I’m entering my 7th year at Indiana University. It’s been an amazing journey in graduate education for me. I entered in 2009, aiming to get my Ph.D. in Mathematics. Coming from a university where I was involved in math club, student government, voluntarily tutored, and started a discussion group (HIGH ACTIVITY LEVEL), I was really interested in continuing to have a range of activities in graduate school. However, those dreams were immediately slashed to pieces. I quickly found that the demands of graduate school far exceeded my expectations and that almost all my waking minutes were spent reading about hard topics and attending study groups. Before I knew it, my first couple of years of graduate school were over and I had only participated in one summer REU, which I call an extra curricular activity so that there’s at least one to add to the list. Although I knew quite a bit about my discipline, it was a treacherous road of sacrifice to get to that point. I was unhappy and left the program.
Before leaving, I made the decision to be more active in my next endeavor. I had a mild interest in psychology so I attended a few lab meetings in the department. IT WAS AWESOME! In 2012, I joined the department. To avoid falling into the same spiral of all work and no play, I made a commitment to go bowling once a week and attend game nights once a month. Being engaged in secondary activities and having a social life was/ is crucial for happiness and success in graduate studies!
Last year, my sixth year, I made the biggest leap of faith thus far. . . I actually committed to an organization! The Emissaries for Graduate Student Diversity were looking for new students to “broaden the participation of underrepresented students; and, to build a more inclusive IU Bloomington graduate student community.” Joining this group has been one of the BEST decisions I’ve ever made for 1. my academic life, and 2. fulfilling my personal goals. It gave/ gives me a sense of personal achievement, and has exposed me to a number of different research topics and personalities outside of my discipline. In the spring of 2015, I visited my alma mater, Morgan State University on a recruitment mission for the program. While there, I found that there was a such a gap between the HBCU experience and Indiana University. Going back opened my eyes to the vast amount of research that happens at HBCU’s (something that is not always apparent as a undergraduate at a predominantly black campus. . . perhaps another topic) and I realized that they are accomplishing their goals on sometimes half the budget that an Indiana University institution operates on. Such an experience gives a breadth of perspective on not only the type of research being done in one’s field, but also perspective on career environments, resource allotment, coworker dedication, and how my life as a graduate student is going to funnel into these areas. WoW. It only took 6 years to get here, but being engaged in non-research oriented goals adds so much to the graduate student experience.