriate time and the bears sauntered off. The encounter made the local newspaper.
His first career was as a teacher. Stephen said that it was the most satisfying and rewarding job he had, working with primary (grade) school kids. However, he only lasted six years: “the pay was terrible, I don’t know how the others survived and paid car payments, or a mortgage?” He made the decision to leave teaching and worked in sales for ‘clip-on-tools’ for forty years.
He was fascinated with Australia and wanted to know about our wild life, the country and our outback. The two-and-a-half hours went too fast.
On March 29th, 2017 I was awarded my Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of South
Dr David Sweet with my ‘mate’ and special associate supervisor, Dr Nigel Starck.
Australia at the Graduating Ceremony. The official conferral was in October 2016. This higher degree research journey had numerous twists and turns, became frustrating, a joy (often in a few hours of each other), was challenging and above all I learnt so much. I completed the PhD part-time, which prolonged the agony and the pleasure. Probably the biggest learning curve has been accepting how little I know. However, that understanding only opens up the options for further challenges in the realm of research. Following are some of the (edited) highlights and challenges of my epic journey.
- 3,399 days from start to completion
- Started as a two volume Professional Doctorate
- 83+ versions written
- Wrote 230,000 words
- Final version as a PhD is 109,728 words (inc footnotes and Reference List)
- 52 people interviewed
- 57 photographs used
- 798 references
- 230 other books devoured
- Thesis examined by one Australian and one Canadian academic
- 47 sessions with a PhD reading group
- 6 papers accepted and published
- 28 presentations delivered
- 5 international conferences attended and papers presented
- 182 books added to my own library
- 2 bureaucratic challenges with the University
- only spat the dummy a few times
- 11 undergraduate Courses/Subjects taught
- 5 Post Grad subjects taught
- 1 honours supervised student to completion
- 1 honours student advised to reconsider
- 7 years teaching off-shore
- 11 teaching trips to Hong Kong and Singapore
- Mentored 7 students (2 international)
- 2 more grandchildren – 5 in total
- 4 weddings (3 as the photographer)
- 2 – 90th birthdays celebrated
- 1 Golden wedding anniversary celebrated (not mine)
- 4 deaths, my 2 sisters, 1 brother-in-law, 1 19 year-old nephew
- 5 hospital admissions for me
- 10 days in ICU at Modbury hospital
- 2010 – 7.5 hours of micro-surgery for cancer on my face
- many other highs and lows of life as well
- Produced 5 photo-books
- Completed 10.5 hours of oral history interviews in addition to my PhD interviews
There is life after a PhD
- Traded a caravan, purchased a Motor Home
- Reduced teaching to 2-3 subjects
- Working on 5 research projects
- Research-Study tour to Berkeley (California), Concordia and Western Universities (Canada) is set for August 2017.
It has been a while since I posted, not because I haven’t had anything to write about, just that other priorities were important. However, that is life.
During the past three weeks I have listened to twenty-nine final year students present on what, or who has inspired them and guided their passion to strive for a career and life after university. They, in turn, have inspired me. Most spoke of publicly successful business women and men, prominent sports people, authors and community leaders. However, three were different – thus inspiring in a unique way.
Two students spoke of their father and how their examples of support, commitment and love continues to inspire them. The third student could not relate to any person who had inspired her. With an initial glance at the assignment, she considered that it was a ‘fluffy’ assessment and that she would not have to do much work to get a good mark. That was until she actually though about the question as to whom inspired her. She then discovered that it was not so easy. Still she could have taken the easy option and picked some ‘high flyer’, conducted a little research and lied her way through her presentation. However, she didn’t. The value of ethical behaviour kicked in. She talked of her challenges in understanding what inspiration was, what drives her to get up each morning, where she wants to go with her working life and what she wishes to contribute to the community. She found the person who is passionate and inspirational – herself.