doctorate! Many strive, few attain it
Boy, this sure is a busy time of year, huh? What with the shopping
and pageants and shopping and decorating and partying and shopping
and oh, yeah -- while you're at it, why not just polish off the
last 132 pages of your doctoral dissertation before the new year?
Are you crazy?
you're probably just an ABD -- All But Dissertation --
doctoral candidate. And chances are you may also be a part-
or full-time employee, a parent and a baby boomer. Welcome to
the late '90s.
"More and more, people are getting their doctorates later
in life rather than right out of college," says Sally
Jensen, a personal coach from Encinitas and the self-described
"Dissertation Doctor ®."
"Now, many are middle-aged, in the midst of a career change,
and many are women who are juggling many roles." If this
is juggling, remind me never to join the circus.
National Center for Education Statistics bears out Jensen's
perception. "Between 1989 and 1999, the number of men enrolled
rose 5 percent, while the number of women increased by 13 percent."
But being in graduate school and making it all the way through
the classes, the exams and the defense of the dissertation is
a -- take your pick -- marathon, wasteland, jungle, rat race.
More than half the people who start the process never finish,
says Jensen, who has developed a program she calls Safe Passage
to help people make it through the obstacle course.
Jensen speaks from personal and professional experience. She holds
a doctorate in educational psychology from UC Santa Barbara and
worked with doctoral candidates going through the process at San
Diego's United States International University.
She found she liked working with people who were trying to reach
what, for some, had become an almost impossible goal.
"When I started the work with doctoral candidates, I saw
so many stress-related ailments, and I found personally that the
stress and the pain isn't necessary. People don't complete the
process because of a lack of being integrated into any sort of
structure. Traditionally, universities haven't cared about these
people, and the candidates disappear in the cracks."
Ann Wachtler of Solana Beach says she's lucky, she has a good
advisor that mentored her along the way. But Jensen has provided
another kind of service that has been just as important to the
"Basically, I needed someone to mother me through my dissertation,"
she says. "It requires you to face up to your demons, you
need somebody who's been through the process. . . and sometimes
you need somebody to let your hair down with that you don't have
to worry about politically how this will effect your dissertation.
My adviser is a wonderful person, but with Sally I can rant and
rave -- and get good advice."
Ann will be finished in May, and considers herself at the "bitter
end." It's been a long process (she started in 1996
for the second time) but one she believes Jensen has made a lot
can be costly -- from $400 a month for weekly consultations and
other services, like a support group via telephone.
But then again, says Jensen, spending years getting a doctorate,
or working for years and not getting it, can be pretty pricey,
| Dissertation Coaching | Dissertation
MARY CURRAN-DOWNEY can be reached at (760) 752-6739
or by e-mail: