The Doctorate, Completed

Yesterday, I defended my doctoral dissertation and paid the last $120 in fees to the University of Minnesota. For the cost of tuition, they really should include the dissertation filing, even though the money is technically paid to a private publisher.

Here is a portion of the "ETD" report you receive after submitting the final project:

Print Date   :  05-12-2010
Campus : University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Program : Graduate School
Plan : Rhetoric/Sci/Tech Comm Ph D Major
Degree Sought : Doctor of Philosophy
Plan : Supporting Program Minor

Dissertation: Online Pedagogy: Designing Writing Courses
for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Dissertation / Final Research Categories
736 : Speech & Rhetorical Studies
810 : Educational/Instructional Media Design
835 : Special Education
864 : English Education

It is complex enough you need a key to decipher the information.

The official degree program was "Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication (RSTC)" at the University of Minnesota. The degree is granted by the Graduate School, but the primary departments overseeing the degree were the Department of Rhetoric and the Department of Writing Studies. The Department of Rhetoric was dissolved in 2008, as were a few other departments and programs within the university. The Department of Writing Studies became "home" though I took courses in other departments.

My interest remains writing, in general, though the degree implies a technical bias. This is because the Online Writing Lab was originally based within RSTC; my reason for attending UMN was an interest in how technology is affecting the writing and production / publishing processes.

The focus on students with autism was to learn more about how a marginalized community is using technology to remove barriers to self-expression. As a faculty member observed, the same study could have focused on a minority population or any marginalized socio-economic community. Technology is creating new opportunities while also perpetuating some barriers.

I did study autism and its affects on language development in detail. I also spent a lot of time researching special education laws and regulations. What I did not study was the "rhetoric of autism" or any particular debates around autism. My only concern was how individuals with autism use technology to create traditional and new media content -- and how the tools might be improved.

I am glad to be done, but it is interesting to see how tangled the degree explanation is.


  1. Did they accept it? Is that how it works? ? It sounds like a great thesis. I felt defensive about the faculty saying that your work could have been with another minority or marginalized society group, but you got through it.

    Congratulations! Yes?

  2. You spend two hours presenting the research and taking questions. Afterwards, the panel votes to either accept the defense or require more research and work.

    Sitting in the hallway while they vote causes some anxiety, but I am finished, finally.

    Now, I'll sit at home and write…

  3. Well then, congratulations! That is AWESOME!

    Any chance you'll tell me what your writing projects are about? :D

  4. I have completed two screenplays this year and am finishing a third. I should have at least one or two more done by the end of summer at my current pace.

    I have considered non-fiction works, but past efforts have been declined by publishers as not unique / different enough from existing works on autism.

    I have written a tech column for several years now, publishing by a small California magazine. My wife has suggested pursuing similar work with other magazines and newspapers, but on topics beyond technology.


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