Friday, 15 May 2009


Graduation in Palmerston North was primarily a very positive experience although I did find it difficult to join other academics on stage after receiving my PhD certificate. The opportunity to share this achievement with my wife, her parents, our son, my mother, my sister, and one of my nieces made this something of a special occasion.

My thesis citation sounded a bit out of place in a ceremony for graduates of the College of Education but since my primary supervisor was from the College of Education and there is no recognition of Computer Science Education within Massey University, this ceremony was the only place where I could graduate. The citation for my PhD reads:

“Mr Thompson examined how practitioners of object-oriented programming expressed their experience of the programming task. Starting from the premise that the conceptions of the programming task determine the type of output from the task, assisting novice programmers to become aware of what the required output should be, may lay a foundation for improving their learning. Thirty one practitioners were interviewed about the ways in which they experience object-oriented programming. Categories of description and critical aspects related to the nature of an object-oriented program were identified. These critical aspects were then used to examine the spaces of learning provided in introductory textbooks. The study uncovered critical aspects that related to the way that practitioners expressed their understanding of an object-oriented program and to their approach to designing programs. The study of the textbooks revealed a large variability in the cover of these critical aspects.”

One of the disappointments of the ceremony was not having either of my supervisors present. My primary supervisor has retired and was in Europe and my assistant supervisor is based in Canada. No one from my old faculty attended but that seems to have happened to another graduand who received his certificate in the College of Business ceremony in which the Department of Information Systems was based. Having taken redundancy rather than the demotion, I suppose none of them saw me as part of the remnant of the department. My Wellington colleagues would have supported me had I graduated in Wellington.

The other point of mixed feelings was joining academics on stage. My voluntary redundancy, rather than taking demotion and to allow me to complete the writing of my PhD, left me feeling rejected and discarded by an institution that I had given eleven years of my life. Joining the academics on stage was in some respects a symbolism of being accepted again into their ranks even though these academics were not those that I left 17 months ago.

Reading a commentary on Leviticus this morning caused me to think about God's guiding through these last few years of struggle. The commentary writer talked of God speaking to Moses or more correctly God's word calling to Moses. One of the things that has developed over this period has been an increasing piece of mind that God is leading and talking with us through his word.

As this part of the journey has come to an end, we look forward to God's plan for the next steps of the journey. The door has closed on the PhD portion of the journey and we step out with some degree of uncertainty but at the same time confidence that God has a plan prepared for this next stage. Joining the academics on stage is the up side of having achieved this qualification and a sign of God opening up new opportunities. The journey isn't over, it has only just begun.

Has God talked to us or revealed to us anything about this next stage of the journey? We may not have the details and He may not have stood before us in some spectacular vision, but daily in meeting with Him in quiet times, He has shown us things about His truth and our lives. Because it isn't spectacular revelation, we tend to say that He hasn't spoken when each day He has done so through quiet reflective challenges.

God will lead us where we will allow Him to take us. If we seek to hold on to possessions or things of the past, they will limit where God will lead us. Being open to His leading means letting go and allowing God to take control. As we do so, we will hear Him speak more often to us.

Instead of seeing the contradiction in Massey's rejection, we need to see the victory through the symbolic re-entry to or acceptance into the academic and research community. Where it looked like we had nothing to offer, now the door is opening and we can pass through according to God's leading. The rejection allows God to move us, where we may have remained unmoved of Massey had not closed the door on an academic career within the institution.

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