Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Former African-American Doctoral Student: Relections Abound

Don't feel entitled to anything you didn't sweat and struggle for.
Marian Wright Edelman

The title of Maya Angelou’s book, “Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now” describes my experiences during the doctoral program and after receiving my degree. I started the doctoral program while I was working full-time at the university in student services. At first, I was the only African American female and at [between 22 - 25], the youngest member of my doctoral cohort. After the first semester another African American female joined the cohort and we began our journey of “African American Accountability”. This level of accountability involves helping each other persist through the classes and the comprehensive exams.

The initial part of my journey involves taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. When I began the program, my career goals were centered on the student services field and I wanted to become a Vice President of Student Services. However, through the doctoral classes and constant mentoring that I received from the doctoral faculty, I realized that functioning as a staff member in the university environment was not my life’s calling. After the comprehensive exams, I began teaching in the community college and university environments. This was a pivotal part of my doctoral journey, because I was focused on my dissertation which pertained to college students and their relationships with professors.

The middle portion of my journey consisted of constant mentoring. I am proud to say that I have a wealth of mentors in the Educational Leadership and Counseling program at [name of university] and they have helped me make successful transitions through my doctoral journey. Mentors are very important in the doctoral process, because their goal is to ensure that each doctoral student is successful and that each student realizes the potential impact that they will have on the educational environment after graduation. As an African American doctoral student, I realized that I could not make my journey alone, but I had to have other companions ([name of institution]'s faculty).

The final part of my journey involved finished the dissertation. As an ambitious African American woman, I strongly believed that this process could be accomplished within a short amount of time. However, I realized that the dissertation is a mechanism that is used to refine the research and writing skills of doctoral graduates. During this process, I learned a wealth of knowledge about my personal endurance, working with others, and the importance of honing writing skills before the process begins. Drs. [advisor 1, advisor 2, mentor 1, mentor 2, and mentor 3] helped me through this process and assisted me in securing my current position as [junior faculty member].

I would not take anything for my doctoral journey, because I was able to gain interpersonal skills, research skills, and writing skills along the way. Reflecting on my journey as an African American doctoral student, I learned information from my African American, Caucasian American, and Hispanic American mentors in the department. I would strongly encourage others to take advantage of the resources that are available to them through the [name of department] and to network with others regardless of color or ethnicity.

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