It’s not uncommon to hear academics (and others) whine that no one reads dissertations. Indeed, many complain that one spends years preparing for the dissertation conducting lit reviews, writing the dissertation prospectus, preparing for oral exams, conducting research on an obscure topic, and ultimately spending extraordinary amounts of time writing a book that only a few (primarily the members on the dissertation defense committee) will ever read. While I’m certain that this is the case for many dissertations, I’m thrilled to discover that a LOT of people are reading mine! Indeed, while my dissertation was published in two places (ProQuest and eScholarship.org) just five months ago, I accidentally discovered earlier today that it appears on ProQuest’s “list of the top 25 Most-Accessed Dissertations and Theses across all subjects, based upon total PDF downloads” for the month of July 2014! I’m stunned, flabbergasted, and very honored! Currently, Proquest has approximately 3 million dissertations and theses in their online archives and yet mine was one of the most downloaded last month. How or why my dissertation made it to their list is simply a thrill! Furthermore, it’s the only dissertation published this year on ProQuest’s list for July. Hopefully, this is also a sign of good things to come – I just submitted the first article (of potentially several) based on my research to a peer-reviewed journal. Whether or not that will get published remains to be seen.
Well, I’ve got to admit, I’m extremely impressed with all of my courses at UCR, as well as with all of the professors. It’s a wonderful environment to be in and certainly one that lives up to the fact that it is a 1st tier research institution. I’m pleased with the professionalism of all of my instructors and am also awed by their humility. At some institutions, the professors tell you how wonderful they are and expound upon their reputation as “scholars” – at UCR, not one of my professors has done that; rather, they speak very humbly while, at the same time, their expertise shines through via their lectures, presentations, class notes, and openness to questions. Granted, I’ve only been in school for a week but it doesn’t take long to realize that academic quality and the continual search for whatever that really means is at the core of what is expected of all.
On a more personal note, I’m experiencing “flashbacks” to my years of experience as a teacher and am excited to read about all of the research that has occurred over the past twenty years which, for the most part, substantiates quality pedagogical practices that good teachers had previously used based upon their intuition. Of course, a huge amount of research remains to be done but it is still quite exciting to observe how things have progressed over a relatively short period of time. Other matters within the field of education, of course, still need to be addressed but I’ll save those things for later.
I’m also very pleased with the essential role that preparation for the future (i.e., what to do after being piled higher and deeper) is being given at this early stage of the game. One seminar is being devoted specifically to this topic and we’re exploring various possibilities that may be available to us after graduation. Clearly, UCR is a school that is not only concerned with bringing students into their programs but is concerned with the future of their graduates. Very exciting. Very professional.