I’ve recently made the big decision to head back to school full-time to pursue my PhD in Educational Leadership & Policy at the University of Utah.
As I was looking into a return to school, I read many articles about “imposter syndrome”. When it comes to taking classes, I don’t have much fear, I’ve always been good at school. I am afraid of being a researcher. My master’s program was practitioner-oriented, and I’ve worked in higher education professionally for 4 years. Now, I am changing my focus and that scares me (even after deliberate decision-making). Logically, I know that I am capable, and that I have original thoughts and ideas. Illogically, I fear that I won’t have anything to say, or that my research skills won’t be good enough. I know that I need to trust the process, coursework, the faculty, and myself. I will learn how to research, so that I can add to the body of knowledge that influences our work in higher education.
I hope to do my dissertation on one of two topics. Either, how student affairs graduate preparation may contribute to the high attrition rate of student affairs professionals by creating unrealistic job expectations, or how faculty engagement outside of the classroom influences student retention. I’m excited to work with my advisor, Dr. Jason Taylor, and his research on reverse transfer credits, and the effects of different models of dual enrollment on college access and success. I’m also prepared for my interests to develop and grow through coursework, conversations, and my research assistantship.
I know that many of my goals may change during the next 5 years, perhaps I will no longer want to specialize in quantitative methods, or I will decide to go back into practice rather than wanting to be faculty. However, I’m excited to be challenged and to be back in a classroom filled with intelligent discourse. I’m sad to leave my family again, after such a short time in my hometown. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from my fellow students and faculty members. I’m excited to have the luxury of time to focus on answering the many questions I have.
As you can see, I have many conflicting emotions about this move, but I’m hopeful and ready to make the leap. I plan to share my journey and perspective on taking the risk to work towards the PhD that many of us contemplate as we look forward in our careers.