As a first year doctoral student and as a male of color, this process has caused me to have a lot of mixed feelings. I was excited about the new opportunity of learning and development. Yet on the other hand, I worried about if I could balance work and school. I battled negative thoughts of whether or not I could really do this. I talked with a lot of people who were honest with me about their thoughts about my applying to programs. Some conversations I left feeling discouraged, some I left with mixed feelings and some I felt excited about. So with mixed feedback from supervisors and old professors I still was very unclear as to what my decision would be.
This was until I found the concept of “shared faith.”
One big question I had was: Would my degree help me in the present or would this just be a future investment that would eventually pay off without many current benefits? In higher education and in my experiences, we know that things can move slowly and that experience at times trumps education. From what I have seen, people with more years of experience and less education were getting jobs that people with multiple degrees were getting passed over for.
I struggled with the decision because while some people encouraged me, I began to look at the people in positions I aspired to be in. A large majority of them did not have a doctoral degree. So, I started to think more about it and ask myself was this really necessary to get where I wanted to go as a professional.
After my anecdotal and observational research among people of color, I realized this topic was very taboo. I didn’t have many people who looked like me to talk to about my pursuit of this degree. Most of the people that were close to me didn’t have a doctoral degree. My friends and family didn’t understand the purpose for getting this degree.
I began to search and seek out those who looked like me and ask the question more seriously.
Should I obtain a doctoral degree? Almost all of them said yes. They tied the degree to my career goals, aspirations and hopes. Also, in one conversation, we talked about how this doctorate would be beneficial to me, my family, my community and the people that looked like me. He shared data of how many men of color go to college versus the amount who actually obtain a degree. Then, he showed me the number for a master’s degree and finally for a doctorate. Once I internalized the data, I quickly determined that this is a goal I have to complete in order to help others that will pursue this journey after me.
That conversation motivated me to apply and begin my program.
As I close out the first year of my journey, I have had more high than low moments. The concept of “shared faith” keeps me motivated. While it’s simply two words, the phrase helps me manage my fears and doubts with confidence and boldness. Yes, I had conversations with people who said I wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t have the time, I wouldn’t be able to complete. But these moments were overshadowed by those who told me: ‘you are ready, you can make the time and I will do what I can to help you complete this degree.’
Shared faith is something now that I share with my students, my co-workers and others. Simply put, if just one somebody has the faith in me that I can achieve this goal, why can’t I have the same faith in myself? Shared faith adds a level of personal accountability so that I don’t let down those who believe in me. It constantly reminds me why I am doing this and to stay focused on the end goal of obtaining this degree. In the end, I am doing this for more than just myself!
This post is part of our #SADocsofColor series for March. The journey towards obtaining a doctorate degree is long and arduous. This series highlights the stories of those on that journey that identify as men and women of color; stories which aren’t always told and stories that are important. We need to hear these narratives now more than ever. For more info, see Jamal Myrick’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in the series!