Three From Three Hundred

On Friday I delivered my 300th Viva Survivor session to PGRs!

300!!! Had it not been for pandemic disruption I probably would have reached this milestone sooner. But had it not been for the pandemic I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop the session as a webinar. Or to develop other viva sessions that I now do.

From one half-day seminar I was asked to deliver in the summer of 2010, I’ve now worked with over 6700 PhD candidates to help them get ready for their vivas. I’ve written this blog for almost five years and produced the podcast for five years before that. I’m very thankful to continue doing what I do.

I’m sure with enough time I could write a list of 300 things about vivas, prep, helping and so on. Perhaps it is kinder to everyone to limit it to three observations that really stand out to me after these 300 sessions:

  1. Vivas often make candidates nervous, but being nervous is a symptom that the viva matters. Being nervous is rarely comfortable but it doesn’t mean that something is wrong.
  2. In many cases the viva and viva prep are nowhere near as great or taxing on a candidate as they might expect. Both seem much bigger to begin with than they actually are.
  3. In all cases, a candidate can get help for the viva by asking the right person the right question. It could be a supervisor or a colleague; it could be learning about expectations or seeking guidance. The viva is not an unknown.

I don’t have a formula to help every candidate feel better, but after three hundred sessions I have a pretty good idea of what can help. I feel very privileged to be able to make spaces to help.

And I’m looking forward to the next three hundred sessions already!