Cristina Gets Stuck on Methodology

August  2012 – For those of you who have been aware that I have been working on the dissertation of my Ph.D. for the past couple years, you might also have wondered if I ever finished it this past school year (2011-2012) as I had originally planned when we moved to Lake Jackson.

The answer is a profoundly disappointed “no.” I was staying on track for the first few months without too many setbacks.  However, I really pushed myself to finish my second chapter.  I stayed up ALL night one night to get it finished and then I got completely exhausted.  The next thing I knew, I was getting myself wrapped up in the holiday season and suddenly it was January and then February and I had accomplished very little for the third and last chapter of my dissertation proposal.  So, the school year finished off with me feeling guilty about not completing the first draft of my third chapter. This is a bit of a tedious chapter because it focuses on the methodology of my study, which is basically explaining to my audience the exact details for how I will conduct the study.

I was hoping to get some work done over the summer, but I was physically unable to do much because of all the bed rest that was required of me.  So, here I am once again starting another school year and hoping that I will be graduating in the spring of 2013.  If I do, it will be a special experience, because I will be graduating at the same time as the students that I sponsored for two years at the Alliance Academy International.  It’s hard for me to believe that those cute little eighth graders that I was teaching in a Computer 8 class in the 2008-2009 school year are now big seniors at the school.

So, I would also like to be in the graduating class of 2013.  I’ve talked to my professor.  He wants me to send him a second draft of my first two chapters before I try to send him the rough draft of my third chapter.  In that way, I can hopefully get back on track and nail down a schedule for defending my proposal, conducting my study and actually finish writing my entire dissertation to be defended later on this year.

That is my current plan.  I am hoping that the motivation I feel in updating our family blog will continue in my academic writing endeavors.  Please keep me in your prayers.

Big Prayer Requests for November

It’s been a while since we’ve asked for specific prayer for our lives. Right now, we have two big prayer requests that feel a little overwhelming to us.


#1: Cristina has been sruggling to finish her Ph.D. for the past few years.  She passed her qualifying exams in the fall of 2009, but was unable to write any of her dissertation for the following year and a half.  She made a decision to try to finish the dissertation this year and graduate in May of 2012.  So far, she has completed a rough draft of her first chapter and has been working on her second chapter for almost seven weeks.  Now, she three weeks left to finish the first three chapters of her dissertation so that she can defend her dissertation proposal by Thanksgiving vacation. She needs to be able to concentrate on her writing and not get distracted during the hours that Stephen is home to take care of the kids.


#2: Stephen and Cristina are finally settled down into their home in Lake Jackson.  Their debts and payments are also settling into a monthly routine as well.  They finally went through their budget together last week and found that they are $700 underbudget.  That means, they have to figure out how to cut that much money out of their spending and still be able to pay back their debts, bills, health insurance premium and still be able to tithe and put some money into a savings account each month. Please pray for wisdom, especially since we are now coming into the holiday season and there is no extra money for holiday trimmings or gifts.

The Struggling A.B.D.

Ever since I passed my oral exams for my Ph.D., I have been struggling with taking the next step in writing my dissertation.

The rest of life that I had put aside to study now came rushing in on me. My growing children demanded more of my time. The school’s schedule was now filled with more grading that I had faced in the early days of the quarter. I keep finding myself sitting in front of my computer and staring off into space wondering if I’ll ever get my dissertation written in time to graduate this year.

I got an official letter from my university in late November. The letter congratulated me for passing my exams and stated that I have now officially become part of the group of people who have finished everything except the dissertation. They called me an “A.B.D.” which stands for all but dissertation.

Now, I must decide whether or not I will settle for these initials at the end of my name or move on to complete my Ph.D.

I actually did start writing my dissertation a few days ago. My saved word document on my computer boasts of three pages. It’s a small start, but I’m hoping that I will be able to complete writing it before the end of 2010.

Cristina takes a moment to hang out with Luke and Jared in the playground.

New Year’s Prayer Requests

We are so grateful to all of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue our ministry at the Alliance Academy International (AAI) in Quito, Ecuador.  Here are a few specific prayer requests:

*Stephen’s Conference Trip to Miami – Stephen is traveling to Miami, Florida for a week to attend an education conference focused on curriculum mapping.  This conference will help him gain the skills he needs in his role as director of curriculum at AAI.  He will be there from January 11-15.  Please pray for his safety and that he will learn a lot at the conference.  Also pray for Cristina who will be playing the role of “single mom” of a two-year-old and one-year-old in his absence.

*Cristina’s Ph.D. research – Although she passed her exams in October, she has been struggling in really getting her research together to begin writing her dissertation.  Please pray for the mental energy she needs to begin the writing process as she is experiencing some writer’s block and mental burn-out at this time.

*Students Finishing their First Semester – this is very stressful and busy time for most of the students at AAI.  Please pray for them to continue to be diligent and not to get discouraged by the amount of tests and projects that they need to accomplish, and that they will still be able to find time to grow spiritually in spite of these challenges. 

*Our nephew Joshua Alexander Cobb – he was born three months early (November 29) and is under neonatal hospital care in Gainesville Florida.   Pray for him to develop normally in spite of the challenge of being born so prematurely and pray for his parents to have patience, wisdom and peace during this time as they wait for their baby boy to be strong enough to bring home. 
Link to their blog here:

Blessings in Christ,
The MK Meier Family

One Step Closer: A Ph.D. update

As the month of September came to an end, so did Cristina’s preparation time for the written exams on her Ph.D. in Communications. 

The written exams were scheduled for Friday, October 3 from 10am to 12pm and from 1pm to 3pm.  When I took my comprehensive in January and February of last year, I had to study for seven different sections within my program.  I passed five and failed two.  Therefore, I was only studying for the two sections I failed. 

A tired Cristina Meier prepares to take her written exams with coffee in hand to stay awake.

A tired Cristina Meier prepares to take her written exams with coffee in hand to stay awake.

I talked to my professors on Tuesday, September 29 (which also happened to be my birthday) and they gave me a proverbial kick in the pants to get me motivated in the right direction during my final days of study.

Somehow, I managed to get everything that I had crammed into my head, during my study hours, down on paper.  Two weeks after my written exams, I had an oral examination scheduled.  I was to get a conference call on Friday, October 16 at 2:30pm.

I was so nervous that day. I had already begun to start planning for my options if I did fail this exam.  When my professor called 15 minutes late, I had already told my proctor that he should go do something else and I would call him when the examination began.  So, I asked my professor to wait a second for me to get my proctor.

“Oh, you don’t need your proctor,” my professor told me. 

“What?  Why don’t I need my proctor.”

“Because you passed.”

I almost passed OUT right then and there.

“Really?  Are you just teasing me or are you being real?”

He was serious.  He told me that my written exams were so much better than last semester that he really didn’t need to ask me anything else.

However, my other two teachers wanted to ask me some questions, so they tortured me for the next 20 minutes before they agreed that I had passed my qualifying exams and I could now officially begin writing my dissertation.

This has been a huge milestone for me.  I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me (especially if I want to graduate in May of 2010), but I’m so glad that I overcame this hurdle.  I am looking forward to working with my advisor on my dissertation topic of studying the ‘third-culture’ kid of the 21st century.

August Prayer Requests

We have a few prayer requests as we wrap up our summer months and prepare for a new school year at the Alliance Academy International.  Please be in prayer with us for the following situations:

1) Stephen’s Intensive Spanish Classes – That Stephen will get the most he can out of a three week intensive class in Spanish.  After finishing one week of classes, Stephen has felt challenged in taking in and retaining the mountain of language that is being thrown at him each day. 

2) Cristina’s Ph.D. program – That Cristina will continue to be motivated as she comes into her final year in the program.  She needs to retake two parts of her comprehensive exams in the fall, as well as work on the first three chapters of her dissertation so that she can defense her “dissertation proposal” in the fall.  If she passes this defense, she will be able to finish writing her proposal and possibly graduate in May of 2010.

3) Renewing Our Visas – That the process will take place quickly and that we might be able to obtain Ecuadorian residency.  We are in the process of renewing our yearly missionary visas for the family.  We had managed to get Luke’s Ecuadorian citizenship (because he was born in Ecuador) and his paperwork was completed before we went to the U.S., but we were running late in obtaining missionary visas for the rest of the family.  We were told to return to the country under tourists visas so we could get the visas renewed after we returned.  As of now, the school’s lawyer has all our passports and legal documents to see if it might be possible for us to obtain Ecuadorian residency based on the fact that we have a son who is an Ecuadorian citizen.  If we do obtain residency, we no longer have to obtain a missionary visa every one or two years, but would be able to pay a one time fee for being a resident of the country.

4) The RE-scheduling of the 2009-2010 school year – That the administrators will be able to make wise decisions that include the recent changes in the scheduling of school days. In past years, the Alliance Academy had started their school year in mid to late August.  However, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education informed the school this summer that they were not allowed to begin the school year before the first Monday of September.  Therefore, the first day of school is being moved to September 7th.  Recently, they’ve also expressed to the school that they are required to have 200 school days, of which 190 days must be “educational.”  This has the potential of increasing the school year for two solid weeks. Be in prayer for our scheduling team as they work out all the details.

Cristina’s Qualifying Exams Results

     After taking my written exams for my Ph.D. in Communication from Regent University on January 29-30, I had three weeks to review my material and prepare for the oral defense on February 17th. Meanwhile, I was still busy adjusting to being a mom of two without having the help of my mother. 
I realize the big question on everyone’s minds is, “Did you pass?”
     I have to answer both “yes” and “no.”  Let me explain.
     When the day finally arrived for me to take the test, I was both tired and mentally exhausted.  But I thought I was prepared to answer the questions of my professors. 
The exam took place in the director’s office at the school, so that my professors at Regent University could take advantage of the Vonage phone number, which would ring as if we were located in New York and not cost them a huge international long distance fee. It was a conference call from 10am to 12 noon.  I sat on one end of the line while my four professors sat at the other end on a speaker phone. 
Regardless of the time I spent preparing, I immediately became nervous and my mind blanked out at the first question asked of me.  I spent the next two hours trembling through each question and the responses I was giving and feeling completely unnerved.
     At the end of the two hours, I was extremely drained and did not feel that I had done well at all.  The professors bid me farewell to discuss the results of my examination.
     My advisor called me back to give me both “good news and bad news.”  I had done well enough to pass five of the seven segments of the test.  Therefore, I was deemed competent in approximately 71% of my qualifying exams.  BUT…I did not meet their expectations in responding to questions on qualitative research methods or in advanced communication theory.  Therefore, I would be required to take those two portions of the qualifying exam over again in October of 2009 (when the next qualifying exams are made available).
     So, “yes,” I did pass a significant portion of my exams and will not have to retake those sections.  However, “no,” I did not pass the exams entirely.  My transcript for the spring semester will show that I have not passed my exams and that I will need to retake them before I can continue with the process of finishing my doctorate degree.
     However, my professor did tell me that I could begin doing the research needed to present the proposal for my dissertation in the fall semester.  And I would have the rest of the spring and summer semesters to work on that and to study for the two portions of the exam that I will need to retake in October.