Child Development Doctoral Candidate Caroline Christopher

Caroline ChristopherMy experience as a mentor in the IE program is one that will stick with me throughout my career. I came to graduate school with two goals in mind. First, I wanted to learn how to be a competent and creative researcher. And, as a distant second, I wanted to get experience teaching and working with undergraduate students.

I am now in my third year of my doctoral work at UT, and my goals have changed since I got to Austin. While I am still completely committed to research - in fact, I love my research-I now know that working with students, particularly in a mentoring role, is a passion of mine.

I first became more interested in working with undergraduates when I got the chance to teach small seminars in a writing intensive course. Writing those lesson plans and making the classroom into a collaborative learning experience was challenging. It was challenging, but I loved it. I worked extremely hard, and the payoff was great. As the wildness of that first semester of teaching came to a close, I reflected on my experience and realized that the reason it was so rewarding was because I had gotten the chance to work closely with students toward a common goal. At that point, I knew I wanted to maximize my opportunities of working individually with students. Mentoring through the IE program is a perfect fit for me because not only do I get to work one-on-one with students, but we are working toward an exciting goal-graduate school. Because my experience as a graduate student has been so valuable, when a student comes in and says they have a passion for a particular subject and want to pursue that in graduate school, I immediately want to help them move toward that goal.

Working with my mentee this semester gave me that experience. From the start, my mentee and I collaborated to create a plan for the semester. We had a series of projects to work on, all of which would help her as she builds her resume and applies to graduate school. I asked her to work hard, she delivered, and I am confident that she will be a graduate student in her chosen field in the not-too-distant future.

This experience solidified my passion for mentoring. As opposed to my original post-graduation plan of finding jobs involving strictly research, I now plan on seeking out opportunities that allow me guide undergraduates as they work toward achieving their goals.