The Thin Line Between Obligations and Expectations

Upon starting my program, many of the comments that I received from others were along the lines of “make sure you’re publishing,” “Make sure you’re attending and presenting at conferences,” “make sure you join whatever clubs and organizations that exist in your field and in your program,” and the list of “make sure you do this” continues 😩… In all honesty these suggestions were equally as helpful as they are exhausting. They brought my attention to some of the additional things that I was EXPECTED to do as a Doctoral student, but they also stressed me out because I’d just started my program and I was already overwhelmed with the things that I was OBLIGATED to do. However, in hindsight I’m glad that there were a few people in my corner who shared the benefit of each of these engagements with me early on.

The bottom line is, fulfilling your Doctoral requirements and coursework, along with passing all of your milestones is what you are OBLIGATED to do. 🔑 However, publishing, presenting, participating and engaging in academically and professionally enriching opportunities are essential to not only your growth, but also to your marketability when applying for positions and to the prosperity of your future career. Needless to say, all of these are things that you are EXPECTED to do, however the line the separates the two is defined by you, your program, and probably your advisor too.

Lessons Learned

  1. Attend some of your University’s Graduate Development courses…They are FREE and provide information on topics such as publishing, writing your CV, making poster presentations, etc. The only thing it will cost you is time, but trust me, there’s a great return on your investment 😉
  2. Identify a few conferences in your field early on and keep their deadlines for abstract submission visible…aim to attend and present at least two per year (or however many work for you).
  3. At the beginning of each semester identify if the papers required throughout your courses have the potential for publication or if they can be used as dissertation content… Keep this decision in mind as you’re writing, and if you decided that it’s publication material, SUBMIT it as soon as the semester ends…think about it, you’ve already done all the hard work and had another set of eyes on it…Aim to publish at least two articles per year (or however many work for you).

Truth Pill

I am currently in the process of trying to catch up on publishing articles. As of now, I have one publication and a total of four that I am putting the final touches on this summer and hopefully they will all be accepted. Two of the four have been submitted previously and one received a revise and resubmit (however I didn’t meet the deadline 😔) and the other was rejected but the editors left great comments and encouraged me to resubmit.

I believe in honesty and transparency, so I have shared my lessons learned to encourage readers to learn from my mistakes and to create a system early on as to how you can manage the thin line between what you are obligated to do and what you are expected to do. As I’ve previously stated, while the things that you are expected to do are “optional” in a sense, they are investments into your future. My advice is for you to do as much as you feasibly can and what is best for you, but give each a good swing at least twice 🔑.

Personal Update

On my last personal post about my PhD journey I shared that I was preparing to defend my Dissertation Prospectus, and I’m proud to share that I successfully passed. Upon receiving comments and areas for revision, I will be spending a great deal of time this summer finalizing my first three chapters, submitting to IRB, and making secondary contact with the school that I’m interested in working with. In addition to dissertation work, I’m also working on those four potential publications, and hoping that great things come from the time that’s invested. Furthermore, myself and a colleague are working on a research project that evaluates a program of Valencia Community College’s.

As you can see, my summer is not a time for downtime. The thin line between what I am obligated to do and what I am expected to do at this point is very blurred, as my final year is approaching and I’m trying to make myself as marketable and prepared for life after graduation as I can. Although I’ve made great strides in the past three years of my PhD journey, I’ve challenged myself to go the hardest this last year ⏳.

Motivational Scripture 🙏🏽
Matthew 5:41- “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”

Sincerely,

Rachael

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