Liberal Arts (Educational
Psychology Pre-Grad Intern) Sophomore
My Pre-Grad Intellectual Entrepreneurship Experience
I first heard about the Pre-Grad Intellectual Entrepreneurship in the Fall 2007 semester from my career services counselor, Dr. Lynn Chang. She knew that as a transfer student I was having trouble adjusting to UT, and that I was also having trouble deciding on a major. I knew what field of work I wanted to end up with eventually, but I had not found a solid path to that career. I also did not fully understand how to go about getting into a good graduate school, or even what kind of graduate school would best suit my needs. The Pre-Grad IE program sounded very interesting when I attended the interest meeting. Dr. Hartelius sounded very sure of herself and was very much behind her program, so I decided to give it a try. Looking back on it now, I can surely say that the Pre-Grad IE Program has been of a tremendous benefit to me in learning how to network and in helping me shape to my career path.
The mentor I chose for this internship was a graduate student, Azucena Rangel, in the Educational Psychology PhD program here at UT. Her dissertation explores the self-fulfilling prophecy of teacher expectations in relation to student achievement. Since she was on the last legs of her course of study at UT-that is, she had completed all of her graduate courses and was focusing solely on her dissertation-I did not get to benefit directly from the graduate experience as far as graduate classes and their structure, level of intensity, etc. I did, however, receive the opportunity to help her with her dissertation.
The contract that Azucena and I outlined, which detailed my jobs throughout the internship, fairly coincided with those of a research assistant. My duties were "background reading, library research, data management, assistance in generating research questions, analyzing data, and other related research activities." Though Azucena did not require me to fulfill all of these duties-I was limited in the ones I could carry out since I have yet to take certain classes that would prepare me with the types of skills needed-I still received a very rich experience.
Firstly, by attempting some of these duties, I realized that the life of a researcher was taxing. It takes much motivation and genuine interest in one's field of study to complete all of the necessary steps to getting a PhD. Helping her Azucena with her dissertation confirmed my earlier suspicions that I did not want to be a researcher. Since narrowing my career path was one of my goals in applying for the Internship, I am thankful for the very long and tedious weekend I spent transcribing some of Azucena's interviews for her dissertation.
Among the physical work I did helping Azucena construct her dissertation, I brought to her my questions about graduate school. I am glad that I had a graduate student as a mentor because not only was she able to make time in her busy schedule to mentor me, but the memory of the application process was still fresh in her mind. She easily answered my questions about the application process, financing graduate school, and learning to network. Through her, I was able to meet with and interview professors in the Counseling Psychology graduate program at UT, one of my assignments for the Internship.
Other than the personal account of students work in graduate school that I was able to contract from my mentor, a part of this internship experience that has proved especially beneficial to me is the Diversity Meetings hosted by Ruby Olmanson. I enjoyed Ruby's meetings because they provided me with a setting specific to my needs as a minority student. I am glad that Ruby took the initiative to begin this branch of the meetings because it has been my experience that the graduate school process is a different kind of stressor for first-generation students and students of color, especially at UT where the school setting is not necessarily sensitive to the needs of these groups of people.
Of indirect benefit to me were the assignments we, the undergraduate interns, were expected to complete. The assignments, such as interviewing faculty members in my chosen line of work and preparing questions for the admissions panel, gave me direction in my research on graduate school. I never would have had the nerve to approach any member of the panel with my questions otherwise, so I am particularly glad for that meeting. What also helped was being able to read the assignments of my fellow interns via Blackboard. Through their postings on Blackboard, the other interns unknowingly helped me shape my views on graduate school were I could not get them with my own mentor, e.g. attending graduate classes. There were even some articles on Blackboard, containing useful tips on graduate school-my personal favorite was the article entitled "Is Graduate School A Cult?"-all located in one succinct, accessible place.
Lastly, my experience as a Pre-Grad IE intern was solidified by the general meetings that all of the interns were invited to attend. Because of the general meetings, I was provided with a direct link to important parts of graduate school, such as the admissions panel and the graduate student panel. It was exceedingly helpful to here directly from the admissions committee the Do's and Dont's of the graduate school application process. I am absolutely certain that were it not for that meeting in particular, I would not feel as secure as I do today about my ability to apply for graduate school.
This internship has proved to me that I am completely capable of applying to graduate school. Because I have acquired what I believe to be the right tools to make myself a worthy candidate, I know that I can get into the graduate school of my choosing providing that I apply what I have learned throughout this experience. I thank Dr. Hartelius, Ruby Olmanson, Dr. Cherwitz, and my mentor, Azucena Rangel, for the roles they each played in shaping my experience throughout this internship.