Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Doctorate, Completed

Yesterday, I defended my doctoral dissertation and paid the last $120 in fees to the University of Minnesota. For the cost of tuition, they really should include the dissertation filing, even though the money is technically paid to a private publisher.

Here is a portion of the "ETD" report you receive after submitting the final project:

Print Date : 05-12-2010
_____________________________________________________
Campus : University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Program : Graduate School
Plan : Rhetoric/Sci/Tech Comm Ph D Major
Degree Sought : Doctor of Philosophy
Plan : Supporting Program Minor

Dissertation: Online Pedagogy: Designing Writing Courses
for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Dissertation / Final Research Categories
______________________________________________________
736 : Speech & Rhetorical Studies
810 : Educational/Instructional Media Design
835 : Special Education
864 : English Education
It is complex enough you need a key to decipher the information.

The official degree program was "Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication (RSTC)" at the University of Minnesota. The degree is granted by the Graduate School, but the primary departments overseeing the degree were the Department of Rhetoric and the Department of Writing Studies. The Department of Rhetoric was dissolved in 2008, as were a few other departments and programs within the university. The Department of Writing Studies became "home" though I took courses in other departments.

My interest remains writing, in general, though the degree implies a technical bias. This is because the Online Writing Lab was originally based within RSTC; my reason for attending UMN was an interest in how technology is affecting the writing and production / publishing processes.

The focus on students with autism was to learn more about how a marginalized community is using technology to remove barriers to self-expression. As a faculty member observed, the same study could have focused on a minority population or any marginalized socio-economic community. Technology is creating new opportunities while also perpetuating some barriers.

I did study autism and its affects on language development in detail. I also spent a lot of time researching special education laws and regulations. What I did not study was the "rhetoric of autism" or any particular debates around autism. My only concern was how individuals with autism use technology to create traditional and new media content -- and how the tools might be improved.

I am glad to be done, but it is interesting to see how tangled the degree explanation is.

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