Rhonda Hylton passed dissertation proposal defense!

Picture of Rhonda Hylton

Congratulations to our friend, Rhonda Hylton, as she is now a doctoral candidate!

Rhonda is pursuing a doctoral degree in the Curriculum and Instruction program, with a concentration in Literacy. She just passed her doctoral proposal defense and is now fully diving into a dissertation phase! Continue reading for Rhonda's insights for all doctoral students!

What is your dissertation topic and what is it about?
My dissertation topic is Black women faculty and how their teaching experiences and positionality influence their perceptions of their literacy pedagogy.

How did you prepare for the proposal defense?
I printed a copy of my proposal to have with me during the defense, but didn't need to use it. I worked diligently to complete my revisions and send my final document to my committee two days before my defense.

What advice can you give to doctoral students who are at the beginning of their program?
I would say try to be as organized possible and write tasks down so that you don't forget anything related to classes, GA or TA responsibilities, and even family and personal events. Don't worry too much about deciding on a dissertation topic or research questions right away; focus on learning all that you can from your professors and peers. It sounds crazy, but try to maintain a balance between the Ph.D. and your family/personal life as much as possible. Get to know what time(s) of day or night you are most productive and work during those times. Other times, try to focus only on your family or take time to do something for yourself. The dissertation seems out of reach now, but you will get to it in due time, so really try to enjoy the journey, get as much experience as you think you need (whether it's related to publishing, conference presentations, teaching, etc.) and don't be afraid to ask questions; people really do want to help you succeed! Lastly, remember that it's o.k. not to be o.k.! If you are struggling, reach out to a support system, whether it's family, friends from home, or friends in your program. This can be a lonely, difficult journey at times, and the more you process things as they happen, the better you will feel.

What advice can you give to doctoral students who are preparing for the proposal defense?
When preparing for the proposal defense, what I found most helpful was audio recording the conversation between myself and my committee. I did not do this during my comps defense and spent some time then trying to take notes and capture everything my committee suggested. But after my proposal defense, it was so nice to be able to play back the conversation as I started to tweak what I had written and begin to view the document as my actual dissertation. I'd also offer to be confident! At this point, you've spent a lot of time writing about and designing your study, so you really are the expert! Even if your committee makes suggestions, take them and use them to propel you forward.

Rhonda Hylton and Sitang Jittapirom