Friday, September 10, 2010

Doctoral Studies.

For all my more sanctified friends, the conclusion of this post will come as a no-brainer. For the fools like myself, the conclusion is just dawning on me.

As I was drying my hair this morning in deep hopes that I would have a great hair day, I suddenly became a bit nervous about all that I have to accomplish this semester. In addition to my classes, one at HDS twice a week, one Latin course, and two others with heavy reading loads, I have countless responsibilities (TA for GC's philosophy department, Byington Scholar - this actually includes work - go figure!, being a nanny, two conferences, two book reviews, etc.). But in addition to all of that, I am applying for a doctorate. This includes a lot of time and effort and, well, pain. GRE preparations, research proposals, applications, statement of purpose, etc. Then, I have to visit the schools, attend information forums at HDS, actually take the GRE, and research so I can actually write a coherent proposal. Did I mention that my topic has almost nothing written on it? Did I mention the text I am focusing upon is half Latin and unavailable in English? And let's not even mention the school selection process. I never knew that wanting to study Barth and systematic theology would be so difficult to do in the US. And for crying out loud, I don't even care if I study and work in a non-evangelical institution. At this point, I just want a solid Barth scholar who will be my advisor. I think I gave up on the whole "I want my advisor to have a prayer life and believe in the living and eternal Word of God" a long time ago. Sadly.

What makes it even more daunting is the fact that I will continue with two classes over J-Term, five in the Spring (including everything above sans doctoral applications but adding my comprehensive MAR project), and German all throughout next summer only to begin a doctoral program in the fall. This means five to seven more years of doctoral studies straight through until I finish with a published dissertation (Lord-willing), have to find a job, begin to teach, and keep publishing. The toil, loneliness, rejection, exhaustion, and frustration seems like too much to fathom at this point.

But then it dawned on me. I have a pretty blessed life. I am a Christian female trying to prepare to get a doctorate so I can study systematic theology in hopes of someday teaching. Moreover, I live a relatively pain-free existence. But it occurred to me that this future before me seems so burdensome because I'm doing it for myself. The instant I began to think of doctoral work as serving Jesus Christ, it became a joy. My pursuit of a doctorate is not and should not be for my own ambitions. The reason I began this journey was because of a simple systematic theology I class that I took my first semester of graduate school. Since then, I have become fixed, enthralled, and captured by the object of faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. I know that I won't be able to keep sight of this truth when I'm getting four hours of sleep some nights and haven't talked to my friends in weeks because I've been engaging in what seems to be futile research. But I pray that the Spirit of God will continue to sustain me as I pursue His Word throughout my entire theological development.


Anonymous said...

I'll be praying for you Kaitlyn, and though my prayers will certainly not provide sleep, the effects of caffeine, nor the super-human ability to read/write a ridiculous number of pages in a short span of time, I will pray that despite all that goes on in your life that you will remain focused on Jesus Christ and that your continued pursuit of theological studies will only drive you all the more to your knees in worship of our great Lord and Savior. grace and peace, matt

Jillian.Marie said...

small things...kait. work on getting perfectly dried hair. the dissertation will work itself out. love you!

GMAT said...

Nice blog! I like your writing way. I'm doing practice GRE here: . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

W. Travis McMaken said...

Did you apply to PTS by any chance?

Kait Dugan said...

W. Travis (W., Travis, ?),

Your question is quite ironic. My relationship with PTS is humorous for reasons I can't explain in a succinct manner via this small comment.

After a long decision-making process, I've decided that I am not prepared for doctoral studies. As such, I am applying to the M.Th program in systematic theology at the University of Aberdeen in order to work with Dr. John Webster. I'm also applying to the M.Div program at Princeton Theological Seminary because I am (predictably) fond of the Barth scholarship found therein. However, at this point, Aberdeen is my first choice for two reasons: 1) I'm not impressed by the polemics at PTS and I've had first-hand experience with it. I really think it misses the point, but then again, who am I? 2) I really want to study with Webster and the one year program not only allows me to get more training but will be a "tester" of sorts to see if I'm cut out for doctoral work in the UK (you've heard all the classic objections to the UK programs which are very much my fear). ... well, maybe three reasons: 3) I am not so sure I want to continue at the M.Div level. Most of the students that enter the M.Div program are fresh out of college and I'm 27 years old. I've had three years of graduate theology classes at Gordon-Conwell and I'm fearful that the M.Div program at PTS will only be more of the same with less focus (some might count this type of broadening as a benefit but trust me, I don't need anything else in which to be interested). That isn't meant to sound as though I'm "above" the M.Div degree at PTS, I'd be quite honored to go there. But I suspect it might not be as beneficial as the M.Th program at Aberdeen.

Does that make sense? Do you have any thoughts or critiques since you are a PTS student? I'd appreciate any feedback you might kindly take the time to offer.

W. Travis McMaken said...


"Travis" is fine - W. is my first initial, me going by my middle name.

I have voluminous thoughts on all facets of your comment (predicably?), and invite you to write me at your leisure: derevth [at] gmail [dot] com

I am particularly interested in hearing about your first-hand experience of PTS polemics.

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