Sociology Pre-Grad Intern Michelle Sparks
As a first-generation college student, I found the Pre-Graduate School Internship to be an extremely valuable experience. With the help and guidance of Danielle Dirks, my mentor, this has been a semester of academic discovery and self-growth. When the semester began, I had three major concerns that I wanted to focus on. My first concern was my need to find a more healthy work and life balance. Second, I needed to create an academic road map that would lead me to a career as a Sociologist. Finally, I also had a desire to feel connected to my fellow students, and to find leadership opportunities on campus that I would be able to add to my resume . I am happy to report that as the semester comes to a close I have made much progress towards reaching each of my goals.
In our first meeting, Danielle and I spent the entire session talking about work life balance. We talked about the fact that I am a very driven student, and that I do not allow myself very much time for socializing during the semester, which leads to me feeling alone in the world. Danielle that I begin scheduling time with my friends, and to ask my fellow students as well as grad students, my professors and TA's, and anyone else I could think of, how they were able to maintain a work life balance. Everyone I spoke with repeated the advice of Danielle, by saying that I should schedule both work and free time, with the trick being to stay disciplined enough to follow the schedule.
It was somewhat difficult for me at first to trust that I can have fun, and get my projects done in a timely manner. But I followed the advice I was given, and began scheduling my work and play time. Throughout the semester, I have gained trust and confidence in myself that I can stick to my schedule and by doing so; I can have it all. It is still a work in process, and I have learned that finding balance is a common challenge for all college students, but I now see that it is possible to maintain both my GPA and friendships; if I just stick to my schedule. While I was working on finding a better work life balance, I also began my inquiry into graduate school.
In my second meeting with Danielle, we talked about my career goals and the fact that they require a graduate degree. We talked about the process she had gone through in deciding on which programs she would like to apply for, as well as the application process itself. She felt that because I transferred in to UT as a junior, that is it was important for me to begin investigating the Masters Program at UT immediately. And for my first step in that process, she suggested that I meet with the graduate advisor as soon as possible. I am so grateful that I participated in the internship this semester, because I had no idea that I already needed to start getting ready for graduate school.
Before I met with my advisor Joann to discuss graduate school who provides information to incoming students about the program, Danielle helped me to come up with a list of questions. She also encouraged me to explore the school's website for additional information about the program. The meeting was extremely helpful for me, and I discovered the importance of an academic road map. Before that meeting, I had no idea that the program I am interested in only starts in the Spring semester. Joann and I worked together to map out a plan, so that I can graduate on time, as well as when I should take the GRE and go through the application process to meet the school's deadline. He also gave me practical advice about how to map out my coursework, so that I will be able to take my desired electives since they are not all offered every semester. Ramn also pointed out that it is not only my GPA that I should focus on, but that it is important to make connections and involve myself in campus activities. This will not only, increase my enjoyment on campus, but also make myself a more competitive applicant.
In a follow-up meeting with Danielle, she and I talked about different organizations on the UT campus, but none of them really spoke to me. However, she felt confident that I would find something that would spark my interest if I just stayed open and curious. During the semester, I went to a couple of different meetings and lectures in search of connections with other students and campus life. I became the Intern for African American affairs and the director of internal affairs for TEXAS first.
Finally discussions about the lack of representation of minority students on campus with Joann, my undergraduate advisor, lead me to a meeting with the Dean of my school. The Dean and I spoke about my concern about the lack of representation of minority students on campus and how the ten top eight percent rule will decrease numbers drastically. As a result of that meeting, I was able to create change and voice my opinion about underrepresented ethnicities on campus.
The IE Pre-Graduate School Internship Program, has supported me on my journey to becoming a more balanced student by helping me to explore options for maintaining work life balance, and has given me tools to help me create a more balanced life. I have also been given the opportunity to create a map that will help me to be a successful grad student. While perhaps most importantly, the internship program has inspired me to find a way to connect with other students who share my passion.
"As a first-generation college student, I found the IE Pre-Graduate School Internship to be an extremely valuable experience. With the help and guidance of my mentor, the IE Program has supported me on my journey to becoming a more balanced student by helping me to explore options for maintaining work life balance, and has given me tools to help me create a more balanced life. I have also been given the opportunity to create a map that will help me to be a successful grad student. Perhaps most importantly, the internship has inspired me to find a way to connect with other students who share my passion."