Ken Litwak's dilemma: Change or leave?

Edward Hobbs (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 17:10:42 -0500 (EST)

Dissertation Advisor--change or leave?

Ken Litwak writes that his doctoral advisor (who is Joel
Green, as I recall) at the GTU is leaving for "a school in
Kentucky" and wonders about the alternatives of himself moving or
getting a new advisor. Don Wilkins of University of California
at Riverside gave excellent advice, I think. Let me add to his.

As one who taught doctoral students for over 30 years
(including over two decades at the GTU in Berkeley, where Ken
is), let me strongly adv
ise Ken (and others in this situation) to

If Ken were at the dissertation stage, then it would be even
more crucial that he not move, since it is considered a matter of
professional ethics for a professor to continue guiding a
dissertation via mail and telephone from his new post, and either
to return for the defense, or to participate in the oral defense
by telephone conference call (with loudspeaker and mike in the
room where the exam is being held). I did both when I moved from

Berkeley to Harvard and Wellesley, with three dissertations in

Don also makes the point that moving would very likely mean
getting the degree from a school of lower academic standing than
the GTU; Harvard and Chicago are unlikely to accept a student in
mid-stream without some serious loss of time, and places which
would credit you with your full investment are not likely to make
it easy for you to obtain an appointment later at as reputable a
school as that which a GTU-degree would

As to Ken's chief sub-questions:

(1) Having as advisor a professor of Ken's own
theological persuasion--
Don spoke to this, quite accurately. May I add that many of
my own Ph.D. students (meaning those whose dissertations I
guided) were of very different theological persuasion than my
own. E.g.: Fred Veltman wrote on the protocols of the trials in
Acts, with very conservative conclusions. Fred (now retired!) is
7th-Day Adventist, with a VERY conservative view of Scriptu
E.g.: Richard Cassidy, whose _Jesus, Politics, and Society_ was a
dissertation written under my direction; his conservative view of
Luke as an Empire historian, expressed therein, brought rave
reviews from F. F. Bruce, Ward Gasque, and Ralph Martin (not to
mention Bruce Metzger, Frederick Danker, and David Daube). Their
published statements about my work as Doctorfather should
indicate that advisor and student need not have the same
theological stance.

(2) "Focusing on Luke-Acts"
with no faculty at GTU
interested in that--
Again, Don has wisely suggested that you might change your
topic to something which is closer to the interests of someone at
GTU, especially since you are still doing your course-work. You
have done nothing so far which would be lost, were you to change
your dissertation focus to, say, another Synoptic Gospel. May I
add that you might also consider approaching someone who does
Gospel-research but is not in Luke-Acts studies, and seeing
whether that
person would be interested in helping you in a Luke-
Acts dissertation. (I for example was deeply into Mark, but the
two dissertations mentioned above were in Luke-Acts.)
John Donahue, for example (at the Jesuit School of Theology
in Berkeley), is an absolutely first-rank scholar who is in
Gospel study; and though his own publications have been on Mark,
I cannot believe that he would not be a tremendous resource for
Luke-Acts. I have enormous respect for him and for his work, and
I have reas
on to believe he is a good guide for dissertation-
writing. Go talk to him, and lay out your dilemma; he'll surely
be helpful. (Tell him I told you to ask him, Ken, and at least
he will listen to you.)

Edward C. Hobbs