"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


this is the end

This is a picture from my first day of school in the autumn of 1983. Since that day, I've finished thirteen years of public school, four years of undergrad, two years in a master's program, and seven years of Ph.D. work. I also studied abroad in Kenya, did extensive fieldwork in central Africa, and completed a whole mess of internships in Nairobi, Washington, and Yaounde. (I did stop carrying the Strawberry Shortcake tote at some point in there. :)

For those of you who are counting, that makes 26 consecutive years of education.

Today was, for all practical purposes, my last day of school. I defended my dissertation, spent a couple of nervous minutes in the hallway with very good friends, and then heard those three magic words every graduate student waits to hear:

"Congratulations, Dr. [your name here]."

It was a good day. In a fantastic twist of fate, my friend Kirstin defended her dissertation an hour and a half earlier. We've gone through most of this process together and it was so good to spend a couple of minutes celebrating together (and meeting her beautiful baby girl!).

Ph.D. work is interesting in that it's a very solitary pursuit, but it also takes a community to bring the work to completion. Conducting original research, constructing a logical argument, and writing the text are lonely tasks. They involve painful hours obsessing over the right wording and long nights with dry library books and horrors like Newt Gingrich's dissertation. In my case, it involved fieldwork in a conflict zone where there are earthquakes and angry mobs and corrupt border guards and a myriad of other hindrances to finishing the data collection. (After the defense, my advisor asked what the best and worst parts of the program had been for me. It was clearly the fieldwork.)

These things are made do-able by the support of your colleagues and advisors, whose feedback and suggestions are often invaluable. And they are made survivable by the presence of friends and family who may or may not understand all the academic jargon, but who are there to love, encourage, and support you through it all.

I am very lucky to have had all of these people in my life. And I'm lucky to have all of you who read this blog and throw in your thoughts on African politics and all these other issues.



Blogger UPennBen said...

Wow, congratulations! That is great news! Have you decided on a gown color?

My dad remembers seeing Newt Gingrich in the library working on that dissertation you read.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 5:14:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

It's a wonderful feeling. I remember it well. I am more impressed that you found an academic post in this market. I didn't in a similar academic market in '93 and have only been able to teach part-time ever since.

Congrats, Doc!

Hey, if Rick Perry leads TX to secede, will your UT-Austin Ph.D. be a degree from a foreign country? :-)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 6:19:00 PM

Blogger austinokie said...

Congratulations Dr. Seay. Well done....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 7:34:00 PM

Blogger Gary Snowden said...

Way to go, Doc. I edged you out by one year in terms of the total time for the PhD, working on mine for 6 years. It was a great feeling of relief to finally complete it.

Seriously, congratulations on a job well done and best wishes as you move to Atlanta.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 8:40:00 PM

Blogger Anna's Mama said...


Wednesday, April 15, 2009 8:48:00 PM

Blogger David McCullars said...

Definitely congratulations, Dr. TIA! (I guess that means you won't be needing any more technical assistance with hard drives or data recovery?)

Thursday, April 16, 2009 1:27:00 AM

Blogger The Linz said...

I'm so proud of you! Congratulations, Dr. Seay!

I think another one of these is in order ... HUZZAH!

Thursday, April 16, 2009 6:13:00 AM

Blogger Tauratinzwe said...


Thursday, April 16, 2009 6:31:00 AM

Blogger euphrony said...

Hey, Dr. TiA - I've got this sharp pain in my shoulder . . . what, you're not that kind of doctor. Oh.

Nevertheless, I know from my own experience what a big event this is. Major congratulations on surviving grad school; wear those initials with pride.

Oh, and be sure to let your students know, so they can start showing you the proper honor and respect befitting a woman in your position. Okay, maybe it won't make a difference to them, but tell 'em anyway.

Thursday, April 16, 2009 8:14:00 AM

Blogger Figge said...

Wow. Congratulations. And thank you for a great blog! /Carl, Kigali

Thursday, April 16, 2009 8:54:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks, y'all!

Euphrony, this is why we never put "Dr." on airline registrations. There are some hilarious/tragic stories of pompous academics being asked to save heart attack victims on flights for which they've registered as Dr. So-and-so.

Thursday, April 16, 2009 9:19:00 AM

Blogger Michael said...

Congrats. That's awesome!

I'm only slightly jealous that you are through and I am not. :(

Good luck as you begin your career.

Thursday, April 16, 2009 9:29:00 AM

Blogger Amanda Taub said...


Thursday, April 16, 2009 10:15:00 AM

Blogger Sneaksleep said...

Congrats!! Woo hoo!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009 10:54:00 AM

Blogger JMT said...

Congratulations!! Hopefully we'll get to read your work some day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009 11:41:00 AM

Blogger William Deed said...

Well done!

Thursday, April 16, 2009 1:10:00 PM

Anonymous Chris Marlow said...


Thursday, April 16, 2009 11:14:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks, everyone!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009 12:34:00 AM

Blogger haitianministries said...

A belated congratulations!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009 9:48:00 AM

Blogger Omair said...

New reader here, but still wanted to drop in and say congratulations!

Friday, April 17, 2009 12:03:00 PM

Anonymous kirstin said...

congrats again. like upennben, i also want to know if you chose a gown color! well, i know you did, but what color will it be??? :)

Friday, April 17, 2009 1:38:00 PM

Blogger Travis said...

I am so jealous. Big ups Dr. S.

Friday, April 17, 2009 5:18:00 PM

Anonymous Kristin said...

Congrats! What an amazing accomplishment!

Saturday, April 18, 2009 7:17:00 AM


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