Learn the Terms Used in Doctoral Programs
As you enter your doctoral program, take the time to understand some of the key terms used by your student success advisors, faculty, and peers. You’ll notice that there are terms commonly used by those you connect with that you may not have heard before. Explore some common doctoral program terms used at Walden:
Own Your Doctoral Identity
When researchers talk about identity, they often push us to ask the all-important question, who am I? The reality is, most of us hold many different identities in our lives (i.e., mother, father, cousin, sister, brother, teacher, manager, etc.).
We also experience identities related to our role as a student. The fact is, you’ve already gone through identify changes when you completed previous degrees. However, “the process of becoming a researcher and adopting a professional and scholarly identity is a process of transformation and identity development beyond that of an undergraduate or masters level student” (Coffman et al., 2016, p. 30). That is, pursuing a doctoral degree comes with additional identity challenges that require us to embrace our new place in academia and own the identity of scholar and researcher.Reference
Coffman, K., Putman, P., Adkisson, A., Kriner, B., & Monaghan, C. (2016). Waiting for the expert to arrive: Using a community of practice to develop the scholarly identity of doctoral students. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 28(1), 30-37. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1106332.pdf
Take some time to reflect on this new identity so it doesn’t feel so scary or overwhelming. For some specific strategies, check out the Who am I? The Importance of Doctoral Identity and Tips to Develop One blog post.
As first-generation doctoral students, we may find it particularly challenging to step into this new identity – it can feel like we’re somehow abandoning our established identities or that we’re leaving behind our family in some way. If you have that feeling, remember that we can hold many different identities – the new doctoral identity you’re developing can coexist with those you’ve already developed. Don’t view your doctoral identity as replacing an established identity in your life – think of it as a new and exciting addition!
As a first-generation doctoral student, it is vital that you form connections with peers, staff, and faculty. Building your network with others who understand the journey you are on and who can provide encouragement, advice, and ongoing support can make a significant difference in your progress.
Strategies you can use to build connections at Walden include:
Have Crucial Conversations
A common experience for first-generation doctoral students is that your family may not understand the time commitment and work involved in a doctoral program. To help, have crucial conversations with those around you. Explain to them what you are going through – and make them a part of your journey! By having open communication, you can set boundaries and share your needs with those around you.
Use the flip cards to explore some examples!
Share a Schedule
I have a final project due on Sunday, so I will be busy finalizing my paper Saturday between 1:00 and 3:00 and then again on Sunday between 3:00 and 6:00.
Ask for No Interruptions
During these hours, please do not interrupt me by coming into my workspace.
My phone will be on silent during these hours. I will check my phone when I am done to catch-up on any text messages or calls.
Delegate or Make Requests
Please make a plan for dinner on Sunday. I do not want to cook after finishing my assignment.
Remember You Belong
As a first-generation doctoral student, you may experience imposter syndrome, which can increase anxiety and make you feel like you do not belong in your academic program. It can keep us from enjoying our successes and reaching our full potential. As “imposters” we tend to get stuck in a cycle of fear of failure, self-doubt, over-preparation, and perfectionism. We tend to believe our successes are somehow due to luck or some error, without giving ourselves credit for our own abilities.
If you have those doubts, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you DO belong here. You are not alone — if you need some encouragement or advice along the way, reach out and Ask a Peer Mentor!
Remember to celebrate every success and milestone and most importantly, just keep moving forward!