I’m now Dr. Nierenberg!
The day before the defense, I practiced the trial lecture with four members of my research group, and I was a total wreck. I was incredibly stressed and nervous and couldn’t stop the tears. I was terrified that the same thing would happen the next day at the defense! Everyone said that this is normal, and that I’d feel fine tomorrow. And luckily, they were right!
After a beautiful display of northern lights that evening, I actually slept nearly 6 hours. When I woke up, I just knew that I was going to nail it, and that this was going to be one of the best days of my life. It was the total opposite feeling than the day before, as my colleagues had predicted.
When the time came to enter the auditorium and present the trial lecture, I was ready. I wasn’t even nervous! I knew that everyone there and online was rooting for me, and that if there were technical issues, I could just ask for help (which I did). I was totally focused on what I was saying and felt confident.
The theme of my trial lecture was Barriers and enablers to information literacy development: What practices are recommended for librarians and other instructors? I told how I was going to approach the question, which was to talk about barriers and enablers at different levels (see diagram below).
Although I realized that the question was intended for higher education, I decided to also include barriers and enablers for society at large, and mentioned things like the situation in the US where books about LGBTQ issues and race are being banned in public and school libraries, and where librarians are ordered not to help patrons find information about abortion in certain states. It was somewhat political, but I couldn’t resist mentioning how these things affect access to information and freedom of speech, without which it’s difficult to be information literate.
After the trial lecture were ca. 20 minutes of questions from opponents. It was more like a discussion than a test of my knowledge, and I enjoyed our exchange. We then had a 1-hour lunch break before the defense of my dissertation.
I started the defense with a 35-minute lecture with the main results of my research.
This lecture was at the level of the opponents, as opposed to the trial lecture where the intended audience was at the undergraduate level. Then followed 2 1/2 hours of questions and discussion with opponents. The first opponent – Jane Secker – used 60 minutes, and the second – Diane Schallert – used 45 minutes. I somehow remained calm and focused the whole time, although I apparently didn’t answer the last couple of questions as well as the first. Standing and concentrating for many hours is hard work!
The opponents started with general comments, many of which were positive. Jane Secker said that my research was important and that my measures might eventually be used internationally. Both opponents suggested topics for additional research, sometimes hinting that they wished to somehow be involved. I felt proud and flattered, and that my research was important and would perhaps be influential.
Many of the questions they posed were related to the comments they’d made when they evaluated my dissertation, so I was prepared for them. I was ready for some of the other questions as well, since I’d been practicing with possible questions on flashcards for over a year. But there were of course some that were harder, that I wasn’t prepared for, especially the one about epistemology. I think that was the one where I answered, “I’m drawing a blank here.” Oh well. But somehow it was still OK – I knew at that point that I was going to pass, and they don’t expect me to know everything! I felt more prepared for Jane’s questions than Diane’s.
I only got nervous during the short break where the opponents concurred on their decision, whether my defense was worthy of a PhD. That’s when the significance of the decision made me shaky with nerves and excitement. And when they returned with the positive verdict, I was overjoyed! It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt incredibly proud!
The audience stood and applauded, many with tears in their eyes (at least I wasn’t the only one!). “Was it that bad?” I first wondered. 😉 The next minutes are a blur of tears, hugs, photos, and total joy.
Then came the bubbles. I’d waited 4 years for that first glass of champagne!!
The small reception afterwards, with tapas and bubbles, was organized by the Faculty of Health Sciences. It was lovely! And then came the party! But I’ll save describing these wonderful celebrations until another post, when I have more time.
So this was Part 1 of one of the best days in my life! 🙂 Part 2 – with details of the reception, party, and speeches – is soon to come. I’ll write it after I’ve moved back to Hamar, after four amazing years in Tromsø. <3