Reflections on My First Semester as a Ph.D. Student

Where to begin—it was a whirlwind and it’s hard to believe it’s finally behind me! 

I feel the need to elaborate a bit. The way DTS’s PhD program is set up is a bit different than some seminaries/schools may be. Because I earned an M.Div. instead of a Th.M. or M.A., I am required to complete 26 hours of course work before I begin the research seminars. These 26 hours are essentially Th.M. courses with extra work heaped on the regular requirements. At the conclusion of these courses, I have to write a thesis, and assuming it is acceptable, would presumably be viewed as the equivalent of having earned a Th.M. or M.A. So, I haven’t begun research in earnest yet, but thesis research will likely begin at the first of next year.

That being said, I still worked my fingers to the bone completing assignments. This is one of the most memorable aspects of the semester—I underestimated the amount of work some of the assignments required. As a result, I felt I didn’t do my best work. In spite of that, this has been a good reintroduction to academic life and has primed the pump for the increased work load that awaits me here on out.

Another aspect of this first semester quickly became evident—this time around things are very different and those differences make a huge difference. When I was working on my M.Div. my wife and I were the only ones we were responsible for. This time, we have four young kids to care for. Before, we were involved only minimally in church ministry (our last year there we served at a church start); this time, we are involved full-time in pastoral ministry. Balancing the demands of family, church, and school has proven to be a taxing enterprise, one that often left things out of balance to some degree.

I mentioned not too long ago the opportunity to read Wallace’s grammar for a visually impaired student. Well, let me just say, that proved to be a rather tiresome thing. Don’t get me wrong—I am grateful for the opportunity and don’t regret doing it, but should similar opportunities present themselves in future semesters, I might think longer about taking them on. First of all, have you ever tried to read Wallace’s grammar? It’s a tedious task, to say the least. Second, no matter what I would have been reading, it’s a strain on the vocal chords to read for 3-4 hours at a time. There were periods of rest (when I had to edit and finalize tracks), but I always left the studio exhausted. So, though I don’t regret it, I will consider such opportunities in the future more carefully.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that my wife has had to shoulder much of the load of managing the kids, keeping up the house, and many of the other duties that come with staying at home. I was often in class, at the church office, or staying up late at night to work on assignments. This left precious few hours during the day when I was home and able to help out (sometimes less than I should have) or just spend time with them. At the end of the day, there’s no way I could pursue this degree if it were not for her sacrifice, for which I am inestimably grateful.

One final reflection that will characterize the remainder of my studies here—START PAPERS EARLY!!! Because I underestimated the workload of a couple of assignments, I found myself making additions, deletions, corrections, etc. up to the day/night before assignments were due. I got everything turned in on time, but as I mentioned above, I don’t think all my work was the best it could be. So, from here on out, I will be starting assignments earlier than later.

So, there are a few thoughts on my first semester at DTS. I look forward the coming semesters and the challenges of academic endeavor.

You may be wondering—“What’s he going to do now?” Here are a few things on the docket before the summer session starts.

  • Play a round (or two; okay, maybe three!) of golf
  • Read and review a handful of books
  • Fall asleep watching tv with my wife
  • Catch up on the latest season of Burn Notice
  • Take my Greek Advanced Standing exam

And, as Paul once said, there is the daily care for the church!

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

10 thoughts on “Reflections on My First Semester as a Ph.D. Student

  1. Thanks for typing this out Jason and congrats on the completion of your first semester as a PhD student!

  2. Well, I’m glad that you got the 1st semester behind you. Now you know what to expect as you move forward. All the best over the summer, my friend.

  3. There is such a great feeling of accomplishment when you finish a tough semester. I have been praying for you, Jason, because I know that you have a tremendous workload, especially with the responsibilities of family. Your review of the semester here is good reflection for me as I consider entering a Ph.D. program myself. I will probably finish my Adv. M.Div. in just over a year, so I need to take a hard look at these things. God bless all the seminary students who are ‘agonizing’ for the Lord!

    “For this I toil, struggling (agonizomai) with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:29
    (P.S. I hope I didn’t just commit Carson’s cognate exegetical fallacy!)

  4. Brian: Thank you for your prayers–I appreciate them very much. Concerning your scripture reference, I just hope you don’t/didn’t preach from Romans 1:16 and tell people that God’s power is like dynamite (based on δυναμις)!

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