How to Choose A Dissertation.Thesis Topic

I have gotten a series of requests lately for advice on choosing a dissertation topic. So while I am writing to specific people, I thought I would share these ideas broadly too.

4F Rules for Choosing a Dissertation/Thesis Topic

  1. Fun - You are going to spend a considerable amount of time doing this topic, you better at least be somewhat interested in it.  
  2. Fund-able - There are very few projects that can be done for free. Make sure you have the resources to be able to complete the project.  
  3. Feasible - The clock is ticking, make sure it is a project you get can done in the time available. 
  4. Future - Will completing this project help your job prospects after completing it? 
I have been approached to add more F's over the years (though for me all F's should be four letters). Two others which have been suggested are:
  • Foundation: Do I have the skills and abilities to get this done?   
  • Faction: Does my adviser have the skills and abilities help me through this? Can they help me put together the right committee to make this project all it should be?

The Future of Hospitality and Tourism?

The question I was posed by Leslie for the coffee chat was,

"How full is your cup?"

As usual I am going to answer such a question in my own unusual way.  

One of the great traditions of the program I work at is that we have a capstone class event at the end of term.  During this event, each professor stands up and gives the graduating class a piece of advice for the future.  While some of my colleagues share the same story year in and year out (and they are great pieces of advice); I like to tailor mine to the class.  Here is my talk that I am going to give later this after noon (and you decide if it is cup half full or not).

"There has been a question that has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks.  I thought of the question when preparing a talk for the global tourism class and I think it is valuable thought as you venture out into the workforce.  I want to pose a question to you all.  How much should we trade hospitality for the business?  The origins of the word hospitality comes from the Greek 'philoxenos' which means 'love of strangers.'   The root of 'travel' comes from the French, 'travailler' meaning 'to work.'  Combined the original intent of hospitality was to give comfort to guests because of the hardships it took to travel. Now, the question is, have we gotten away from that original intent?

Today, as you have sat in business school classes, we have taught you about profit margins, cost-benefit analysis and return on investment.  In such, we taught you as a good business school should.  In the current world you will be asked as managers to maximize revenue and minimize costs. Even in the hospitality world we are focused on revenue management and providing streamlined service.  In that vein, we now have businesses in our industry where one can rent a car, check into a hotel or order from a restaurant and not have to interact with a person.  Heck, one hotel has a program that if you do not want maid service, that you stick a sign on your door and that they will give you reward points in exchange.  So one could purchase their room online, check in with their phone and not have maid service meaning that they could stay in a hotel and not have to interact with a single staff person.  While this may be excellent business; is it hospitality?   That is your question for the future. How much humanity are we willing to give up in the face of business? 

On one side, we can argue that is the way of the world.  Heck, when was the last time you actually talked to a bank teller?  We have been automating every industry in America one way or another for decades.  What makes hospitality immune to this?  On the other side, isn't the core of hospitality to create a sense of 'love of strangers' and how do one do that through a smart device?   Over the next ten years, I sense we are going to see the next evolution of our industry.  How that evolution is shaped will be based on your decisions.     How much hospitality are we going to choose relative to the business?   The future of this industry is based upon your shoulders. My advice to you is this day; is to choose wisely."

Memory Monday- Mom

The theme this week is Mom.  

Retired Not Tired Memory MondayLike most people, I love my mom but how I do write about her without sounding cliche?  The fundamentals of my mom is that she is an intelligent, well spoken women.  If she was born 20-25 years later, she probably would have been a CEO.  She reads constantly.  She reads a variety and a plethora of literature.  She has carried a desire to learn and grow throughout her life.  She actually thinks about things and has informed opinions.  While she is introverted, she forces herself to become a customer service expert. She is willing to stretch herself as an individual.   She is a great example of how life long learning, growth and development leads to a happy life.  

A Lesson For All Politicians (and everyone else)

In 1861, Drs.  Earnest Aubertin (Localistic Model) and Pierre Gratiolet (Distributed Model) got into a rather heated dispute about two varying theories on how the brain works.  The scientific community then spent years debating which one was correct until the late 21st century discovery that each model was correct in that one fed into the other.  The lesson as always, is that good ideas should be built upon rather than worrying about who is right and wrong.  Expending energy on 'winning' a debate is useless compared to if the time was spent trying to bring the best of ideas together.

Perhaps our political leaders can learn a lesson from us (as should we all).  The importance of the sharing of ideas and actually listening to one another, can lead to much bigger breakthroughs than trying to go it alone.  As a collective, humans are pretty smart when they choose to work together. If political parties were more concerned with working together to nurture, develop and put forward great ideas than winning, we could be in a much better position all around.

Six Word Saturday

How is your brain working today?

How to Be a Good Neighbo(u)r...

The other night before the Predators used the Leafs as playthings, the Toronto fans showed some big time class when the anthem signer's microphone went out.  It was great to see the Canadian crowd finishing up the Star-Spangled Banner...

This is just a month after the Pittsburgh crowd sang O Canada after the Ottawa shootings...

As a Canadian who lives in the USA, I am always happy to see when we act like the great nighbo(u)rs that we are.  Congrats on both sides of the both sides of the border for recognizing our great partnership!

Being Significant in Insignificance

Every time I think I am a big deal, I leave it to physics to remind me otherwise...

Though I can make the argument that I am the center of the universe

Though, no matter our insignificant place in this universe, it is still important that we maintain a sense of fun (even if it is really just a little bit of fun in the grand scheme of things).

Death by Meeting

I love my colleagues.  They are great human beings and do not really waste time (if anything, I am the social being of the group who they hate to see coming down the hall at times).  Being in the world of academia however, death by a 1000 meetings is common and quite often painful.  As I have moved into more leadership roles, I have really taken a lot of time to think about how to make meeting times more productive.  So when I watch this TED talk by David Grady it really made me think of how I am doing business so to speak.

With this in mind, I give you my rules going forward for meetings that I am a part of.

Agendas go out at least 48 hours before the meeting.
Every meeting must have at least three actionable items.
Meetings will take no longer than 45 minutes (to which I will add an optional 15 minutes for networking/socialization).
Try to avoid meeting time sucks (like getting off on tangents, exploring outside topics and gossip).
Make sure the technology works before entering the room.
Keep the mood of one of trying to move forward with positive goals in mind.

These are my rules.  What are your meeting rules?

Why I Sometimes Hate This Time of Year by Wayne

This morning I was coming into work and on the radio there were two DJs discussing Christmas gifts.  The one DJ was complaining that her husband was buying her a $1000 dining room table stating that 'it was a gift for the household, not for her,' especially since he was getting $500 University of Tennessee boots.  So many things bothered me about this whole conversation that I needed to rant.

If you are going to discuss buying each other $1500 worth of gifts in public at least have the decency to at least acknowledge that you are really dealing with some serious first world problems.  The ladies on the radio really did come off as being superficial.

Heather and I stopped score keeping on gifts along time ago.  I believe it to be a sign of immaturity and a lack of respect for your partner.  We have also for the most part given up giving each other gifts on major occasions.  It is much nicer to receive a gift on January 14th just because you were thinking about the person than having to be artificially pressured into buying stuff on February 14th because Hallmark says it is the way to show your love.  I prefer the spontaneous and heart felt gift rather than the custom/convention one anytime.

The moral of the story for me.  If someone gives me a gift, any gift, I am thankful to have someone in my life that is willing to use their time and resources to purchase/make me something. There are many people in the world that do not have that.


I am so pleased to invite Kim Boykin, author of Palmetto Moon, (which I reviewed last week) to guest post here on Acting Balanced.  I joined this blog tour because the book was set in both my front yard (Charleston) and my backyard (Round O, SC) figuratively speaking and so I asked her to tell us a little bit about how she chose her geographic settings - I hope you enjoy this glimpse into her thoughts as much as I did! 


With Palmetto Moon, I wrote about Round O, South Carolina like I knew it like the back of my hand. I’d never been there before and had only driven through Walterboro, or stopped there to use the bathroom on the way to Edisto Island over thirty years ago. So, before I turned the Palmetto Moon manuscript into my editor, last summer, I decided I should visit to make sure I got the place right.

I was pleasantly surprised and then shocked at one of those ethereal moments. Dana and Bonita Cheney, the nice couple from the Colleton County Historical Society who showed me around Walterboro, offered to show me Round O. To be honest, with the majority of the story taking place there, and having never been there, I was more than a little nervous.

I’d sent Dana and Bonita a synopsis of Palmetto Moon, that mentioned Miss Mamie’s Boarding House. When we got to Round O, which really is a crossroads community (for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a crossroads with a few houses, maybe a church, a little store,) Dana asked me if I’d like to see Miss Mamie’s Boarding House.
There on the corner was a dilapidated two story clapboard home that very well could have been Vada’s home in 1947. I was amazed. Then he asked me if I wanted to see what it looked like in 1947. He eased down the road about 100 feet and there was the EXACT house I’d pictured when I was writing the book. I know this picture is a little cockeyed but I was completely stunned.

A few weeks later, I approached Dick Elliott, the owner of Maverick Southern Kitchens, and nationally renown SNOB inCharleston about contributing recipes for the book. I wanted to use them in lieu of Reader Questions. Turns out the executive chef at SNOB’s name is Frank Lee and my hero’s name is Frank Darling. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m tagging it as a gift from the ether.

About Palmetto Moon:

June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.
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