Support For Christi Thomas

This blog is to help offer support to the Thomas Family and their daughter, Christi, in her battle against cancer. Please visit Christi's website at to learn more. There, you'll find journals, photos and a lots of other information about this amazing child and her family.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Final Hurdle

Many have asked me recently if I have completed my Ph.D., the answer is a big NO, but I wanted to share here the program requirements, if only to remind myself of how far I've come and that I will hopefully (on Friday) be “Dr. Thomas” and done with my Ph.D. journey.

There is a lot on the line. My job at BGSU is contingent upon it, not to mention the fact I’ve invested nearly six years of studies and about $40,000 into this degree. The other day I finally got paid. (At BGSU we get 9 paychecks a year.) Shayne said with a smile, “Your degree was really expensive, but now it’s all worth it. For a while it was all money out. Now that there is money coming in, I’m fine with it.”

Keep in mind I only started this degree (I applied in the fall of 2003 from the Ronald McDonald House) because I was incredibly fearful that I would lose my job due to caring for Christi. I thought a Ph.D. in Education would allow me to do something else in the field of education. I knew with nearly 20 years of experience I would be too expensive for a school district to ever hire me. I have two loves in my life - my family and my teaching. I knew I didn't have any control over what happened to Christi's life, but I would try my hardest not to be without teaching, which I also love. Thankfully, with the dear Lord above, I did not lose my job.

When Christi died, I was in the midst of my residency and I felt I had invested too much to drop out. I thought Christi would want me to finish, and so I think I am about to do just that. When I go to Columbus to defend my dissertation on Friday I will wear a special angel pin on my shirt in her memory and use her American Girl shower gel in the shower that morning. I’ve been saving it for something special – I guess this is it!

Ph.D. Program at Ohio State:
Take GRE - CHECK! (Fall 2003)
Apply to OSU's Graduate School - CHECK! (Fall 2003)
Interview with OSU for Acceptance - CHECK! (Fall 2003)
Begin taking 700, 800 & 900 level courses - CHECK! (Winter 2004)
Complete Residency Requirement - Three Consecutive Full-Time Quarters. (I actually took six full time quarters, but.....) (CHECK!) Spring 2007
Complete 150 Hours of Coursework - CHECK! (Winter 2004 - Spring 2008. I only took one quarter off. I am so glad that I am no longer making the four hour round trips to Columbus!!)
Pass Candidacy Exams (become PHD – ABD “all but dissertation”) CHECK! (August 2008)
Submit research proposal to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval CHECK! (December 2008)
Conduct my dissertation research CHECK! (December – May 2009)
Write my final two chapters CHECK! (June-August 2009)
Pass defense of my dissertation………..(2 hour oral exam set for Sept. 25, 2009) After that two hour exam, I will be dismissed while the committee meets to discuss my work and to vote in private. It's going to seem like a horrifically long wait, but hopefully when they call for me to come in I will be greeted with, "Congratulations, Dr. Thomas!" (Fingers Crossed)
Graduation (set for December 2009)

A bit has changed since my doctoral candidacy exams on August 19th of 2008. One of the committee members had a baby, another one I replaced with a new professor and what will be different about my dissertation committee vs. my candidacy exam committee is the addition of a "wild card". This is a professor assigned, as a full voting member, from outside of the college of education. It is to ensure that the exam is rigorous and that the work contains "high scholarly merit". (Yikes!) When I read his list of credentials, his list of publications and the impressive schools he has been educated at, I assumed I was doomed. I have been praying about it and I am feeling better. However, I do not pass unless all five vote "pass". If any one of the five members votes no, I'm done. (I've joked to my BG students, "On Monday I will either be bringing you candy Buckeyes for a quick celebration, or you'll never see me again because my body will be found on High Street.")

I am proud to be at a Research I Institution (There are only two in the state of Ohio - OSU and UC); however, there are times when I've wondered why I didn't just get a Ed.D. or an on-line degree instead. I would have been done years ago. The title "Dr." goes with both degrees. Then I remind myself that I selected the most challenging and rigorous program for good reason – and it was actually with GREAT reason. I would not have gotten the job at BGSU without a PhD. My job at BG has been even better than I ever dreamed it would be. I’m truly blessed. Now I "just" have to pass my dissertation defense on Friday in order to keep it. (No stress there, cough.)

From what my colleagues have told me, it will be a long and arduous process that I must be prepared to defend, debate, conceptualize, synthesize, and explain my research in great detail. I need to present the arguments of my document and respond to their questions. They will push me until I cannot answer any more questions with the purpose being to judge the depth of my knowledge. I need to demonstrate my control over the discipline and theoretical arguments, but also be able to counter argue and offer alternative interpretations that may come up in their two hours of questioning. I've been preparing for weeks, but I don't know if it's good enough. I hope my journey will end on Friday on a high note. I can't even think of all of the hours I spent away from Christi & Shayla (and Shayne) working for this, if I will not end with my doctorate degree, yet I know that could happen if I mess this up.

Times are tense; prayers are appreciated! I need a sense of calm that I cannot get without His intervention. I'll be back in touch just as soon as I can. (Hopefully, with a posting by "Dr. Thomas".) THANK YOU!!!


At 23/9/09 4:30 AM, Blogger Mum2twopreciousgifts said...

We have been supporters of The Thomas Team for what seems like forever.

In reality, it is only 3-1/2 years but it seems like all that time you've been studying without an end in sight. I can't believe the end is 2 sleeps away!!

I pray to God that He gives you the wisdom, composure and patience to fly through Friday. I'm sure you will as there will be an amazing Angel guiding you.

Prayers coming your way from our little family here in Australia.

Good night.


At 23/9/09 7:57 AM, Blogger Team Russi said...

Good luck and best wishes!

At 23/9/09 8:18 AM, Blogger Manda Panda said...


All the best for this coming Friday. Your words bring back memories of my own doctoral defense.
I would like to tell you what a dear friend said to me before my exams, when I was shaking and terrified....

Remember that YOU are the expert on your thesis. Nobody else knows more about it than you do, so go in there and sock it to them!

Best wishes. Remember Christi will be with you and whispering in your ear......

Amanda x

At 23/9/09 8:52 AM, Blogger Lizz said...

Angela, you are going to do great! Better than great! Christi will be there whispering in your ear and the committee members' ears the whole time! Just breathe and KNOW you are READY for this!!
Love & Hugs & Prayers!

At 23/9/09 8:53 AM, Blogger Leah said...

Prayers going your way! You can do it! :-D

At 23/9/09 9:56 AM, Blogger April Dupre said...

Hi Angela,
I've not written before but have been following your blog and the website before that for some time now. I'm writing now because I am in the same boat that you are in. I am ABD in chemistry at the University of Cincinnati, so I know the stresses that you speak of. A couple of comments though:
1. Don't stress too hard....they would never have let you get to this point if they didn't think you are worthy.
2. I'm not sure about the PhD in education, but, in chemistry, the open defense is more like a formality (i.e. they would have caught you at one of the other hurdles you've jumped over if they had any doubts).
3. As for the outside committee member: while intimidating, I really have not ever heard of an outside committee member being the only dissenting vote.
So, in my opinion: calm've got this covered. It also doesn't hurt that you have Christi in heaven to put in a good word or two with the Big Guy (hehe). Now, you may have to return these words to me when my defense time comes ;)

At 23/9/09 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you marveled at Christi's determination. From where do you think it came??? People who haven't carried half your burden don't make it this far in a doctoral program. May God guide and protect you as you continue to teach.

At 23/9/09 11:24 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

You'll do great, just as you've done all along. I'd like to think of Jesus and Christi watching and rooting for you in heaven during those two rigerous hours.

Lots of love and prayers from us in TN (formerly CA).

Blessings, Jessica

At 23/9/09 12:02 PM, Anonymous brooke said...

angela - i'm sure you'll do fine on friday, though i know it is nerve wracking. your chair wouldn't put you up for your oral defense if she didn't think you would pass. i look forward to hearing that you are dr. thomas on friday afternoon.

At 23/9/09 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU WILL DO IT! I have no doubt. You have an angel that is up in Heaven, giggling because she knows you will pass and loving you.

At 23/9/09 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck, Angela!! Be thinking of you on Friday..... and by then, of course, I will just HAVE to write "CONGRATULATIONS DR. THOMAS!!"

At 23/9/09 1:08 PM, Anonymous Amy Tubbs said...

I will keep you in my prayers. I can't imagine anyone could be more prepared so I will pray for peace and confidence for you!
A Christi Follower from Hershey, PA

At 23/9/09 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet, Sweet Angela,

I am sure you will become "Dr" Thomas - I have complete faith in you and I am sure that your dissertation work and the way that you will defend it on Friday will be to the highest standard, like all you seem to do in your life. My fingers, toes and everything will be crossed and my thoughts and prayers very much with you on Friday - until we get the next blog update from DR THOMAS!!

Thank you for sharing Christi's story with us and for sharing the whole of the Thomas Team you are all truly unique and special individuals and collectively a phenomonal family! Thomas Team rocks!!
Angela, even though I don't know you personally you have inspired me in so many ways. Your love of education has shined through in EVERYTHING you have written in the blog - and on a personal note, it has encouraged me to now do the job I love too! I studied psychology and for awhile worked in the field. However I then moved countries, changed lifestyles and thought I could turn my back on my studies. Your blog helped me realise that we should keep following and working for our dreams - so I am now back working as a child psychologist (despite the fact Im working with the kids in a foreign language to me; it is a BIG challenge, but I have been studying hard remembering you as my example!) and I am loving (almost!) every minute of my job :-). So thank you - without your blog I would not have stuck with my dream and be doing my dream job.

As the saying goes " Some people make the world more special just by being in it" - you "DR" Thomas are one of these people (and so are all the Thomas's - we know without doubt that Christi certainly did!).

Good luck on Friday and have the most fantastic time celebrating afterwards! x

At 23/9/09 4:13 PM, Anonymous Shanan said...

angela- your going to do fantastic.... I cant wait to hear you post that you are now Dr. Thomas... Good luck and GOD bless =)

At 23/9/09 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Luck,Prayer going up your way! Hopefully we will hear from,"Dr.Thomas" very soon ;0)

At 23/9/09 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is inconceivable that you will be anything other than completely competent on Friday. You have worked diligently against seemly insurmountable odds - in part, I sense, because of the support given to you by the other members of your family. Just take it one step at a time, and you will be successful - you know what you NEED to do. Instead of good luck, I send you best wishes.

At 23/9/09 7:12 PM, Anonymous Christy said...

Sending you positive thoughts and prayers for Friday. I'm sure you will do just fine. I've been following Christi's site for's exciting to see your nearing the end of the long road of commuting and schooling.
with love and prayers,

At 23/9/09 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am amazed at all you've accomplished Angela. Doing it all after losing your precious Christi only shows how strong and determined you are. I admire you for all you've done, I wish you well and no matter the outcome -- you are a winner. (Although I just KNOW the outcome WILL be that we'll be calling you Dr. Thomas from here on out!)
I look forward to hearing the great news! May God be with you and give you peace in the coming days.

At 23/9/09 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GOODLUCK ANGELA!!!!!!!! I have followed Christi's story since the beginning of her blogspot journal (I`m a terrible lurker, sorry!) and know that her journey has led me to people who helped me discover my passion in life.

As a student myself, I admire everything you've accomplished over the years, and your dedication to your family. I honestly am in awe of your ability to balance everything so exquisitely.

All the very best. I'll be thinking of you and sending prayers, although I have a strong sense that you will be Dr. Angela Thomas very shortly.


At 23/9/09 8:43 PM, Blogger Linda said...

Angela, my prayers are on their way. I know, without a doubt in my heart, that you will "be" Dr. Thomas tomorrow. You have the sweetest of angels in heaven watching over you and the greatest cheer section at home rooting you on. Tonight I'm sending you hugs of encouragement; tomorrow they will be hugs of congratulations!


At 23/9/09 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck're gonna do just fine!! :-)

Pat in CA

At 24/9/09 8:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck Angela! Sending lots of prayers your way! Don't sell yourself short - you CAN do this!

Wendy Landers
Concord, Georgia

At 24/9/09 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Time to shine! I feel in my heart that you will do very well on Friday, showing the depth of your knowledge and expertise. You've put so much hard work into this...I must say that I feel inspired to reach higher. Just wanted to send my love and support to the Thomas Team!


At 24/9/09 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fingers crossed for tomorrow!


At 24/9/09 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck! Godd luck! Good luck! from England x

At 24/9/09 4:03 PM, Anonymous Susy M. said...

Good luck tomorrow, Angela. God is with you and so is Christy. Sorry, I meant to say Dr. Thomas

At 24/9/09 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Luck Angela!!!

You have an army of friends standing beside you tomorrow.

A Louisville Friend!

At 25/9/09 5:33 AM, Blogger Kathryn said...

Thinking of you as you take the next step in your journey today! My money's on you!

At 25/9/09 6:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck on your defense today!

At 25/9/09 7:25 AM, Blogger kate523 said...

I just wanted to wish you good luck today! I've been a Christi Follower for years. I think of her and your family now and then. Shay is growing into a very talented and beautiful young lady.

Kate in MI

At 25/9/09 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Luck today!!

Ottawa, Ontario

At 25/9/09 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Friday & I'm thinking of you, Angela! BREAK A LEG!!! ;-)

Pat in CA

At 25/9/09 9:49 AM, Anonymous pam said...

I am praying that everything goes well for you today!


At 25/9/09 10:57 AM, Blogger Beth K. said...

I so enjoy reading your blog -- I have been lurking for quite some time...several years now. But, jus tknow that you are in prayers and you were put in your position at BGSU for a purpose. So, hold you head high and rest in the fact that OUR FATHER has you in his hands!


At 25/9/09 6:03 PM, Blogger Paula said...

Angela - I hope by now you have completed your exam and that we can all call you a Dr. Thinking of you tonight.


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