Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Our newest Dr. John

On April 24th John Farnsworth successfully defended his doctoral thesis at Stirling, in Scotland, during a classic Viva Voce. The viva was attended by three faculty, an impartial convener from a different academic discipline, an external examiner from an outside university, and an internal examiner from the department in which Dr. Farnsworth had studied. His 300-page thesis, titled "Coves of Departure: Field Notes from the Sea of Cortez," dealt with his experiences teaching and researching in Baja California.

Dr. Farnsworth relates that he initially found the experience unnerving. When he walked into the examination room, the first thing he saw were the more than one hundred post-it notes sticking out of the internal examiner’s copy of his thesis. On the other side of the table the external examiner’s copy of the three-inch-thick thesis was completely dog-eared, the binding looking like it had been run over by a lorry.

At the outset of the process Candidate Farnsworth was informed that he’d passed the examination, which is an unusual way for a Viva Voce to proceed, and yet he had to defend the thesis for two hours before he finally heard the magic words, “Congratulations Doctor Farnsworth.” At that point Farnsworth’s supervisor, the renowned Scottish nature writer Kathleen Jamie, was admitted to the room and the champaign was uncorked.

Having been a doctoral researcher at the University of Stirling for the past three years, Farnsworth felt bittersweet about his postgraduate studies coming to an end. He will miss the close relationship he has developed with his supervisor, and the intensity of the process of earning a PhD.

Dr. Farnsworth came to Santa Clara with an MFA from Antioch University, and while teaching here earned an MLA from Stanford. He has been a graduate student for seven of the eleven years he has been associated with SCU. His thesis is now being reviewed by Yale University Press and the University of Arizona press, in the hopes that it will come out soon as a book.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Farnsworth for achieving this milestone.