Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What's Next?

I have been at the University of Dayton since August 2009. This May, my graduate assistantship contract will come to an end. This means that my teaching duties at the university with cease, along with my stipend and medical insurance. Ronnie has been employed at St. George’s Episcopal Church as their youth minister for the past two and a half years. We have been blessed by our time of service at St. George’s, but his pay alone cannot support us. William is now five years-old, Emmelia is three and a half, and Althea will turn one next month. Will is ready for Kindergarten this fall, while Emme will be in Pre-K. So, what’s next for the McGowins?
Although I have two chapters of my dissertation drafted, I have four more yet to write before I am ready to defend it and (hopefully) graduate. Finances play a major role in how quickly I will be able to finish writing. I have received a Graduate Student Summer Fellowship through the UD Graduate School, which will fund the research and writing of my third chapter over the summer. This means I will be able to write full-time without having to work another job. But, beyond the summer funding… we don’t know yet.
I have applied for two dissertation year fellowships, which are fellowships awarded on the basis of merit that provide funding for your final year of dissertation writing, one from The Louisville Institute and one from the UD Graduate School. The intention is that from the start of the fellowship year (August) you will have a complete dissertation, ready to defend within 12 months. I was offered an “alternate” status by The Louisville Institute, which means that if for some reason someone who received an award cannot or will not use it, I will be next on the list. The Louisville Institute fellowship is highly competitive (there were 90 applicants this year), so it is an honor and affirmation of my research even to receive “alternate” status. (But, of course, that affirmation doesn’t pay the bills!) I am still waiting to hear back on the dissertation year fellowship offered through the UD Graduate School, which is also highly competitive. I know personally a number of the applicants I am competing against and their work is very worthy of funding. So, it is by no means certain that I will win that award either.
So, where does that leave us? Faced with this financial uncertainty, we have made the decision to leave Dayton, Ohio for Denver, Colorado. We will spend the month of May packing up our house and we will be Denver bound by June 1. My mom owns a successful business with offices in Colorado and Texas. She has generously invited us to come and live with her in Denver until we are in a more financially stable situation. She has a fully finished basement in her ranch style home (complete with kitchen and bathroom), which will provide spacious living quarters for the five of us. As it happens, we also have a number of good friends in the Denver area, which makes moving there all the more appealing. We plan to live there for the next year and a half, saving money on rent and utilities, benefiting from the support of friends and family, and hoping that I will be able to finish my dissertation and defend it during that time.
The timing of my graduation depends a lot on the UD dissertation fellowship. If I do receive it, I will be required to finish my dissertation within a year’s time (August 2015) and more than likely graduate by December 2015. If I do not receive the fellowship, I will become the stay-at-home parent with the kids while Ronnie works full-time to support us. This will mean that I will have to work on my research and writing in the evenings, on the weekends, and during nap times. Obviously, that will slow things down quite a bit. But, even if that’s the case, I will be able to apply again next year (2015) for the same fellowships and hope to win one the next time around. If I do win one next year, I estimate that I would defend in May 2016 and graduate by August 2016. So, there is no question that I will finish my dissertation and graduate. The question is whether I will be finishing sooner rather than later.
What will happen after I graduate (whether in 2015 or 2016)? I don’t really know yet. Of course, Ronnie will continue to be faithful to his pastoral vocation and I will continue to serve alongside of him in our local church (wherever that may be). I hope that I will be able to find a teaching position at a college, university, or seminary, but finding academic jobs these days is very difficult. There’s simply no telling what will be available. The truth is, as long as I am able to teach, I’m not sure that the location matters as much to me. In the end, we trust that God will continue to guide our steps. Above all, we will seek to be faithful to Christ and embody his Kingdom wherever we are. We ask for your prayers as this next phase of life begins for us in June.