If you’re pondering the possibility of embarking on this doctoral journey, or have just started the program, I say: follow your dream. What gives me the “creds” to share? To date, I’ve successfully combined a challenging job (the way more than 40+ hours weekly type of role) and a full graduate load and have just reached the transition from my “academic” plan to the “dissertation” plan. Each individual forges their personal path on this journey, and here’s a couple elements I’ve found helpful . . .
Keeping my “ize” on the doctoral prize. In my work, I coach leaders and organizations to surface a vision of an ideal future state, assess their current state and implement the best options to bridge the gap. Once I determined the doctoral degree would offer the right vehicle to take me to my dream and passion, I created a means to visualize this end as achieved. I had my prior degree certificates framed, as well as a “placeholder” for the doctoral diploma. My metaphor for this journey involved the set of patches for the Apollo space program, which my grandmother worked on—symbolizing an amazing time and achievement in our history. The quadrant of diplomas—three attained and the fourth “to be” in the form of the framed patches—reminds me every day of just exactly where I’m going and provides the inspiration for my journey.
Once I determined where I was headed, I crafted a map to take me there. To strategize my journey, I laid out a plan for each semester. Embracing my inner geek, my method included a spreadsheet identifying years, semesters, requirements, electives and calculated course credits for each semester and cumulative totals for each year. Every spring, summer, fall and intercession completed reflects a colorful highlight. I keep this mounted on a board—front and center to where I spend the majority of my workday. The strategy clearly lays out method and milestones, and shows my progress toward achieving my objective.
Execution and transition. Perhaps it’s no surprise I generated a super-spreadsheet to capture every single reading, task, assignment, and paper, by date, by course, by type, with descriptions, plan dates and status (remember, inner geek) for each semester. This tool helped me execute, powering ahead when possible to create slack for crunch times. Years ago a colleague and I were joking around about my approach to life and how I “planned” opportunities to be “spontaneous” in my calendar. So, yes, I then integrated other personal and family items into this file. In for a penny, in for a pound, or, in spreadsheet vernacular, in for a cell, in for a worksheet ;-).
With the beginning of this semester, I became a “3rd year”—and since I’ve completed two courses each spring and fall and one or two every intercession and summer—I’m close to finished with the academic requirements this semester. Now I have a new spreadsheet—are you surprised? In it, I’ve laid out all the milestones to take me through to my dissertation defense. I’ve identified my committee and submitted my paper for the Part A qualification. I’m slotted for dissertation seminar in the spring. I have a path, and I’m able to look back, stand in the present and anticipate the future.
What path are you on? If you’re interested in USD SOLES—or if you’re already part of the community—and you have questions about balancing work and school, or the program, or this transition to the dissertation journey, ping me. I’m happy to be a traveling companion.
Kathryn is a 3rd year Doctoral student in our Leadership Studies, PhD program, and she is also a SOLES Ambassador. To learn more about Kathryn and her experiences in the PhD program, follow the link>>
At least once a week I find myself saying the phrase, “A PhD is, first and foremost, a research degree.” In my role and simply as an advocate for my program I often get asked about my experience in the Leadership Studies doctoral program and why I chose it. I usually begin with the aforementioned phrase.
I often advise people to start with the end in mind, “At the end of the day,” I ask, “What is it you want to be doing?” I follow up with, “So why do you feel a [fill in the blank degree] the way to get there?” I feel strongly that more school is not always the best option, and if you are going to invest your time/energy/blood/sweat/
tears into a Graduate degree program, you want to enter into it with clear goals and via sound decision making process. That being said, I put on Christmas music this morning. Yes, in October. Before Thanksgiving, before even Halloween and I was met with many people questioning my timing
I look at my decision to pump Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas as parallel to the one I made to enter my current degree program, from the end. I needed my mood bright, cheery, and I needed to be motivated. Nothing quite lifts my spirits like the smell of cranberries and holly, my mom’s world famous (in small circles) pecan cookies, and perhaps most important: soulful Christmas music. Sure, I asked myself, “Is it too early? Isn’t there anything else you can do to get there?” But ultimately I decided that the quickest way to brighten my mood would be to lip sync in my office to All I want for Christmas (is you). So I did.
When I decided to get my Masters I knew I wanted to work in student development on a college campus. I wanted to help make people better people according to his or her own standards. That was it, that simple…or that hard. So I knew that obtaining my Masters would give me a piece of that, but that I would need to enter a PhD program in order to create the kind of change I wanted to create within the university setting. Not only that, I want to be a mother. And I thought, having a PhD will allow me to teach part time at the university level have flexible schedule and raise my children. I considered the kind of life I wanted and I looked at what could get me there.
Now, that is not to say that once I got into my programs that things did not change. I have gained more information and my professional goals are a bit more specific and tangible, but nevertheless I began with the end in mind and it got me where I need to be. I have so many friends with very expensive degrees they don’t use, and while sure the experiences taught them something, they are not sure they’d make the same decision again. I, however, would.
Stephen Covey said it best in his best seller 7 habits of highly effective people:
If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. It’s about connecting again with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself. Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.
All that being said, if it takes Christmas music to bring joy to your hump day, then turn it on and play it loud. And if it takes obtaining a Masters or Doctoral degree to reach your professional (and sometimes personal) goals, then indulge yourself, attend an open house, talk to someone in admissions, be in touch with current students, and then get your application in. Timing is what you make it…if it feels right to you then do it, and make no apologize for it.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend my first “open house” as a SOLES Ambassador, which was very rewarding. While I had attended these events previously, my role was significantly more removed. I felt a sense of pride to represent SOLES and the University of San Diego in a more official capacity and communicate with students more freely as they explored the universities available programs.
While at the event, I found that students consistently expressed curiosity regarding the international study component, prompting me to discuss my experience and opinions regarding my international travels. It is truly amazing how a simple conversation can unearth and bring to the surface such vivid memories. I found myself feeling nostalgic the remainder of the day, sifting through all of my photos and personal blog entries I possess from my time abroad. I felt so removed from the experience that occurred a mere four months ago, and the self-reflection and growth that occurred therein. A strange sense of guilt overcame me as I reminisced; guilt that I had not persisted in my daily efforts to maintain the growth I derived from my trip, and guilt that the incredible and influential people I met abroad had rarely crossed my mind over recent weeks as I became absorbed in the hustle and bustle of my daily life. While it would have been easy to sink into a pool of self-pity or chastisement, I instead chose to forgive myself for this self-described indiscretion and make active changes in my daily routine to ensure these experiences and lessons learned remain more present each day.
I can’t help but find the irony in the events that transpired. While attending an event designed to impart information, opinions and knowledge to others, it seems that it was me who left feeling more informed. Moreover, my personal lesson allowed me to draw parallels between my recent revelation and my future as a clinical counselor. As I progress through this program, and continue on to my professional practice, I will endeavor to remain cognizant of the notion that for each client I feel I have provided help or information to, it is equally likely that they will have enlightened and shaped me as well. We must remain cognizant that despite our professional titles and positions, we are never impervious to the light that may be shed on us by others, regardless of the circumstance.
As I continue on through my week, my hope is to remain more persistent in incorporating my lessons learned over recent weeks and months into my present. As I conclude, I leave you with a quote that personally inspired me not only during my travels abroad, but today as well. The message is profound and one that I carry with me in my personal and professional development.
Andi is a SOLES Ambassador and a current Clinical Mental Health Counseling Masters Candidate, to read Andi’s profile and learn more about her experience in the CMHC program, follow the link>>
The decision to apply to graduate school developed in its own time after completing my Bachelor’s degree in 2010. Once the light bulb went off for me that I wanted to start my future as a professional school counselor, I realized the application deadlines for schools I found interest in were only a few months away. When I mentioned University of San Diego, my family, friends, and co-workers thought I was kidding. Are you really going to move 3,000 miles away? I replied with hope that yes, I was going to. I’m all about seeking opportunities and finding growth in situations. After my interview at USD, I went back to Boston feeling liberated, feeling ready to leave, and praying I would get in.
Are you really going to move 3,000 miles away?
I am a transplant to San Diego, moving from Boston, but also growing up on the east coast in upstate New York. I’ve always been open to relocating, but I never saw myself actually moving across the country. It all happened so quick for me. I must admit, I was on cloud nine the first month I got out here and I quickly fell in love with California. With time, the feeling of disconnect kicked in. I was supported in my choice to move, but I didn’t realize how much I was leaving behind me; family, friends, my winter coats and boots. As classes began, and the process of self-reflection started to unravel, I began making a new life for myself and feelings of disconnect faded. It’s hard moving away from the people and things you love, and the places you are most comfortable, but for me, I knew if I did not capitalize on this opportunity, I would have looked back with regrets. Removing myself from what I’ve always known has been eye-opening, but entering the field of counseling has brought light to a different part of me that I don’t think I ever would have engaged in until this past year.
I know there are many people who have had been through a similar experience or are currently contemplating it now. Call me cliché, but time does fly. My friends I’ve made here and I are already avoiding the conversation of potentially leaving once we graduate. You grow close with your classmates and you are professionally guided by the amazing and supportive faculty and staff in SOLES. Moving has been one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself. It doesn’t always feel easy, but the way I see it, you can always go back to where you were, but sometimes you may never get the same opportunity twice.
Kristen is a SOLES Ambassador and a current School Counseling Masters Candidate, to read Kristen’s profile and learn more about her experience in the School Counseling program, follow the link>>
As the beginning of fall semester approaches, I am overcome with bittersweet emotions. The start of my second year in the Marriage and Family Therapy program is an exciting time. I feel relief knowing that most of my coursework is behind me, I feel proud that I have made it thus far, and I am eager to finish the last half of this journey and begin my career. However, by the same token, the second year is the most challenging part of this adventure as it is when practicum begins.
Depending on the site you are placed at, you may start Practicum during the summer or the fall. I was placed at Phoenix House, an outpatient drug recovery center for adolescents and started in June. It has been exhilarating, to say the least, to finally be able to execute all of the skills and knowledge I have accumulated thus far in the program. I have loved Phoenix House since day one, but it was not easy to transition from full-time student to full-time intern. After three months, I have finally found my balance, which according to my professors is something that all practicum students will go through. Some of my classmates have just started at Phoenix House and I love being able to show them the ropes and help them get acclimated.
Now, I will have to transition back to student-mode, while still putting in 20 hours a week at my practicum site. This semester will be less difficult than ones from the past as I am only taking two academic classes and the class that is taken alongside practicum. However, I will have to find my balance in doing both. Although it will not be a cinch, it is comforting to know that my professors, supervisors, and fellow classmates are always there for support and to help me get through.
When I was an undergrad, I don’t think anyone told me anything about dressing for work. That probably had something to do with being a philosophy major, and that major not having a specific “job” associated with it (maybe professor?). Then I went to get a Masters Degree, and I got a lot of confusing messages from everyone. You have to wear X every day, never wear Y to work, Z is only appropriate for A occasion. It still makes my head spin. However, in the 8 years since then, I would like to think that I have gotten a decent sense of how to dress myself (feel free to scoff at this idea the next time we see each other). Here are the two best pieces of advice on dressing I have ever received, and a bit about how I put them to practice.
1. Dress for the day you are going to have
Take a moment to think about what your day entails. Do you know whom you are meeting with, where and how you are going to show up? How would you want to dress in any of those particular situations? None of my jobs have a dress code per se, so for me it really comes down to my opinion on how I see my day going. I know I want to be comfortable, and I know I want to look good. For comfort, I just ask myself “am I going to regret wearing this in a few hours?” The same can be said for showing up to class. If I’m going to sit somewhere for three hours or more, I certainly don’t want to wear something that is going to make me hate it by the 90 minute mark and/or distract me from what is going on in the room. As far as looking good, well that leads to the second point.
2. Wear clothes that make you feel good.
Now I know that I wrote looking good in the last paragraph, and titled this section feeling good, but that is because these two things are, in my mind, inextricable. To me, the things that make us look good are the things that make us feel good about the way we look. So every morning when I look myself over in the mirror before leaving for work or school, I ask myself “do I feel good about how I look?” You would be amazed at how often the days that I say “absolutely” are the days that others tell me I look good, and those are also the days when I feel better about much of what I do. There is a sense of confidence that comes with feeling good about myself, and that translates into a lot more about my day.
I’m not going to make specific recommendations about things I think everyone should wear, because everyone who reads this has a different life. While I am a big fan of, for example, mixing floral prints with plaids (which can work very well despite what my mother tells me) I know that may not be what you all are going for. Also, feeling good about how you look doesn’t, in my opinion, have boundaries or norms based on our gender or other identities (despite what spoken and unspoken messages we get bombarded with every day). This gets at the core of my point, which is that if you feel good about yourself in what you are wearing, you are bringing that part of yourself into your work, into your interactions with others, and into the world around you. A friend that I’ve been emailing lately has at the bottom of their email signature “When you show up authentic, you create space for others to do the same”, and while I know they aren’t just talking about clothing, it still helps me center my thoughts as I get ready every day. If I can show up feeling good about me, maybe makes a space where other people can too.
Read more of Conor’s thoughts on his blog Life Work Balances>>
Today was my first day teaching an undergraduate leadership course called Emerging Leaders. My co-instructor is an extrovert while I am an introvert. I’ve had years of teaching experience: 5 years piano, 2 years SAT prep, 3 years college business courses, etc. But this was the first time I had to co-instruct a class with someone else (that was not my mentor); an experience that has me being more mindful of how I bring myself into the classroom.
But what does it mean to be an extrovert or introvert? Today, most people see the two as synonymous with outgoing and shy, respectively. But that’s not what Carl Jung intended them to be. Extroverts focus on outward motions and get their energy from the environment. Introverts focus more on the inner world and gain energy in quiet solitude. How my co-instructor and I choose to tap into our energy sources while in the classroom will make for interesting dynamics. It will be a good learning opportunity for me, as well as for my students who will get to experience our interactions in the class.
As the group discussed the class expectations about participation and openness, I decided to be vulnerable in front of my students and told them I am an introvert, and that I have to actively work in order to engage in groups, but that I especially enjoy groups within the classroom setting. Moreover, I wanted them to know that it is ok to be an introvert, acknowledging that some in the classroom may identify with this personality trait. Whether we like it or not, there is an American cultural bias towards extroverts. But it does not mean that one is better than the other. I hoped that the syllabus overview which emphasized the class discussions and activities had not made the introverts in the class nervous about what is to come.
In a class that teaches freshmen about leadership, being able to embrace the facets of our personalities in order to engage with others will be one of the first things the students learn. How else can we work with others until we know how to work with ourselves?