Are you curious about the world? Do you like to read? Have you ever wondered what your professors do when they’re not teaching your class? Have you ever wondered about their training? Have you ever thought about working in a think tank, doing policy consulting or creating policies that really work, directing a major library or digital humanities project – in fact doing anything that involves the creation, not just the consumption of knowledge?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you should find out more about graduate school by meeting with one of the pre-graduate advisors.
Why I went to Graduate School
S. Isabel Geathers, Assistant Dean for Academic Diversity, The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University
I went to graduate school, quite simply, because of the intensive training and mentorship that I received through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. I was able to forge relationships that not only shaped me professionally, but personally as well. Those early relationships straddled different parts of the university—academic and administrative. I still credit Prof. Rafia Zafar and Dean Mary Laurita in preparing me holistically for a career in higher education. My mentors modeled a type of support that went to the very core of how I believe higher education should be experienced: personal, supportive, rigorous, and empathic. The mentorship I received at Wash U showed me how to seek out new mentors in graduate school—in fact, it helped determine which graduate program I ultimately chose. I went to the University of Pennsylvania to complete my PhD in English because I knew to look for a community of scholars, a community of friends, and a community of colleagues that would force me to stretch in ways that were uncomfortable but necessary, difficult but safe.
I graduated my doctoral program with a specialization in contemporary American and African American literature, but it was during my postdoctoral work at Princeton that I began to think more expansively about how my PhD could be utilized outside of the tenure-track path. While at Princeton, I began working more intentionally with senior administrators and education leaders to shape a career in the academy that allowed me to continue to teach and research as well as work in areas of education policy, academic affairs, and diversity and inclusion. I am currently a dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University in New York City, and I would never have gotten this far without my very first academic mentors, professors, and deans showing me that graduate school is the place that I need to go in order to have the career that I want.