“Strong enough to bare the children, then get back to business”. – Beyoncé
Lynn is one of my classmates in my PhD program. She’s one of the most thoughtful and kind people I’ve ever met. Lynn is like a breath of fresh air. She is intelligent, inquisitive, beautiful, and someone I look up to with the utmost respect. I feel blessed to have met her in this program. She is someone I consider a friend but also a mentor. I would sit in class and listen to Lynn add a comment to a discussion we were having and would be in awe at how it seemed as if her thoughts came together so easily. Although, Lynn talked about her mental health being impacted during this process, I’ve only seen her “not herself” one time during a summer session. That moment made me feel more connected to her than ever. I saw that Lynn was not superwoman but just a woman. A woman who also has struggles and unanswered questions. About a year later, Lynn and her husband welcomed a baby boy into their family. Lynn now had an extra responsibility outside of working full-time (and job searching at one point) and school. After Lynn gave birth, she was unable to come to class one weekend and so she Skyped in so she didn’t miss out. I would have said “forget class” and solely would have focused on spending time with my child. But Lynn was determined. Another thing that made me admire her. She could have easily ignored class and her assignments while on maternity leave but I believe she knew that that would have set her back from the graduation goal she set for herself.
I asked three of my classmates if I could ask them a few questions about their doctoral journey. Lynn sent her questions over and my other two classmates needed time for their mental health because comprehensive exams were very overwhelming. I completely understood and was surprised Lynn was able to type responses to my questions. Hell, I was surprised I started back writing for my blog so soon. Understand, that I gave Lynn a limited amount of words to write so her responses may not be the full picture on her experiences. I limited the sentence length because at the time, I thought I was going to have all three classmates participate. I didn’t want to go back and ask her to write anymore after that. Having another Black woman’s perspective on this journey is critical. Sure, I told you about my experience in the previous post, but mostly everything on my blog is from my perspective. I wanted someone else to share their stories to offer another look into the doctoral journey as a Black woman. Lynn’s thoughts are below.
- In 4 to 7 sentences, what was the doctoral journey like for you?
The doctoral journey has been challenging for me because of the sacrifice it has required regarding my time and mental energy. The academic rigor was frustrating at times because some of the coursework, particularly the material regarding organizational theory, was something I had never encountered and was difficult to comprehend.
During my first two years in the program, I was child free. The birth of my son in August 2017 was a tremendous blessing but it added another layer of difficulty to getting work done for the program.
- In 9-12 sentences, did you feel as if the doctoral exam impacted your mental health? If so, how?
The comprehensive exam brought about high levels of anxiety, stress and mild depression for three and a half months. The amount of work that was required, the short amount of time that I had to do that work while working full time and taking care of a family, along with the pressure to pass on the first attempt was overwhelming. I also didn’t realize until I began writing the exam essay that completing the exam is a team sport. My husband and the rest of my family had to pitch in to take care of my son while I wrote. That made me sad because I didn’t mean for others to have to sacrifice their time so that I could achieve my goal. I also missed out on a lot of time with my son, which was difficult because he’s only going to be little for so long.
- What advice do you have for other Black full-time professionals in doctoral programs or considering applying to programs? (No sentence limit)
My advice to those who are considering applying to a doctoral program is to think long and hard about whether you really need a Ph.D. There are Ed.D. programs that my friends have completed during the time that I have been pursuing the Ph.D. Some Ed.D. programs are two and half to three years long with the dissertation embedded into the coursework. Considering that the people you love will also be impacted by the length of time that it takes you to complete the doctorate, you should give shorter programs a lot of thought. I don’t regret the choice that I made. I like that my program has prepared me to be an academician. But others who don’t have a career in scholarly work in mind should take a look at other pathways to the doctorate.
To those already in a doctoral program, keep pushing! God is able to bring you through it if you let Him.
Thank you, Lynn, for being you, for being my rock. I love you very much.