Jonathan had two main rules about how best to allocate your time and resources when taking a PhD program:
#1) Get it done before you can’t: Of course this means to finish in the allotted time required by the program, but it also refers to many factors when it comes to your studies. For instance, research has a half-life, and you do not want your dissertation to be out of date or expired, thus unusable, by taking too long to write. Also, professors and advisors are always busy coming and going to classes, meetings, and travel, so you need to allot your time appropriately around their schedules. Finally, be aware that life can make unanticipated changes without your consent, meaning you must always leave some breathing room between you and your deadlines.
#2) Don’t rush it: Jonathan found trying to graduate as soon as possible was not the most suitable route for him. Packing your classes and dissertation into as short a timeframe as possible can be harmful. He says that there is much to benefit and gain from the process of a PhD program, and if you only have a dissertation at the end (I.e., no publications, not attending conferences, not trying to publish books, etc.), you will most likely not have gained nearly as much as you could. To add to his point, he suggested by not rushing through your PhD program, you can make personal, professional, and academic connections, publish papers, and can really get something meaningful out of the process. Lastly, he does mention that you should still be aware of rule #1 because time can slip away from you if you are not careful.
After five years, Jonathan said that he felt a sense of relief after completing his dissertation defense, and also has a feeling of excitement to move on to the next chapter of his life. His hope is that he can become a professor or a research fellow within Taiwanese academia. The most enjoyable part of the program for him was the professional networks he built and the new areas of knowledge he learned. Though, the aspect of NCCU he will miss the most will be the convenience of the university’s proximity to the city and the mountains for hiking.
As diplomacy and security are Jonathan’s research fields, he stated there is no better place to study them than Taiwan because of its pivotal but overlooked role in global affairs. Taiwan is a great place to focus on these types of studies. While Taiwan has a great knowledge base, he did acknowledge that, “like any programs, your experience is what you make of it.” As the interview was wrapping up, Jonathan gave one more piece of advice for new incoming students at the university about self-motivation – “If you give it your all, you will get more out of [your program] than you would imagine.”
Thank you to Dr. Jonathan Spangler for taking time out of your busy schedule of mountain climbing, marathon running, and think tank research to sit down with the CSS Newsletter and share your thoughts about life at NCCU and the IDAS program. We wish you the best of journeys on all that is to come. Congratulations!