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PhD Defenses around the World: a defense from Ukraine

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Dr. Viktoriia Chekina in the “Defenses around the world” series. Viktoriia Chekina is a leading researcher in the Institute of Industrial Economics of NAS of Ukraine (Department of financial and economic problems of industrial potential use). She graduated from the State Academy of Housing and Communal Services (Donetsk, 2004), and began working in the scientific field in 2004 as a graduate student (Institute of Industrial Economics of NAS of Ukraine, Donetsk). She defended a thesis titled “Formation of the real estate taxation system in Ukraine” and received a diploma of candidate of economic sciences (2009). She has worked part-time as a senior lecturer at the State Academy of Housing and Communal Services (2004-2006) and Donetsk National University (2010-2013). She is the author of more than 50 scientific works (articles in journals, conference abstracts, monographs). Her research interests include public finance, local finance, and fiscal decentralization. Viktoriia Chekina lives in Kiev, Ukraine.

My name is Viktoriia Chekina and I am a leading researcher at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. But it was not always the case :). More than 10 years ago, while on maternity leave after the birth of my son, I received a second higher education, and my husband asked if I would like to continue my education further. Since childhood, the world of scientists has been tempting and unattainable for me. So I really wanted to, but I doubted myself.

When the interview with my future scientific adviser took place I realized that I was very scared. “What kind of specialty did you get?”, “Do you have work experience in production?”, “Do you know English?”, “Do you have any experience in scientific work?”, “What books on economics have you read recently?”, “Which direction of economic research is close to you?”, “Why did you choose our institute?” etc. etc. etc. After the questions asked, the Doctor of Sciences said that he advises me to read several books on finance so that we can “speak the same language.” It was a textbook by J. Stiglitz “Economics of the Public Sector” and the work of S. Blankart “Public Finances”.

I took my preparation for a postgraduate study very seriously and in 2004 I became a graduate student. The entire first year was devoted to the preparation for the surrender of examinations in philosophy, English and finance (the specialty on which the thesis is written). It was also necessary to develop a plan for the dissertation research, report on it to the academic council, fill out the individual plan of the graduate student, publish several articles and conference abstracts, and also have time to write the first section of the dissertation (one of three). The year was intense, complicated, but interesting. For postgraduates of the specialty “finance”, Doctor of Science, Professor V. Vishnevsky organized a seminar on public finance, which helped a lot in orienting in the areas of finance theory, learning about new research, and learning how to write scientific articles correctly.

The second and third year of graduate school passed unnoticed. I did not have time to finish my thesis, so I was writing one more year. A great help in the preparation of the dissertation research was given to me by my supervisor, who was sharing the secrets of scientific knowledge, advising books for reading, editing my articles and materials, pointing out errors and supporting me in every possible way. At this time he had four graduate students and several doctoral students. But he was managing to work with everyone very well. A scientific secretary of the specialized academic council, Doctor of Sciences L. Kuzmenko was helping me to prepare a qualitative summary of my dissertation.

At the end of 2008, an announcement of my defense was issued, and in January it was held. All night before the defense, I reread my speech, edited it and changed it. I fell asleep in the morning. On the day of defense, I did not want to eat and drink.

30 minutes before the defense the head of the graduate school took me to the meeting room and I stayed in the empty hall, waiting. After a while, members of the council began to appear. The Scientific Council for Defense consisted of doctors of science, the youngest of whom was 50 years old, and the oldest one – more than 80 years. I was not very young (33 years old), but I was very afraid of their authority.

My thesis was devoted to the taxation of real estate in Ukraine (this tax in our country was not collected at that time). I knew my performance by heart, but I could not look up from the sheets. When the scientists started asking questions, I could not concentrate. I wrote down questions so as not to forget. I did not respond as confidently as I wanted. And then a question was asked by the oldest member of the Academic Council, Doctor of Science S. Aptekar. He asked: “I have an apartment; its area is 75 square meters. Will I paying this tax? “In my dissertation, the minimum non-taxable minimum was proposed at the rate of 100 square meters. So I said that it will not. And he said: “Well, I will vote for this work!” Everyone laughed. The voltage dropped significantly. I began to respond more confidently and more accurately.

Invaluable support was rendered by my supervisor, Doctor of Sciences, Professor V. Vishnevsky: he revealed the features of my dissertation research, which I could not convey in my speech. And with my opponent, Doctor of Science A. Sokolovskaya I maintain good relations and cooperate so far. All members of the Academic Council voted positively. But I relaxed only the next day.

Remembering those times, I want to thank all those who supported me at that time – my fellow graduate students, the staff of my department and institute, the head of the graduate school, the head of the library, the editor, the technical staff of the institute and, of course, my husband and son. They were very patient and caring. Only after a while did I understand how much time I spent at the institute and how little attention I paid to my family.

After 9 months (as the expectation of the birth of a child) I got the diploma of a candidate of economic sciences. Since then I have been working at the institute. I now have my own graduate students, and try to help them with training too. I wish everyone to have wise scientists in scientific councils who will support graduate students in a difficult time!

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