Successful journeys, even short ones, require good company.
– Marcia Baxter Magolda
Just a few short weeks ago, I attended the ACPA Annual Convention. I welcomed the sense of community among my peers, and I embraced the quest for knowledge through the sessions. I had the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues while in Tampa, and many of them asked me some version of this question: “What is it like, getting your Ph.D.?”
It’s instructive. It’s challenging. It’s developmental. I learn something new every day. But the most important lesson I’ve learned, the one I want every future and current doctoral student to internalize, is this: on the journey to a Ph.D., you cannot do it alone. So go ahead and find yourself some company for the journey.
Sure, you’re on your own when it comes to actually doing the reading, writing, and research. But on the days that you need someone to lift you up, inspire you, motivate you, make you laugh, or wipe away the tears, that company is what keeps you going. Your company teaches you and helps you learn. They challenge your ideas, question you, make you think—make you better. The company that helps you on this journey can be your classmates, faculty, colleagues; it can be family or friends or partner. Your company can even be your furry children (my cat’s name is Austen).
For me, I am fortunate to have a strong support system both in and out of the doctoral program. I rely on my family and friends, a fantastic faculty advisor, and my fellow doctoral students—a wonderful community of scholars.
Never underestimate the importance of people in your life. It is so important to engage others, to learn from others, to help others, and to be there for others. As I pursue my doctorate, I have never needed my company more.
Ultimately, my journey will be successful (although it doesn’t feel that way every day…thanks, statistics). And when I walk across that stage at graduation, I know that my company for this journey will be the ones cheering me on.
Written by Danielle Vitale
Danielle is a second year doctoral student in the CSAA program. She currently works in the UGA Career Center, teaching Career and Life Planning to undergraduate students. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Florida, and her M.Ed. from UGA in the CSAA masters program. Her current research is about social media and digital identity development of college women. Her other research interests include first generation college students, student development, and housing and residence life.