This is the first in a series of posts featuring current students in OISE Higher Education Programs. Today’s post is from Kathleen Moore, a first-year, full-time Ph.D student and new member of the Supporting Student Success Research Team. Her research interests focus on mental health and well-being of post-secondary students.
Before starting my Ph.D in Higher Education at the University of Toronto I had been at Brock University for 7 years. I completed a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education, and a Master’s in Education before moving on to U of T. Not only was just the thought of going to a different school daunting at the time I applied, but when I actually stepped on campus for the first few times I was completely overwhelmed. For a few weeks now I’ve felt like I’m back to being 19 years old, starting my first year of university all over again. Here are a few things I’ve noticed and learned throughout the course of my first month as a doctoral student:
1. Meeting other students and faculty is invaluable
Firstly, I met people at CSSHE/Congress in June when I presented my Master’s research who have really made a difference in helping me transition to U of T. Several students who are in other years of the Higher Education program have been an incredible source of guidance. I also met Dr. Seifert, my program advisor and the P.I. for the Supporting Student Success project, and she’s given me the opportunity to work on her research project. The sense of community that I’ve felt already as a result of these people is truly remarkable.
2. It’s okay to ask questions
In addition, while at Brock I was often the go-to person/mentor for others because I had been there so long, and at U of T it’s been different; now, I’m in the position of
getting needing that support. Asking for guidance has made me uncomfortable because I’m not use to asking the types of questions I’m asking, but I’ve quickly learned that it’s okay to ask questions (and I have to). While generally I like to think that I’m resourceful, there has just been SO much to do and find out at my new school that if I hadn’t asked questions, I think it would have taken longer to settle in. Therefore, I’m really glad that I’ve asked questions and I’m getting more and more comfortable being in the position to ask about things.
3. My love of where I am is shaping my learning
Furthermore, the academic experience I’m going to get in this program will be completely different than what I’m used to. This is largely going to be the result of the fact that this program is more focused on my interests, which is very different than previous years where I’ve had to take courses that weren’t necessarily of interest, but that I needed to take to fulfill degree requirements, or, that I had to take because nothing else was being offered. This year, I can honestly say that I enjoy going to class because I’m interested in the topics. This really changes my learning experience and how I engage with the material because I want to be there and I want to study it. I commute 2 hours each way to go to school several times a week and I thought at first this might negatively affect my desire to go to class or campus. However, because I’ve had a really positive experience in the program so far, I look forward to going to school to engage in discussions about the topics I’m interested in, with people who have similar interests. I’ve finally found the field (higher education) that I love and it’s an amazing feeling; I can’t imagine continuing in a program or courses in which I don’t have this feeling.
4. Building a new identity
Making this transition has been difficult in the sense that now I’m a doctoral student, and it’s going to take a while to get used to that idea. My friends, previous professors, family etc. make jokes about me being “Future Dr. Moore”, for example, and it still seems surreal. How did I make it this far? Did they make a mistake when they accepted me? Will I make it through this program? Although questions like the ones I listed have always been on my mind, they are even more present now that I’m a doctoral student. It seems like being in a doctoral program has been really built up into being a big occurrence. The result of it being built up is that I’m struggling with whether I’m meant to be here and who I am as a doctoral student, or, as “Future Dr. Moore”. Despite this whole process being a little dreamlike so far, I’m going to have to get used to it and find my feet in my new role. I suspect that’s all part of the process of making this transition to begin with.
Remember, you can come and learn more about the programs at OISE and how graduate study can enhance your professional practice at our upcoming open house on October 21 at 5:00 in OISE 5-210