I became a PhD student in the Department of Communication and Culture at IU after “retiring” from a career in Information Technology. IT was fine and the money was good but it didn’t give me the opportunity to grow intellectually. That said, IT work is still reasonably interesting to me and it has given me access to decent jobs around Bloomington when during the summer when my AI teaching stipend runs out.
This summer I have been working for the the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs* (DEMA) doing some web maintenance and updating work. While doing so, I got know the folks over at the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program which is a program to help non-traditional and underrepresented minority students succeed in college. They offer tutoring, mentoring, special skills courses (for credit!), and a great community. One of their big events is a Diversity Leadership Conference which is targeted at helping get the URM students who attend not only through college but into positions of leadership in their fields and/or into graduate school. With luck, I will be leading one of the panel discussion/workshops at the conference this year (submitted a proposal and now we have to wait to see if it gets accepted).
Even though DEMA programs like the HHSP are directed specifically at undergraduate students, they create a great community of URM scholars on campus. HHSP gives people of color greater visibility on campus and creates a supportive community that has makes the campus more hospitable for graduate students as well. Working for DEMA has been more than just a way to get some extra cash (something all graduate students need!) but it has made me feel more a part of the community of URM scholars on campus.
It has also been a good lesson in networking: I found out about the job opening in DEMA through the Graduate Student Diversity mailing list. Getting involved with the UGS Diversity group opened up a side of IU I hadn’t really known about before. Finally, it’s a reminder not to forget about the (non-academic)skills you are bringing with you to graduate school. My PhD program has nothing to do with server maintenance, web development, or coding but it’s still a great way to make money as well as make in-roads into new parts of the campus.
*- I always try to write their name with a serial comma.