I wanted to write a quick entry to keep me honest. Honest in the sense that I stay true to the goals and ideals that motivated me to pursue a PhD. The last couple weeks I’ve been helping some friends with their upcoming grad school apps. Part of that has been sharing my experience in the application process, but also the personal statements I wrote. I’ve re-read the documents I sent to USC and UCLA. I realize I’ve diverted slight from the goals I articulated. To keep me honest, I wanted to share some of my writings and set expectations for the second year
In my personal statement to USC, I started off with this paragraph:
Coming from a community of low-income Latino families, I am well aware of the inequalities in society. In that environment, more students aspire to enter the military than a four-year higher education institution. From this lived experience, I am intimately familiar with the gaps in educational achievement and the disparity in resources available to students based on the communities in which they live. As a first-generation college graduate, I am a testament of the power of higher education. I know its ability to close social and economic gaps and create opportunities for social progress. My purpose for applying to this doctoral program is to advance scholarship on college access and success issues facing students of color, improve the educational conditions in urban communities through advocacy and policy, and to become a faculty of color creating change.
And I concluded with these paragraphs for UCLA:
As an overarching goal, I want to dedicate my work to creating social change, expanding underrepresented students’ opportunities for success in education, and being a role model for younger students of color to achieve their goals. As a first-generation Latino male, I would be part of the less than 2.0% who have received a doctoral degree in education. The goal of attaining a PhD is one that not only benefits me, but also my family and community.
My life is my work, and my work is my life. I devote my time to improving access to higher education as an admissions counselor, through my college advising project, and as a volunteer with non-profit organizations. I was raised with the idea that education is the greatest institution for social transformation. By educating yourself, you are also educating your family and community. My educational journey has led me to this point and this is the next step for me.
I need to do better in staying grounded with the ideals that I began my PhD program. It’s easy to be swayed one way or another; to concede ideals, research agendas, or academic goals. Keeping the reasons why I entered this program is key. I am thankful for my colleagues that allowed me to reflect on my journey and how I articulated the purpose for entering a doctoral program.
Second Year Expectations and Goals
Entering the second year of this program, I still recognize the privilege and responsibility I possess. My job is to think, to read, to write, and to try to address social-educational issues. My work maybe “taxing,” but never like the work my parents, grandparents or relatives have had to do. I must keep that in perspective. When I’m stressed, when I’ve had a long day, when I think this is too much; I must remember the sacrifices made for me, the path that was created, and that now allows me to have this privilege. With that privilege comes responsibility.
I realize that people in the community can benefit from the accumulation of knowledge and research I am conducting. Many times, I have felt this role as an academic to be isolating and individualistic; that what matters are only individual accomplishments. But my goal was, and should still be, to do work that helps raise the community, not just myself. I would be ashamed to say I was able to escape or leave the community, I would much rather, raise my community as I raise myself. With that, the value of this work is not in the form of a research article or scholarly presentation. My work needs to be shared in the streets, libraries, churches, and with people from my community. My peer review is seeing others better themselves, improving their lives, enhancing their education; hoping that my work contributes in the smallest way towards those goals.
-Share myself and my work with the community
-Be a better advocate and ally for people and communities facing injustice
-Write every day; not only about things related to academia, but about what matters in my life, my family, and society.
-Don’t forget publishing matters. Be a monster in the classroom, intentional with research, and write well with conviction and genuine voice.
-Focus on higher education policy and the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality
“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” – James A. Baldwin