Dr. Marvette Lacy Ph.D., (she/her) is the founder and CEO of Qual Scholars where she helps higher education folks finish their dissertations and start a profitable consulting business.
In this week’s episode of Office Hours with Dr. Lacy, Marvette interviews a former client of hers from the Finish your Dissertation program, Katherine Cho. Katherine is an assistant professor in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Miami University, Ohio. Katherine and Marvette chat about how the FYD program helped her accomplish her goals and how to avoid burnout during your dissertation.
Hey friends, the time has come to finish your dissertation, graduate and become doctor. Welcome to office hours with Dr. Lacy where we talk about how to finally master this time management thing. So you can stay on top of it without losing your mind. Every Wednesday, you can find a new episode wherever you listen to podcasts. Make sure you hit the subscribe button to make sure you never miss an episode. I’m Dr. Marvette Lacy, your dissertation writing strategist here to be with you along every step of the way. I would like to thank you for coming to today’s office hours. Let’s get started on today’s episode. Have you ever wondered what it would be like To have your own consulting or coaching business? Did you pursue your doctoral degree? Because you wanted to get into speak in echo cell team. And I would like to invite you to the dissertation to consultant webinar happening on Tuesday, February 23rd at 7:00 PM. Eastern hit the link in the show notes to sign up. I will be sharing top ten steps you need to take in order to get your first three paying clients. See you there.
Hello everyone. Welcome back to a new week, a new episode. I’m so excited for this episode. I have a superstar that I’m interviewing, and I know I haven’t done an interview in such a long time, but what that Aveda kicked this back off then with this person. And I’m excited that she graciously agreed to be interviewed before I get no, because her phone will, it’s probably already ringing off the hook. And I just wanna say like, listen, I got her early before, like she blew up and then became a world-renowned like known scholar. So thank you so much for being here. Tell us who you are and a little bit about yourself. Um, I’m
Trying to keep the laughter at a minimum because this introduction is, is so wild. Um, but hi everyone. I am Dr. Katherine Cho. I have finally finished with a pHD with that. I am currently an assistant professor. I am currently finishing up my third week of my second semester. So I’m a first year assistant professor on the tenure track at Miami University of Ohio. I specifically am within the student affairs and higher education program in the educational leadership department. And prior to I graduated from UCLA with my PhD and I was a research analyst in the higher education research Institute. And before that I worked in an educational non-profit was an administrator at a higher teaching institution and was a wedding coordinator. So a little, a little smattering of a lot of different things. Absolutely.
And that’s just scratching the surface of your many talents and skills and accomplishments. I feel like we could just do a whole other podcast episode on just the creative side and just all of just all the wonderfulness, but let’s just, I’m going to do my best to focus today. So tell us about being at your experience. You, when you decided to join the finish your dissertation program, you were towards the end of the dissertation process. And a lot of the stories that I shared rather than the podcasts or webinars or workshops, most of those folks are in the beginning and the proposal. And so I think this will definitely be refreshing to get someone’s perspective who was at the end writing, writing the end of the chapters, the findings chapters, and the discussion and all of that. So tell us about your program experience and why you decided to join.
Yeah, so I guess for a little bit of context, I came into UCLA to start my doctoral program and I had already, I had already been working for a couple of years, but I came in sort of already knowing what my dissertation topic was going to be and what I wanted to research. And so I had had like two sort of general ideas, but, um, I sort of already came in with a topic in mind. And so part of the reason why I share that is because I am a person who’s very goal oriented and deadline oriented, and I sort of already mapped out every single step. And so writing the proposal, writing the chapter is doing the lit review, you know, figuring out what my research questions felt really seamless for me, because I had already thought about my topic. And so I know that’s really unusual.
And if you are in a similar position, that’s really amazing because then you can set up your class, you know, your courses to fill, fill in. And that’s really great. And then what happens and what happened to me was that I hit a roadblock with the findings because one, I finished being out of coursework, um, in one way, but in another way, what ended up happening was that I started creating sort of these really wonky to do lists because the way that I wrote chapters one, two, and three was really tied to my courses. So it created a form of scaffolding for myself, where I knew to set smaller goals because I had these smaller assignments, but I kid you not the months leading up to the dissertation, um, to, to joining, um, finish your dissertation. My to-do list was always like, write the findings chapter.
Like that was, that was literally like my to-do list. And I thought like, yes, that’s a goal. I’ll just start and then, all right. And then I’ll finish. And so I think one of the things and part of the reason why, um, I really wanted to join the finisher dissertation was that the system that I had relied on wasn’t working, but then through the program, I realized actually I didn’t have as much of a system as I had thought. And so basically by the time I had joined us joined finisher dissertation, um, I was already in a very deep spiral of why can’t I just get this done? It should be so easy. It should be so natural because I just need to start when in reality, there were much deeper issues of how I was setting impossible goals for myself and essentially setting myself up for failure or being so committed to many other things, because I really didn’t actually want to tackle the dissertation.
And so, you know, in conversations with Dr. Lacy, like, you know, the things that we had sort of been talking about with like, why did I agree to do yet? Another thing that would take me away from my dis. Um, and then in some ways it was because, and, you know, I would, I w I would sort of rationalize and say like, oh, well, you know, I’ll do this. And then once I finished, then I’ll just start. And, and my answer was always like, I just need to get started, which is true. But part of the reason why I couldn’t just get started was because I, my to-do list was literally finished the findings chapter, which wasn’t like, how do you break down that goal? And I didn’t know how to break it down. And so I think that that’s one of the, one of the big things, um, of finished your dissertation.
That for me, was really important, was like, how do I understand myself and what processes work, um, and like, have that type of structure, especially because I didn’t realize how much I had relied on my courses to scaffold myself. So I actually didn’t know how to scaffold myself, um, especially when you don’t have any structure. And then I think sort of related to that, um, I conflated accountability with shame where in order to keep myself accountable, I figured that I needed to keep myself sort of in a cycle of shame because I sort of mistakenly assumed that shame would spur accountability, which would spur my action. When in reality, the shame spurred me to feel like I couldn’t do any of it. And then it made me less accountable. And then I became more, you know, I, I moved farther away from my goals. And so, like, I cannot, I cannot minimize the impact of having a community of scholars where we talked about that together.
Cause I think even within UCLA and I, I was, I am and was so blessed to have such a strong cohort and such a strong community. It’s also hard to talk about it with people who are closest to you to talk about like I’m really struggling and I’m really struggling in XYZ ways, because one, they have so much belief in you that sometimes that ended up itself becomes difficult because you’re like, I am actually struggling. And then, you know, they want to cheer you on. So it’s like, you can do it. And it’s like, but I’m still, I’m really struggling or related to that. Like sometimes it’s comforting to talk to people that you don’t know as well. So that way you can, instead of explaining the context, you can sort of just get to, like, this is the actual issue I’m going through. And it’s also nice to get a lot of different perspectives with people about like, how they’re, how, how they’ve been shamed, spiraling, or how, like we’ve been trying different strategies of accountability because even at UCLA, like we’re all socialized to a very particular way of writing or a very particular way of productivity that I think is incredibly successful.
I mean, I’m obviously a product of it and it’s nice to, you know, to, to be a very, uh, nerd version, right. It’s nice to triangulate and also diversify what the,
And I appreciate you bringing that up because a lot of what, you know, being in like Facebook groups, which is having conversations with different students is that the shame even continues and reaching out for support. And so a lot of students will say, well, I don’t need to work with a dissertation coach. Cause I have my advisor, like, you know, what’s the point of having a coach and I have that, or only people who are struggling or who don’t know how to set goals or who don’t know how to be disciplined, aren’t going to get a coach. And what I appreciate about you is that you were this example of like, Nope, right? Even you say like very goal oriented, how to plan was moving through that thought through this topic. Right. But then it hit a wall because it wasn’t about like, you can outwork your way through the self-care piece or the goal piece or just right.
Like spinning your time at other places. And so if you could talk more about that. And I also thought it was really funny because, um, in our conversation when you’re signing up, you’re like, I, I had no intentions of joining us. I didn’t need this. Like, you know, friend told me, but I can do this on my own. And like you had this listening, like a challenge that you set for yourself. Like if I can write X amount of pages by this date, then I don’t need to join. But if you tell us a little bit more about that. Yeah.
So I’ll, I’ll start with the last comment, because I remember us talking about that and um, yeah, like I, I created sort of this, this challenge for myself being like, if I could finish chapter four or at least write the one section of my findings, like, you know, just to start right in my, in my ridiculous to do list, now I don’t need this because I can, I have a system that works for myself. Right. And I’ve clearly sort of outlined right before this, how that system like didn’t work. And so naturally lo and behold surprise, surprise. I, what I did, I think I maybe wrote like one paragraph now they immediately deleted because I hated it. And I think one thing, and you know, I’m still unpacking what this looks like. Um, and I know you and I have talked about this at length and, and I, and I appreciated the, the FID program for talking about this too, is like the writing and systems and structures that work with you before the dissertation looks different during the dissertation looks different.
And even within the diff dissertation looks different when you’re writing chapters one, two, and three versus writing like chapters four, five, six, seven, depending on how many chapters you have that also looks different when you’re finished with the dissertation and going back to writing. Um, and I think part of it also is that I am a person who loves structure and findings is like, I think in some ways like findings, especially with the findings is where all of them foster phenomenon comes out where you’re sort of like, I don’t know if this is, and you just, you’re just sort of spiral again into these cycles. But I, I think that, um, you know, again, it’s, it’s one of those moments of like, I’m not, I’m not ashamed. And actually, you know, I even wrote in my, in my acknowledgements, right? Like I think, I think the FID community, because I don’t think it’s a moment of shame to be like, oh, I need a dissertation coach, you know, in the same ways that like, you know, when you are struggling, what’s actually more harmful is to pretend like you’re not struggling and then try to push through.
And I think that actually we spend a lot of time in academia, especially going through this mindset of, you just need to push through, you just need to push through. And it goes into that cycle, right. Of like working yourself out of a problem. Right. And then the spark will come. But the question is at what cost, I mean, do I think I could have finished my dissertation without the FID program? Sure. I could have, but I also don’t think I would have, I think I would have remained a shell of myself, uh, because the, the patterns and the cycles of like anger and frustration and shame that I was placing on myself in order to finish, I am sure that like that level of toxicity would have eventually gotten me to finish and it would have, but the cost to myself and especially, even in thinking now about my relationship to my dissertation currently having now finished.
Right. And it’s been about six months or, well, yeah, about six months since I finished, but I like that type of relationship. I feel like there’s a cost and that’s not to say I, you know, I, I certainly want to say right, that like F the FID program is not a counseling program. It’s not, it’s not therapy. And in not being those things, it also offers a different way to structure yourself and also really interrogate, like, how do you talk about yourself and to yourself about the dissertation? And so it really sort of highlights. And this is, and this is what I had needed was that like my way of pushing through and grinding out and like grind and working through problems is what made me so successful throughout my dis dissertation. And especially with my doctoral career, that’s led me to this point. And there were some very harmful practices that I was engaging in that I was relying on to finish the dissertation that would, that was not going to work.
Or if it did, it would have been an incredible cost. And even now I think a lot of like, you know, having finished and out, you know, and now I’m trying to write articles coming out of my dissertation. And it’s still really hard because I see myself easily slipping back into these forms of toxicity. And it’s why I appreciate the shift of talking about imposter syndrome to imposter phenomenon, because it’s, it’s been constructed and how we socialize into academia, into like, pushing through, into like, no matter what, you just, you don’t have a choice. Right? Like that’s what we always sort of joke about. It’s like, you’re going to get the work done because you don’t have a choice. So you’re just gonna, you’re gonna push through and we spend less time interrogating what’s that cost. And so even within the finished your dissertation, I remember, um, you know,
Dr. Lacy and my bed and the team, right? Like, there’s a very big insistence of you take a day off, you take a day off. And I will confess that I did not take any days off. Right. Because I was like, well, I don’t have time. And I felt like I didn’t have time because I literally had a job lined up waiting for me where I needed to finish within like four months. Right. And so I felt like I didn’t have time, but in that, that harmed me because instead of resting so that I could work smarter, I was just trying to push through. And essentially I was wearing myself out until finally, I think like, I mean, like you, you called me out on it and you were like, you need to rest. You just, you need to take a break. And what would it look like to take a break for yourself?
And at that point, I like, I didn’t know. I, it felt like an input error message where I was like, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t this, like, this literally does not compute to me because I don’t deserve to have rest because I haven’t been productive. And like this, even now, as I say, this, I’m sort of laughing. And like a part of me is like crying for my cuss self of like, what does it mean to say you deserve rest. Right. What does it mean to say, you have to earn the rest? Like, what does, what does that mean in terms of them feeling like you’re pushing through? And I feel like it’s something that like, outside of, like I had, I had a wonderful program and I had a wonderful advisor and I have wonderful cohort mates and wonderful friends in the program.
Right. And you can have all of those things and have a supportive, incredible environment that we are still nested in the toxicity of academia. And so it’s not about, it’s not only about, like, what is your relationship to your advisor? What is your relationship to the program? Or what is your relationship to research? It’s also recognizing that this is a phenomenological, this is a phenomenon where we are nested in these systems of toxicity and neoliberalism and capitalism and white supremacy and racism. Right. And like, what does it mean to be nested in there where we don’t often even understand how deeply socialized we get until you get to that findings chapter. And all of a sudden it starts coming out. And so that’s like, um, I’m pretty sure I went incredibly off topic.
No, that’s perfect. I’m like, I want to cut that out.
And like, that just be a commercial because
lately I’ve been talking to the team and being like, I’m on a new mission in life. We’re liberating the people from higher ed, because you don’t know people like you, when you’re in it, you don’t know how deep you’re in it. You don’t know how deep it is in your mindset. And I know that students, when they first join, they’re like, I didn’t, I didn’t come to talk to you about my thoughts and my feelings. I came to talk to you about, like, tell me how to write this chapter. And I’m like, yeah. So we have a course on never, like, what’s more important here is, are these pieces, right? Because there’s this whole idea of like, you’re trying to push through, like, what’s the point of signing up. People just like, continue to do the same thing that you were doing before you joined the program.
Um, and we’re trying to help you, like, get to the core and like, like get some, some rest, some movement that doesn’t cost you like your health and your wellbeing. And so I always think that’s funny. And for those of you are thinking about joining, just know that it is very normal for the first 30 or 60 days, all of our conversations to be about why you need to take a break, because you’ll tell me why you shouldn’t take a break and I’m going to constantly tell you, you need to take a break. Um, and so you’re saying like, well, I don’t have time. Or that thought of I don’t deserve it, or I haven’t earned it yet. It’s huge. And I don’t think we as a collective really understand how much we say that to ourselves. Like I have not earned rest. I don’t deserve to take care of myself.
And especially being in a pandemic where a lot of students are living by themselves and not having human contact and not really, you know, trying to be responsible and not go out and be around people. You know, I I’m hearing a lot of people saying I’ve I got caught up in, I had to catch myself up. Well, I might as well at work. Cause I’m here. I don’t have anything else to do. But what does that even mean to just take care of yourself and rest, even in a pandemic, even if you’re staying at home all the time, how can you do that? Well,
And even like, you know, especially so I, I finished the dissertation right during, during the pandemic. I also finished it while I was moving across country to start the new job do not, I do not recommend ever moving cross country during a pandemic. That’s, it’s just a terrible idea. And I think a lot about like now I think a lot about it, of like, you know, I mean, I think, I think for, for many of us, after we go to the grocery store, we come back and our bodies are tired because we’ve been on constant high alert of like, is someone coughing? Is someone not wearing a mask? Like, like, what are we doing? I need to, I touched something. I need to be washing my hands. And like that level of hyper arousal, right? Like that level of tension where caring is exhausting. And I think that that also cannot be separated from like, what does it mean for your body to be undergoing and carrying all of these emotions as you were trying to sit down in stillness to write the dissertation.
Cause I think that that is something where I’ve seen so many people. Um, and you know, even right now, as I’m, as I’m teaching a class right on, on writing the dissertation, talk about like, well, I have more time now, technically I have more time cause I’m not traveling, but a part of me is sort of asking, well then how much of that time? I guarantee you, whatever time you’re saving in, in the commute time. Right. And like I lived in Los Angeles, so like eight miles took like two hours. But like, even if we’re saving on the commute time, chances are, you’re spending so much more time being anxious, anxious for friends, anxious for your family, anxious for yourself, anxious about who, who can you trust with your neighbors or your pods of our people being safe. Right. And then also, I mean, our, our former leader, if you can, if you can call him that.
Right. And like, and that response. Right. And then, and then you talk about, we’re continuously, still nested in white supremacy and anti-blackness, and we’re continuously, still nested in terrible immigration policies and really violent spaces. And so then it’s like, oh, how come I can’t just write? And it’s like, of course you can’t just write your body has been on high alert for so long. And like that is also aware and tear, right? Like of, I think a lot of it, I just got a, and so, um, I think a lot about like the car mechanics now, cause I was always worried about my car, you know, revving your engine constantly will wear down the engine of a car. And it’s literally that we have been, we’ve been revving ourselves up throughout this entire pandemic. And now you’re trying to wrap yourself up again, to write the dissertation without recognizing that you’ve been, you’ve been going and you’ve been on and your, your engine has actually been constantly rubbing because we’re in, uh, in the middle of a pandemic.
And so I feel like that emphasis of resting was even more important because sometimes the resting and I, and I appreciated how you’ve, you’ve also helped me distinguish between resting when you’re exhausted, because you have, you literally have no other choice because you know, you’ve been staying up to like finish something or make a deadline versus an intentional decision to rest because we don’t need to deserve or earn rest. We rest because it’s important. And so, and I think like that distinction was also really important because in the beginning, right? Like when I first rested, it was like, oh, I’m gonna, I’m going to nap. But it wasn’t napping because I wanted to nap. It was napping because I was at a sleep deprivation. And so I had to nap. And so it was, it was kind of like resting, but it actually, I wouldn’t necessarily call it resting in the ways that I think you you’ve structured it for us of like, we need to intentionally rest and choose rest and choose ourselves.
It was like out of survival. And so I’ve appreciated with FID that you have, you changed a lot for me. Um, you and the mat ministry, because between the two of you, I think I rewired what NES, what resting looks like and what does rest mean? And you don’t rest out of a deficit. You don’t rest. Like, I mean, yes, you do need to rest when that happens, but that’s let us not call that resting. Let us not call that self care. That is self survival and that is different. And you need that. You do, but what does it also mean to intentionally choose yourself to rest? And I, and I, and I appreciated that sort of, that’s like, that’s probably one, uh, aside from breaking down to do lists, not creating these sort of finished the disc as, as the to-do list. I think the other sort of big takeaway for me has been, what does it mean to rest and rest well and choose resting, which in turn is about choosing yourself.
I love it. My trap let’s just end the episode. No, I am like retweet all of it. And we could, I mean, we could spend hours here just cause we, you know, we had a new cohort of students come in a few weeks ago and that’s been my conversation with each of them. They’re like, no, no, but let’s talk about these girls. I’m like, no, but you, you know, like you’ve been going and I can see, um, cause I tell people like, if I can, if I read your writing, I can tell if you’re arresting or not. Yeah. Yeah. And people like that strange. And I’m like, eh, it’s, it’s not like when you read so many drafts, like if I’m reading something that I’m talking with you, it just confirms that. Right. Cause I’m making an assumption at the beginning, but we think about rest as lecturey.
And my like one of my models for this year is like luxury is necessity. Cause it’s, it’s helping me to like just continuing to go. Cause that, that thought is so deeply rooted. That is continuing to help me interrogate that. And it’s like a, it’s like a, what’s the word, like a key for me or a, uh, a cube. That’s what I’m looking for a cue for me to not slip into that, that habit that I could useless slip into. It was just like, I need to work. I don’t have time. I got too much to do. Especially as the business is growing and everything. I’m like, I just gotta, I gotta keep going. I gotta keep going. And it’s like, you need to go rest because at this whole you can work smarter if your brain is functioning to its fullest capacity, if you feel good. And my biggest concern with students is that you’re you think that this ends like, you’re just going to push through to graduation and it’s going to end, but you’re going to carry that on with you, whether that’s a faculty position or admin position or whatever that looks like. And I’m like, there’s a different way. It doesn’t have to be that way. So thank you.
I mean, I remember like over and over you saying like, it doesn’t have to be this way. Right. I think that that’s so important and it’s, it’s, it’s interesting now to be on, to be on the other side. Right. So like right now as a faculty member, I have four, um, doctoral advisees who are amazing and they’re, they’re just so great. And it also, and I’m teaching a dissertation class right now and in some ways it’s actually, they are actually forcing me to take rustic, like to rest well, because I need to model it too. Right. I can’t just be like, you should rest. And then like not actually do anything myself. Right? Like that would, that’s not a, that’s not a thing I should be doing, but it’s also, um, in thinking about the faculty transition. Right. Um, and I, and I remember you had said like the dissertation’s really anticlimactic.
And I was like, well, that’s not going to be me. I’m going to have all the bells and whistles and all the crap that was incredibly anticlimactic. Um, and part of it was that like I found out I passed, um, and I filed all my paperwork the Friday before I started my faculty position on a Monday. So the turnaround was just so quick, but it was also this moment of, I think the anticlimactic newness is rooted in exactly what you had mentioned of just because you’re finished with the dissertation. Doesn’t mean you’re finished with the emotions that are related to finishing the dissertation. You are still the same. You and I remember talking to other friends about this as well, where like I suddenly had three letters after my name that signaled to the world that I was an expert, but I had not felt like an expert, any point leading up to that point.
And I certainly did not feel like an expert after that point either. I just had three letters now. And so it reemphasized the imposter phenomenon, but also reemphasized that the patterns and habits that I took to finish the dissertation, even though I had done lots of, you know, remapping and mind mapping and like, you know, orienting was also things that I needed to keep relearning and unlearning because, you know, in sort of a similar way, like people, people call me, doctor, people call me professor. And I didn’t, I didn’t feel like that. I still felt like a student struggling through my dissertation. And it makes me think a lot about, you know, I feel like I’m referencing things left and right, right. Um, but like, you know, the Bernie brown podcast episode where they talk about just because an event is over doesn’t mean the emotions are done.
And I think that that’s absolutely true. Is that just because the dissertation was over, did it mean that any of the things that I had learned about myself, the feelings that were involved, the structures, the, you know, the struggles that were there, did it magically disappear because I got three letters and I finally finished right. With the pH and the D like, it was, it was still, it was still such a process. And even as a faculty member, now I know that I’m still on learning. Many of the things that I had picked up during that process and also relearning, like, what does it mean? Um, and I remember you, you had mentioned this and it was, it was so encouraging when you were saying like writing after the dissertation, I promise you, it’s going to look different. And I remember thinking like how, how will it be different?
It won’t be different. I’m always going to be stuck in this terrible thing. But in some ways it was incredibly different. Um, and it is incredibly different, but it’s also incredibly the same. And you also warned me about that, of like our relationship to writing what we learned during the dissertation we carry after the dissertation. But also because it’s done, there’s also like a self-confidence of, we can do this and you also have to relearn how to write. And so it’s one of those, both and situations that now as a faculty member and you know, I’m on, I’m on a, I’m on a similar, similar feeling pressure cooker, right. I need to produce by XYZ point. I need to do this. And so then it’s so quickly, I can so easily turn into the pre FID, Katherine of why am I not doing any of this work? Why am I not being productive? Why? And then reminding myself, okay, my to-do list of saying finish this article is not going to work again. And so it’s like, it’s so funny too, for me to think about like I did FIS FID, it was incredible and amazing. And then how quickly I referred it back to pre FYT again and what that looks like. But, and yet it’s still different. Yeah. Yeah.
I’m just, I’m laughing. Cause I think about like, so one of the first things that we have people do now through their orientation sequence is to watch the scholar planning rooting. And of course people are like, what is that? Like, why is that so extensive? And I’m like, because this plan is going to last you two weeks and you don’t have to like, guess about what you, what it is that you need to do. Like you can go from sitting down and turning on your laptop or your computer and get into work and like 60 seconds because you know exactly right. It’s not just finished findings chapter. It’s like nothing one, right. sentences. And that’s it for today. Right? Like, and that’s very clear, your brain knows exactly what to do. So I was just laughing. Cause people are like, no, I can’t do that.
I’m like, let’s just start with the top three and we’ll work our way up. But it’s a relearning, it’s a relearning cause people like, oh, I’m good. Right. I think about who is, uh, attracted to the group. Like they’re good with planners got to do lists and stickies everywhere. So in their mind, I don’t have the issue with planning, but to your point of, well, when you’re writing things down on your to-do list, like finish findings chapter, like blue doesn’t do anything. The other thing I wanted to say earlier to what you were saying is when you’re talking about the toll on your body from the pandemic, I’m also adding on this layer of most of the people in the FID program are working on a critical scholarship. And even the toll that takes right as you’re right. You have to be in the literature and, and see the truth of like the diff the literature perspective and the deficit perspectives, collecting data.
Most of it, most of us are doing me-search. And so you’re hearing all of these stories from participants that remind you of your own. And so you gotta like work through that piece. Um, and then even afterwards, and talking and felt like you have to defend it. And people are like, why, how, why am I defending that, you know, white supremacy or racism, like anti-black why does that exist? And it’s like, because that’s what you signed up for. And that can be tough when it’s so tied to identity, but kind of along those lines of, you know, defending your research, whether that’s to your advisor or your committee, that’s going to take some courage and a part of students like, yes, there’s a power dynamic that exists there between you, your advisor, your committee, but still, this is your research and you’re the expert on this research.
like? Or like, what was that look looking like for you in terms of being able to defend your research, even have very like hard conversations, like to even speak up with your advisor to say like, Hey, this is what I need, not in a disrespectful way, but like trying to get clear on expectations. And then the last point I will add to that, speaking to that in general. And then speaking to that, when you see your advisor, as someone, whether other people see them as like a celebrity in the field, or like, you know, they just been doing this research for a long time. And here you are with your dissertation and feeling like going back to this imposter phenomenon, like, uh, I can’t give this to you. You’re such and such. So just any thoughts you have
About that. Yeah. Yeah. So, so first, what I want to say is choose your committee. And if you have the luxury to do that, right, because I know that some people are in smaller programs where they might not have as much of a choice, but I think like, um, and I remember I talked to one of my committee members, um, before this was like, before I even knew that he would be on my committee and asking him, how did you choose our committee members? And, and he, and he said, and I’ll never forget. He was like, you know, and you can justify why someone theoretically, or methodology and methodologically or content wise, shouldn’t be on the committee, like always going to be there. And like, you can always, you can always defend your choice because like, but you need to choose people who love you.
And that’s really, and that’s been so important because I think a lot about, no matter how amazing somebody is, if they’re an or they’re mean, or they’re toxic, it will take your dissertation because it is such a vulnerable moment, right? Like you are an emerging scholar and it is so vulnerable, especially when you are tied to the research when you are doing critical work, when like, you know, and I believe, and my work also reflects like research is personal. It’s hella personal, it’s a hella personal, it’s hella political. It is incredible. Like when people are like, don’t take it personally. I’m like, of course, I’m going to take a personal, I’m going to talk crap about it for like two days, and then I’ll stop taking it personally. Right. And so of course it’s personal, of course it’s political. And so to have a committee member who doesn’t understand that, or who, who, um, you know, no matter how, how amazing or well-regarded somebody is, if they enjoy to some degree taking students down a peg, they should never be on your committee.
And, and, and chances are like, that is actually like, you know, it’s, it’s, it, that’s probably something that arose from their own trauma, um, that now is manifesting in a way. But like, I think that choosing your dissertation committees is so important for, for one of those reasons. Um, I was so blessed to have a committee like that, sorry, not a committee who liked to tear me down, but like a committee who supported me and cared for me and, you know, most of the questions that they asked me, weren’t just like, how is your chapter going? It was, how are you doing as you were working through this data? And I realized, I didn’t even, so my dissertation topic was about institutional responses to racism from 2015 to 27, 2018. And I was writing towards the end, during may. Right. And so it was doubly disappointing to see essentially a recurrence of institutions responding very poorly, almost exactly the same way that they had responded in 2015 to 2017.
So it felt like a reaffirmation that colleges and universities have learned nothing. And through those findings. Right. And I say that in full indictment of myself, because at that point I was also trying to respond to the program that I was about to join, uh, as a faculty member and responding well to that, but also feeling like, what are, you know, what are we doing? And in that, I think that one of the things that I have appreciated, and especially now as a faculty member, really thinking about it is they, my committee, especially in like the mentors around me treated me as though I was an emerging scholar and I had something to say, and I don’t even realize that. I don’t think that they, like when they talk to me were like, and now we will treat Catherine like an emerging scholar. I think that, you know, and that’s part of, I think the culture at UCLA, it also is something that I think I learned, like within my experience at TC, sorry, teacher’s college.
But like, I think because of that, like I was already, I was already comfortable and well-versed in, if I had a disagreement with my committee about something, or like, if, for example, you know, they, you know, if they wanted me to, to do something about my, about my data, which to be really honest now, I don’t really remember as well. I could say like, no, like, this is the reason why I wanted to do this. And this is my justification. And this is like, you know, I looked at other examples and this is what I thought. And so I feel like, um, it was scary for me to do that, but I was also more comfortable because I knew that they loved me and they cared about me and they cared about me as a scholar. And so in some ways I think that, like, I don’t think that your committee ever your committee should never be trying to trap you or like, create like a trick question to be like, ha you know, and now you’ve failed.
Like, that’s, that would be horrible. That’s, that’s a terrible committee. Right. I also think that sometimes your committee members will push you to see how you can defend your ideas, because that’s what you are supposed to be doing because you are now the expert. Right. And so I think that knowing that helped me also view it as this is a conversation where they expect me to have an opinion other than yes, sir, or yes ma’am. And so I think that that helped me sort of think about this as like the defense is not necessarily a defense in the same way of like, people are attacking you and now you need to defend yourself with a shield. The defense is a dialogue. It is a dialogue of people who are about to welcome you as a scholar and as one of their own. And so part of that means that you can, you know, how to stand your ground to be like, I made this decision.
And in some ways we already know that because we’ve, we’ve been socialized into, I mean, you’ve spent all this time with this, with the data you made, all these decisions. And so one thing, um, I think in helping sort of feel better about doing that is, um, and this is a strategy that I, that I luckily did unintentionally, but I think now, like looking back was really great with I’m an avid journaler and I memo everything. I remember everything to explain why I decided to do the things that I did. Um, and that’s really helpful because as you continue to talk with your committee and with your advisor about the decisions that you’re making, or the decisions that you’re doing, the number one question is like, why did you do this, right? And it’s not supposed to be an accusatory. Like, why did you do this?
This is so terrible. It’s genuine. I’m really curious about what your, what was your thought process in doing that? Because so much of research is explaining the justify, like explaining and justifying and rationalizing the decision-making process. And I think that’s, especially what happens to folks of color, women of color in particular, where there’s a level of scrutiny that shouldn’t be there, right? Like Rex, you know, white supremacy and racism. And then you add those together, right. As with a bunch of other things too, but having those sorts of explanation and justification, it’s not solving the root system, systemic issues. But I do think that does help with, at least for me to have more confidence when I go to my committee to say, or like, when I receive feedback to be like, you should do this. It’s like, actually, like, I’m going to disagree for X, Y, and Z reason. And that’s also really important later in the publication, right. When you’re doing a peer reviewed journal and you disagree with a reviewer and you’re like, let me tell you why, like, I’m not just here to get feedback from you. I’m also going to provide feedback about like, what I think you should be doing.
And I, I love that you said that like, cause I was going to interrupt and say, you can just agree because people don’t even know like that’s an option, like yep.
Yeah. Yeah. And like I, and I think it’s helping to disagree. Right. Um, and I think that that’s also where, uh, and I think about this now have having, um, doctoral advisees to where, um, you know, so, so my advisor is very well known and very well known in the field. And so it’s, I, I remember having this really great conversation with her where, you know, she said like, you know, given my responsibilities and, and the work that I have to do and the things that are demanded of my time, I don’t always get to read the most up to date literature. You bring that information. And like, that’s part of the reason why this is not just a one-way street of me learning from her. She’s also learning from me. And, and I think about this now, you know, and like, I was like, oh, is that really true?
But like now as a faculty member, I’m like, I’m, I’m, I feel like I’m dying with all the meetings I have, I have so many meetings. So I don’t get to read all the, my need to read folder that has so many amazing articles that have come out in 2020 and 2021 is just an infinite pile that I can’t read through. And then the doctoral students that I’m advising will be like, oh, have you read about this? And I’m like, no, but tell me about it. And I realized I’m learning, you know, they might feel like I’m teaching them a lot of things, but in reality, I’m learning so much because of the topics they’re bringing. And I think like that is a very similar orientation to like, especially if you feel like you’re, you know, your advisor is an expert and you’re like, what could I possibly bring?
It’s like, you are bringing newness and insight in ways that a lot of senior scholars don’t always have the ability or not even ability, but there’s literally not enough time because they’re so well-known. And so because of that, they have so many, so much demands on their time. So they might not be able to read the, like, you know, the 20, 21 article that just came out that you’re really excited for. And you’re going to incorporate, it’s like, they’re learning from you too, because that’s also what keeps them sharp. And so I feel like that’s, that was really helpful. And I’m so thankful to her for having this conversation that the two of us had about like, and, you know, and her just being really upfront about it. It was also if, and like, you know, this obviously depends on the dynamics between and the relationship between you and your advisor, but like one moment for me, that was really helpful, um, that I was so thankful that like, in a moment of vulnerability, I sent her an email, just sort of being like, I’m trying to write my conclusion chapter and to be really honest, I’m so tired and disillusioned by everything that’s going on right now that I don’t see the significance of my work.
I just don’t. I just don’t see. I don’t see it. I’m so frustrated. Um, I just, I just don’t know where we can go from here. And she, she wrote me a very long email, a very, very long email detailing where she thought my work was going. And I think that I especially needed that. And it was especially important because she has been in the field of diversity equity inclusion for, for, for decades where she’s seen the growth. Right. And I think in some ways, like, and I think for a lot of us right now in, in the temporal context of where we are with like all of the continued, like, I mean, institutions just aren’t doing well, right? Like they’re just not responding the way that we want. Like, it’s just sort of disappointment left and right. We can easily get into the point.
What’s the point of this dissertation? What’s the point of research we’re not even getting anywhere, are we even making progress? And this is where I have appreciated leaning on senior scholars who have seen it for longer and they’ve seen it for decades so they can see the evolution. And so when I told her, like, I just don’t see the purpose of my work right now. She was able to outline where, where that direction is. And I think that that also helped reaffirm to me like that we are emerging scholars and we are here to change the field and they can see the potential in us. Right. And, and, and why they’re ready to welcome us. Um, which I think helped me overall, especially now in like my, in my new role, like thinking about like, okay, like how can I contribute to the field and do it in a way that’s meaningful?
And so, um, I ended up sort of going off tangent again. I mean, that’s, that’s pretty expected, but I do think in terms of advocating for yourself, I think for the other thing, and this is just a very logistical thing is in terms of advocating for yourself, if, especially if you’re like, I want something to be different in our relationship, I want something to, to change. I always think it’s easier to offer a suggestion than placing the onus on the other person to create the suggestion. And it’s incredibly unfair. Like, let’s, let’s be real, right? Like, this is very much similar to, and in my dissertation, I wrote about it, right? Like student activists have to identify the problem and then offer the solution, like how infuriating is that? Right. But I do think that like, especially when you have advisors who are incredibly busy, uh, it’s helpful to sort of be like, I’m having struggles with this, or like, I really want for something to be different.
And here’s a suggestion of like, and here’s what I’d like it to be. And so then that way it offers for them to just modify. Um, so for example, even like a, you know, this question of like, what do we want the dissertation, like, what should the dissertation proposal look like? Right. And so what I did was I created, um, with my website where like I created a dissertation wheel template, and I was like, I think it’s easier if you go to your advisor to be like, this is, this is something that I found on, on online, like from here, what would you modify to make it look like the dissertation? Like, you know, the chapters and the components that you think of versus being like, Hey, so like what, what’s the dissertation? Like, what should be the different components? Because there’s a difference between editing what’s already existed versus creating something new.
Right. And we know that like in our own writing as well. And I think in general, like that’s like a, just a very simple type of advocacy, like advocating, like technique that I think has, has worked well for me. Um, and that’s part of the reason why, like, I create these like downloadable templates to like help sort of cut the conversation faster. So that way it can be like, uh, like here’s my timeline. What do you think versus versus starting the conversation with, like, what do you think my timeline should be? And also when you say like, this was actually a Harvard business review, has this podcast called women at work for the most part, like, I, you know, this isn’t, this is not an endorsement at all, but there’s one line that I wanted to bring up where they were saying that in order to be viewed as a leader, there’s actually a difference in asking for opinion.
And essentially that a way you can signal leadership is by say is instead of asking, Hey, what do you think? And like, have it be like an open thing saying couching it instead as like, this is what I’m thinking, what are your thoughts about it? Um, and I think that it sort of helps position. Um, and, and it is, it’s a subtle reminder that like you have thoughts and ideas and agendas and plans too. And so now you’re asking for input versus like, I know nothing, and please give me all the advice. Right. And so I think even like that type of it, it was, it was helpful to read that. Cause then it reinforced to me why, like the, you give something and then ask for edits versus starting with like a blank sheet and then asking for like, what feels like everything is like a different way to sort of signal to that. Like again, like you are an emerging scholar and you have opinions and ideas and you were asking for input versus like I’m asking, you know, to be, I don’t know, like a broader word than that.
So there’s so many gyms there, but I also am like, be respectful of time. It’s just, that’s a conversation. And I appreciate your points about how to choose a committee and how to advocate for yourself with that committee of like, it’s not always about advocating. That is also, this is a learning process and something they’re going to be asking you questions because they want to assess your learning and right. You’re helping them to learn too. And, you know, I love to like a good agenda or a good something to show up with your advisor because they’re incredibly busy. Um, and you like coming, like, I don’t know what to do. It’s, it’s not helpful. And yet, like we could talk about how it’s not fair and this the reality. And so how can you just help make your process as seamless as possible for yourself and your we’ll put your website definitely in the show notes.
So, cause people need to go check it out. But at that this dissertation will along with our like dissertation chair communication plan, they go really well together. And if you can like show up with that, your experience would be like a hundred times better because you’re, you’re going to be clear on what to expect, what you can expect from your advisor, like your time, like where you’re going, if you’re headed in the right, the right quote unquote direction. Cause that’s what most people are worried about, but you have to like take onus and you got to like steer the ship if you will. So I appreciate it so much. Like you taking the time and sharing about your experience. I feel like we need to have you back to just talk about some other things, but as we, as we end our conversation, are there any words of wisdom or encouragement that you will give to current doc students who are like, just trying to get to the finish line and, or they’re on the fence about joining the program? Yeah.
So first thank you so much for inviting me to this space, Dr. Lacey, it also feels like it feels like a homecoming. And I think like a couple of weeks from now, I think next week actually is like the week that we had like our first conversation. So it’s like a year it’s like a, it’s a it’s, uh, it’s the anniversary of me starting back might even look at, look at where like where we are now. Um, so I I’ve just appreciated the space to reflect and also just share. And so thank you so much for inviting me and to the doctoral students and to, to folks who were thinking about or like are on the fence. I think that, I think that advice or like the thing that I want to really remind ourselves constantly is that like, again, to that point of imposter phenomenon, right?
That we’re invested in these systems that socialize us in very particular ways to make us feel like we’re not experts, that we don’t know what we’re doing and that we have to be yes, men to our committee that we, that we don’t belong here, that we need to prove that we belong here. Um, and all of that is socially constructed and that’s something that, um, that’s why we need community. That’s why we need structures to unlearn. Um so much of, we don’t even realize this. So the socialization, because we’re, we’re the fish in the water. So how do we know what color the water is if we’ve been in it a couple times? And so, I guess sort of in closing, I just want to reiterate that like every single one of us belongs here and that it’s not about proving ourselves. I mean, it is to some degree, right?
Cause like you’re ready, you’re literally writing a dissertation. Right. But, but in other ways, like the work that you are doing, the insights that you are bringing are incredibly unique and valuable because you are here. And so I think that that’s kind of the way that I want to, I want to close it out is that like each and every one of us belongs here and anytime where you feel like you don’t, it is a reminder that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. And also the work will always be there. So we should take, we should intention to choose best.
Yeah. Always be there. Thank you so much. And if folks want to follow up with you, what would be the best way for them to do so?
Yeah. So, um, feel free to find me on Twitter. I tweet about higher education and institutional racism and sometimes, um, uh, KatSCh0 And then it’s a zero, not an, oh, so you can find me on Twitter or please feel free to visit my website. It’s a show except the, oh, is an actual low. So it’s a little confusing. Um, somebody already had taken the handles that I, you know, I gave up, but yep. So if, and if you want to reach out there as a contact there, the contact sheet on, on my website. And so it goes directly to my email so that I can see it immediately. And so Yes, I would love to hear from folks, um .Love to stay in conversation.
And we will definitely put all of that in a note. So if you just want to scroll up and click, you could do that. Um, but thank you so much. And I just am like, I’m like, I know it’s been a year and I’m just, I’m just so grateful that I got to be a part, a little part of your journey. And like I said, I cannot wait to be sitting in the audience when the outside opens back up and just clap for you as you were on all these stages and you’re helping the people in the institutions cause they live together.
They need slash we need, cause I am very much a part of it is we need all the help we can get. But again, you know, I I’ve said this before. I said it in my acknowledgements, like I don’t think I would have finished with an office program and that’s not, that’s not an exaggeration I think. Yeah. And, and, and I think that that’s part of the reason why I wanted to come back and talk about it because it was, it was so critically important in ways that I didn’t even realize until much later. Yeah.
Yeah. Thank you. And that’s, you know, that’s a good way to us. And so thank you for joining in for today’s office hours. If you’re ready to take this work to the next level, I invite you to join a happy, free and pay collective. We will show you how to finish your dissertation and build your consultant business, using the skills and knowledge you already possessed. Come on over to Marvette lacy.com and let’s get started. I’ll see you on the inside of the collective bye for now.