A Grateful Heart: Friends, the secret to surviving comprehensive exams

Gratitude: “A felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” Robert Emmons*

On the first day, they put me in solitary. Four walls, no bigger than a broom closet, desk, lamp, chair. No windows. No visitors. No outside communication. They said “Tell us everything you know.” And I did. The interrogation lasted 8 hours after which I was free to go. For now.

Days later, the questions kept coming. I defended. I rationalized. I displayed all the knowledge I had and after 24 hours of interrogation, they let me be. For now.

Cape compliments of Mr. Timothy Huffman. Note the clever use
of the ASU Sundevil pitchfork.

In the days following my comprehensive exams (see here for details), I’ve wondered: Did I do enough? Will my committee members look past the places I obviously fouled up and focus on my good ideas? Will they give me a chance to explain? Will I have to re-write a section? Will I have to re-write the whole damn thing? What if I crashed and burned?

Pass or fail though, I’ve learned the secret to surviving comprehensive examinations, and maybe life in general: Good friends. And I am ever so grateful. Throughout the comps process, I’ve had a veritable army of supporters cheering me on, offering words of advice, comfort and encouragement. Although I spent 24 hours writing alone, I knew people were thinking of me, offering positive energy, and willing me to succeed. Thank you everyone! 

A talisman borrowed from a dear friend.

And they didn’t send me into the fray unprepared. In fact, a select group outfitted me with custom-made comps armor, a talisman, and a solemn oath to kick ass.

To see the “Caping Ceremony,” complete with Eye of the Tiger sound track, click here. (Thank you Casey for taking video!) Below is a transcript of the oath that incredibly accurately forecasted the experience…


The Comps Oath, written and administered by Tim “Best-Cape-Maker-Ever” Huffman

I, Malvini Redden, S. (Read “Malvini Redden comma S period” in proper APA style),
Do solemnly swear
To kick ass on my comprehensive exams (Cue- Small cheer from audience)
While I may experience a moderate amount of fear,
I will be courageous as I read my questions.
While I may be struck with a moderate amount of panic,
I will have composure as I formulate my responses.
And while I may feel, at times, moderately baffled,
I know that I am smarter now than I have ever been,
And smarter than I am ever likely to be.
Words are in my blood,
Ideas course through my mind,
I am ready.
(Advisor presents cape): Let this cape be an outward sign of your inward awesomeness.
P.S. Being “caped” was such a cool experience, one that I will never forget! Thank you all!
Love the clasp.


I’ll sign it before we cape the next lucky comper.
Well done Tim!
Surely you’ve seen a caped crusader of knowledge before! (Note: It is more difficult than it looks to take a picture of oneself in a cape.)

* Welcome to my new series on gratitude. I’m hoping to write a Grateful Heart post at least once a week!

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