Government Pre-Grad Intern Andrea Nguyen
I embarked upon this mentorship with absolutely no intention of attending graduate school. I signed up for Intellectual Entrepreneurship because of simple curiosity to find out exactly what graduate school entailed - the amount of work required, the opportunities available during and after graduate school, the classroom culture, etc. Before this whole experience, I was completely mystified by the entire graduate school process and was unaware of the benefits that it could provide me. I pursued this mentorship because I decided that it would be best to inform myself of ALL of the opportunities available upon graduation and the most effective way of doing so would be to interact with those who were actually experiencing it.
Patrick Hickey has been my mentor throughout this entire semester and he has been nothing but helpful with the whole discovery process. Patrick is a PhD. candidate in the graduate department of government and his primary focus is the U.S. Congress. Patrick was a teaching assistant for Theriault's Congressional Elections class in fall 2008 and I asked him to be my mentor because of how supportive he was as a T.A. in this class. Patrick has been eager to help from the first initial contact and I am grateful to have such a willing and dedicated mentor. At our first meeting, we decided to meet once a week and establish some set plans and objectives for the mentorship while keeping it very flexible and open. This was the best approach for me on this journey as I had little idea of where to start this process and how it would eventually end.
The most valuable aspect of this mentorship has been my weekly interaction with Patrick. These meetings have acted as a window unto the lives of a graduate student and have definitely provided me with a better understanding of the expectations of graduate school. I've always had a lot of questions concerning graduate school as I was completely uninformed and it was often difficult for me to find a starting point for all of these questions; however, Patrick has provided excellent guidance and has intuitively covered any and all of my concerns. Patrick covered the general admissions process of graduate school and gave me several helpful tips regarding GRE preparation and the actual application process.
Additionally, he told me about the things he valued most during his graduate school search and why these things have been important throughout his time at UT such as the size of the graduate student population, the number of professors in his field, the available research opportunities, and much more. Patrick has also introduced me to his own research involved with his PhD. dissertation. He is currently researching the relationship between the President and Congress and how and why presidential persuasion persists in our system. I was impressed by the sheer volume of data he collected and analyzed for his research as he had to examine congressional votes from the 85th to 107th Congress.
Aside from letting me repeatedly grill him with countless questions, Patrick has also imparted me with valuable skills for the future. We covered basic concepts of statistics, research methods, and research paper formats. Additionally, Patrick and I observed a graduate class together at the beginning of the semester. We attended Dr. Daron Shaw's American Political Institutions and Process and I was allowed a firsthand experience of the classroom culture in graduate school. I was surprised at the differences between undergraduate and graduate classes as there are radical differences between huge freshmen seminar classes and the intimate, discussion-based graduate classes. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic between the graduate students and the professor -- the professor functioned more as a proctor, guiding the discussion of the daily topics and allowing ideas to permeate through the students and their interaction with one another. Patrick informed me of the fierce competition between graduate students; however, I feel as if each and every one of them valued and benefited from the input and ideas that were exchanged that day. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the entire class period and missed the discussion of the assigned texts for the day. Luckily, Patrick discussed the readings and concepts with me during our next meeting. Although the topics were intriguing, some of the basic concepts were a bit complex and detail-oriented for me. However, in his explanation of the main concepts of these texts, Patrick taught me how to tackle these dense readings and focus on the substance and main ideas. Even though it is difficult for me to recall exactly everything that I have done within the span of this mentorship, the experience has been utterly invaluable to me and now I am considering pursuing graduate education.
Aside from weekly interaction with my mentor, Intellectual Entrepreneurship has been a positive experience because it has provided me with access to various individuals of the university that I would have been unlikely to interact with otherwise. The opportunity to interview a faculty member offered a different perspective of my professors. I was able to interview one of my current professors, Dr. Terrence Chapman. Dr. Chapman is an associate professor in the government department with a focus in International Relations. Although my interview with Chapman was particularly intimidating, it made me realize the different trials and tribulations that a professor must go through in order to establish himself within the academic community and secure his career. I gained a deeper sense of respect for all of my professors and their passion and commitment to their chosen fields of study. Even though every meeting with Patrick probably seems like an interview for him, interviewing my graduate student mentor was also very constructive as it allowed me to understand why Patrick decided to pursue this path and how he has made the most of his graduate education. Additionally, the opportunity to ask questions to a variety of graduate students and listen to the diverse responses given was an invaluable opportunity as it provided multiple, diverse perspectives. I think it's incredible that these graduate students have all committed their free time to this voluntary mentorship when graduate school itself is such a time-consuming and difficult task. All of the activities of Intellectual Entrepreneurship have been valuable as I explore the opportunities that graduate school could provide me.
I began this mentorship without expecting it to change my plans after graduation. However, this mentorship has introduced me to all of the different opportunities that graduate school can provide and has made me realize that this might be the more appropriate choice for achieving my future goals. My experience with this mentorship would not have been as successful without my mentor Patrick. I can't emphasize how much an approachable, dedicated, and helpful mentor has significantly enhanced my experience with Intellectual Entrepreneurship. Even though the mentorship program is coming to a close, I know I will be able to turn to Patrick with any questions and concerns in the future and he will be more than happy to help me to the best of his abilities. Aside from all of the new and eye-opening experiences this program has brought me, the weekly interaction with my mentor has been the most worthwhile and useful to me.
I would highly recommend that all undergraduates participate in Intellectual Entrepreneurship in order to develop a better understanding of all the opportunities and experiences graduate school can offer.