Path to PhDiva

Hey friends! Sorry it’s been a little while, but today I’m back and sharing a post several of you have asked for – how I got to be a PhDiva. I want to start by saying this post is honestly hard for me to write because to me, having a Ph.D. is simply a job credential. It does not define me, my relationships, or my way of life. So, do not mistake this post as some high on the hill story of how I overcame a bunch of adversity to become a college professor and PhDiva. 😉

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(How cute are the shirts my parents are wearing?!) 

A common career question is “when did you know you wanted to be _______?” For me, I think I always knew on some level. My friends and family can attest to my incessant desire to play school growing (I was always the teacher) and my affinity for office supplies. But, as I grew up, my love of kids diminished, so by the time I was in high school and college, being a teacher seemed like the wrong fit for me.

Instead, I decided I wanted to pursue the law and become an attorney, like my dad. Looking back, there were so many signs from the universe that this was not the path for me. In undergrad, I started as a political science major but made only average grades at best. Then, I took a communication course, and aced it, without even really trying. I eventually transferred to DePaul University and made communication my major, and political science my minor. The struggle continued for me there as I got A’s in my communication courses and low B’s and C’s in my poli sci classes. But, I pushed forward and received low LSAT scores followed by rejection after rejection from law schools until finally, I got in! You’d think I should have stopped and realized that all of these “no’s” were telling me this wasn’t right, but I didn’t. It wasn’t until failing out of law school (and being happy about it) that I realized I was on the wrong path.

So, I got a full-time job in marketing and started making some money, but despite all my free time and income, something was missing. I missed school. I missed having the opportunity for intellectual inquiry and I still dreamt about teaching, only this time, at a college level. I applied for a professional master’s program in communication at Northwestern and a few weeks later I was accepted. I could not believe it. Less than a year ago I was kicked out of a third tier law school and now I was accepted to Northwestern! I worked throughout my master’s program and before the first quarter was over, I knew a Ph.D. was in my future.

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I graduated with my master’s degree on July 31. By August 1, I was preparing for the GRE in October. I even hired back my high school math tutor and recruited my best friend to teach me basic algebra and geometry in her spare time. Then, on the first day of a family vacation, I heard I was accepted to my top choice school, The University of Arizona. (This was after several other rejections, though). After the vacation, I quit my full-time job and had a summer of “fun-employment” before moving to the desert.

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In four years at Arizona, I was challenged, tested, rejected, and pushed harder than ever before. I quickly realized wanting something and getting it are not aligned in academia, and hard work isn’t always enough. You need a thick skin, you need to constantly work to improve your skills, and you need to find balance during graduate school. I saw people drop out, struggle to find post-grad employment, cry, rage, and celebrate even the smallest victories. I was also one of them. Thankfully, I was hired by a school and in a position, I really, really wanted early in my final year. I even finished my dissertation on time.

What my path to becoming a PhDiva really taught me is that our instincts are always right. We know ourselves best when we are young before the world contaminates our minds with dreams of money, success, and fancy job titles. Most importantly, I learned and continue to learn nearly every day, that rejection should not be feared, but rather embraced because it is showing us the right path to take. 

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7 thoughts on “Path to PhDiva

  1. Most people would have closed earlier doors. Way to go PhDiva! You will continue to be a success, because “no” feeds your inner drive. Very proud to know you.

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  2. The “hard work isn’t always enough” really resonates with me. I know that myself and many of my friends in my grad program feel like we’re constantly on the edge of failure and that our work isn’t good enough, when in reality we are doing great work and putting a lot of effort in. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we planned!

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    1. I completely feel your pain, and it does eventually pass (for the most part)! I promise your work is not going unnoticed and that it’s part of the journey. I definitely would not have made it without my friends and family though, so use them as much as you can!

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  3. I’m a teacher. Last year our school staff focused on optimism and resilience as our core values. We wanted students to see challenge as an opportunity to succeed, rather than a reason to give up. Congratulations on your accomplishments! Your story illustrates the power of optimism and resilience.

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