In a continuing series this fall, I am posting again about taking the train to Montreal to attend a dissertation defense. First, I have to say how thrilled I was that I approached by a couple of undergrads after being on campus for less than five second. They remembered my big Intro to IR class fondly and wanted to see how I was doing. Once again, the McG undergrads moved me. Another student came up to me after the defense as well.
Anyhow, it was Theo McLauchlin's turn to defend his work. I served on his dissertation committee. I am not his adviser, although I plan to take credit for Theo's work for the next twenty years or so. I first got to know Theo when he took my honors seminar my second year at McGill. That class was a blast full of really smart, really engaged, really interesting students (some of whom I still manage to follow via facebook). One of my grievances about the place was that I had not been given the opportunity to teach that class again. Anyhow, Theo rocked that class, and then went away for his M.A. He came back for his PhD, and turned out to be incredibly helpful and supportive to the rest of his cohort.
The irony of his loyalty is that Theo's dissertation is on desertion--when and why do folks flee their side of a civil war to go home or join the other side. It involved laborious diligent data collection as he found heaps of information on old papers in Spanish archives. His argument, building both coercive and cooperative means to get folks to do what they might otherwise not do--keep fighting in hard times, was a compelling read. Indeed, Theo has proven his stuff is sufficiently compelling to get published into of the very best (selective/visible) journals around: Journal of Conflict Resolution and Comparative Politics. He handled his defense with aplomb. He even threw up a slide instantaneously when asked a question about interactions among his variables. I am sure he will rock more than a few job talks in the near future.
I enjoyed meeting his family over beers afterwards. I had met his wife before, but glad to have a chance to chat with her some more afterwards. Funny that she knows one of my pals in Ottawa, but then again that pal is one of the most networked cupcake makers I know. Anyhow, it was a great day to be in Montreal. My ex-colleagues and ex-students remarked how relaxed and happy I am now. Perhaps it is because I took a day off from a killer grant application.
Anyhow, you can go home again, if only briefly. And, yes, I have one defense to attend--next month.