Earlier in the week, I wrote a post for PROMISE AGEP (“PROMISE Alumni Professors Give Voice to #BaltimoreUprising”), and yesterday, we celebrated graduates who are completing advanced degrees in Maryland. These events remind me that the work doesn’t stop, and that there is more to do to make sure that you are getting your degrees. At the request of graduate students at UMBC, College Park, UMB, and others, I’ve started to answer students’ questions about degree completion, mentoring, communication with faculty, etc. via video. One of the videos in the series can be found below. It was previously listed as private and only available through the link, but it is being made public upon request. As part of this series on mentoring, and as we seek to “Rebuild Baltimore,” I’d like to remind our students of three things:
1) It is more important than ever for you work hard, get your degrees, and be catalysts for change (regardless of your gender or background) – in your discipline, department, society, neighborhood, etc. Don’t stop. Get the degree. It may be hard, but you’ve come this far with your dreams and your plans, so move forward and finish!
2) Being a catalyst for change may mean different things for different people. Some of your seemingly conservative professors may not be the silent bystanders of perception. Using the Baltimore protests as an example, some of UMBC’s faculty and staff were participating in the protests on the streets of Baltimore, and some weren’t. Some who weren’t on the streets were not necessarily silent. Students might be surprised to know that some of the so-called “silent” faculty and administrators actually work for equity and justice in ways that may not be visible, but in ways that make huge differences in terms of access to education. There are faculty advocate for students in faculty meetings, those who see potential in students and work to help them reach that potential, those who write grants to develop outreach programs that are going to prepare youth for college, faculty who explain issues of equity and access to their peers, administrators who worked with UMBC’s students to provide them with university buses for transportation to participate in the protest, professors who make sure that they understand and celebrate differences, faculty who work hard daily to provide all of their students with the best education possible, and more.
3) Never forget that you are a citizen of the world and that you have been given a great opportunity to make a contribution to solving problems. Value the perspectives of others. Listen to all sides of the conversation and come to an an informed decision that will govern your actions. As a graduate student, you may be in an “ivory tower,” but you don’t need to insulate yourself from the world. While you may feel powerless as you pursue this degree, you will soon be among the decision-makers, technology-developers, and information-providers of the world. Don’t belittle your position, nor your minimize the opportunity to use your power for good. All of you have opportunities to make a positive difference in society. I’m confident that you will do so.
If you’ve stopped out, and haven’t spoken with your advisor in a while, get back in the game. This video provides a tip on how to re-engage.