Excellent News!

Earlier this week I passed my dissertation prospectus and advanced to Ph.D. candidacy in my graduate program! This was the final step of the qualifying portion of my graduate studies, which has brought to conclusion a large number of hurdles that I have had to jump through over the last several years (2010-2016). Now all I have to do is write my dissertation, which will be a lot of work, but will also free up a lot more time for research.

A Classics Ph.D. is one of the most difficult degrees that you can get in the Humanities. The reason why is that you have to have very strong language skills and are required to pass a large number of qualifying exams. To get to this point I have taken no less than 11 qualifying exams, as part of both my M.A. and Ph.D. programs, in addition to 2 major oral defenses:

  • Language-wise, I have had to take qualifying exams in Italian, German, Latin, and Greek (as I discussed earlier on this blog, the Greek exam was by far the most difficult of these).
  • History-wise, I took 4 qualifying exams as part of my M.A. program (general Mediterranean history, Roman history, Greek history, and history of the Latin language), in addition to 3 further qualifying exams that I have taken as part of my Ph.D. program (Roman history, Greek history, and history of literature).
  • Oral defense-wise, I had to defend my M.A. thesis when I completed my master’s degree back in 2012. This week I likewise passed my prospectus defense, which means that I won’t have any more major Ph.D. milestones, until the anticipated date of my dissertation defense in 2-3 years.

I am very relieved to be done with this process, and I have been catching up on a lot of rest this week. The prospectus defense was particularly stressful, since, for scheduling reasons, I had to hold the defense on the exact same day as my presentation at the regional SBL at Claremont this year. I got up at 2am that day and did not finish until around 8pm. It was a very busy day, but overall both events went well!

I still have a stack of exams to grade for a course that I TA, but after that I should have a lot more time to catch up on blogging. There are a number of comments that I have approved, but haven’t had the chance to answer yet, which I will be getting to over the upcoming weeks. Likewise, I will be writing more here at length about the topic of my dissertation and the current research that I am working on.

What is especially good about advancing to candidacy is that, upon doing so, I recieved a year-long dissertation fellowship. This means that I don’t have to TA or take seminars over the next three quarters, and can dedicate all of my time to research and writing. (Though, for the heck of it, I will be taking a graduate seminar on the historical Jesus at UC Santa Barbara next quarter with NT scholar Christine Thomas.) I also plan to use the time to catch up on exercise and to get into better health. I have been attending college non-stop since Fall 2005, and over a decade of college living can really take a toll on you.

The year spanning from March 2015 to March 2016 has, in particular, been the most difficult. I have had to focus heavily on passing the final stages of my qualifying exams, and have had less time to work on other projects that I am interested in. This all added up to Winter 2016 being perhaps the most stressful quarter of my graduate studies. As I posted earlier on this blog, I have had almost no time to engage in online activity this quarter (with the exception of my debate with evangelical scholar Craig Evans), since all of my energy has been going toward grad school. I have been working over-time and even my weekends have been spent on school this quarter.

Now that I have advanced to the research portion of my graduate studies, I plan to resume my blogging here on Κέλσος. So, stay tuned over the next weeks and months for some exciting new material!

-Matthew Ferguson

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12 Responses to Excellent News!

  1. Lex Lata says:

    Congratulations! That’s great news–not only for you, but also for those of us eager to read more from you.

  2. Steve says:

    Congratulations on your accomplishment! I can’t even imagine going through that gauntlet. Looking forward to new articles on the blog. Cheers!

  3. vinnyjh57 says:


  4. epistemicnomad says:

    Go Matt Go!

  5. CharlieJ says:

    Congratulations. I’m now in the dissertation phase of my PhD in Renaissance/Reformation history, and my comprehensive exams almost killed me. My classics courses were definitely among my most difficult. I admire your energy and productive output. Looking forward to more.

  6. Posted this yesterday- first!- but somehow got lost in the ether. Anyway, congratulations and, from a selfish point of view, am very happy to see you back posting

  7. Pofarmer says:


  8. jdhomie says:

    Congrats! I second what CharlieJ said about classics courses. After three years of classical Greek as an undergrad, the Koine Greek in my biblical studies courses feels boring.

  9. Wim says:

    Congratulations. 🙂

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