Reflections on my first year as a doctoral student
Whew! I survived the first year as a doctoral student in the Educational Human Resource Development Program, while also working full-time. Let me tell y’all—this is not for the faint or the weary. (Jesus, be a Solange song). Thank goodness for twitter, as it provides me with a place to document my PhD journey, over time. Below are a few screenshots of my highs and lows.
That moment I clicked ‘submit’ was a humbling and exciting experience.
When attending 16 hours of academic writing workshops pays off:
My never ending writing problem with being succinct.
Yo, this feels like institutionalized discrimination.
I guess I can finally believe what my stats prof said, Stats does love me!
And most recently, I received this feedback from my professor:
Additionally, I co-authored a book chapter with my advisor, and I will be presenting a paper at my first academic conference this upcoming June. This first year has been a marathon, and let me tell you, the last leg was rough. Yet, I made it. I’m still standing, and I feel more learned, I guess?
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect during my first year. I came in with confidence and assurance, which I used to persist through most of the year. As someone who works full-time, I was worried about the ability to balance my work and life responsibilities with school. I knew that my current role would be flexible enough to accommodate my school schedule, and that I should have adequate time I needed. Additionally, I had the added benefit of being a staff member in the academic college that offers my degree. So, I had already known most of the faculty in my program prior to beginning, and can easily skip down three flights (Okay, not skip. Maybe leisurely tread because my knees aren’t what they used to be) and knock on a prof’s door if I need something. However, it was still hard at time to go home after a long day of work, and will myself to read or write for additional hours, deal with my health challenges.
During the past year, I’ve also navigated an auto-immune condition that was diagnosed two months before the fall semester began. This condition increased my vigilance about health and self-care. Therefore, sleep, ample rest, and healthy eating are now a necessity, so as to not onset debilitating fatigue or trigger the condition. Additionally, managing my relationship with food was of extreme importance, as someone who struggles with overeating. At one point, it was very possible for me to gain 20-30 pounds within a few months. Thankfully, I have not gained any substantial weight or experienced unhealthy food binging. Part of this is due to shifts in my diet because of my autoimmune condition, but not completely. I feel like I experienced a shift in my spirit, and I’m learning healthier ways to manage life without turning to food. While the shift has not been perfect, I do recognize the profound effect it’s had on my life.
Thankfully, the nagging voices of imposter syndrome never entered my mind throughout the year. While I am the only Black woman in my ‘non-cohort’ cohort, and I have not seen very many other Black women (or men) in my program, I have found most of my classes to be diverse in ethnicity, nationality, culture, ideology, and professional identity. In other words, I have not felt like the ‘only one’—a fly in a bat of buttermilk.
I have learned that just because a faculty member has national reputation as a refereed scholar, with tenure, and university accolades, that does NOT mean they are actually a good teacher. I further realized that fear of authority can hold me back from advocating for my needs as a student, particularly when the person in authority is a Black woman. I’ve asked myself “what does it mean for me to respectfully critique the failings of my educational experience and advocate for my needs? What are the risks? What are the benefits? Is it worth it?” These are lessons I’m sure I’ll continue to learn.
Speaking of lesson, this semester reminded me of a much-needed lesson in saying no to protect my time, sanity, health, and peace. I am also learning how to make my program more engaging and less isolating, which is particularly challenging as a part-time student, in a non-cohort model, where some of your coursework is online. I am curious about what my future holds in the academy. But for now, this summer I plan to kick my feet up this summer and breathe. I deserve it.
Patrice French pronouns: she/her/hers Texas A&M University Program: PhD in Educational Human Resource Development, Adult Education Emphasis Twitter handle: @FrenchieMSW email: firstname.lastname@example.org