Often I am the only Black woman in my classes or at various meetings on campus. Only a small percentage of Arizona State University graduate students are Black (485, 3.5%) and out of that percentage, 282 are Black women (as of Fall 2012). I am assuming these demographics are the same for the 2013-2014 school year, because since 2002 the percentage of Black women on campus has ranged from 2.9 to 4.3. These numbers are not something I think of on a daily basis, but there are a few moments it crosses my mind or it is noticeable.
After reading Alexandra Moffett-Bateau’s recent blog post in which she provides 5 tips for Black women who are in graduate school, I started to reflect on my graduate school experience. Alexandra’s five tips are informative and helpful even if you are not a Black woman:
Treat graduate school like a 9-5 job
Treating my schooling like a job has taken some effort, but I have set aside time slots in my calendar to keep me on track. Majority of the time I dress business casual, but during the winter months, I wore a lot of jeans, which made me realize I need to go shopping for winter business casual clothing.
Have interests, hobbies and friends outside of your graduate life
Having fun outside of school is a priority. Last semester, I was more focused on schoolwork and didn’t go out too much. This semester, I have played intramural basketball, joined some groups outside of school, and made sure I have kept in touch with my friends from home.
Don’t take criticism personally
This is tough for me. Even though I know people have the right intentions, I can be a little sensitive and this is something I need to improve.
Be as methodologically diverse as possible
I’ve started narrowing down my dissertation topic and research questions and I can’t help, but wonder if I am falling into what Robert Peters’ calls “academic ghettoization,” In Peters’ graduate school guide, he cautions minority and women graduate students from researching issues on gender and race, as well as doing more qualitative and descriptive work. I want to do my research on disaster vulnerability and resilience in Haiti and I have to be mindful of which direction I take my research, so I do not fall into the trap of doing a soft topic.
Follow your heart
I am following my heart by moving forward on doing research in Haiti, though I do not think I will look at gender as a focal point.
As I continue my studies, I am sure I will have things to add to this list. Are you a woman in graduate school? Do you have any tips to add to Alexandra’s list?
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
Photo Credit: Gates Foundation