A program to sign up for

The Daily Texan
Dustin Stonecipher, Daily Texan Columnist
Published: Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As a columnist, I don't often get to praise things. Most of the time I'm acting as a voice against tyranny or working to expose some great injustice plaguing the world. But today, I'd like to give some much- needed recognition to an underused resource here at UT that has helped me survive my senior year.

I'm talking about the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program. The program's goal is to help students who want to go to graduate school by matching them up with faculty mentors. The mentor is any faculty member in your desired field and with them, for three credit hours, you create your own schedule of events and opportunities to learn about the great beyond that is life after college.

I am applying to about 10 graduate programs. I forgot how much work goes into applications. I have been trying to balance letter-of-recommendation appointments, writing essays and personal statements, class assignments, work obligations and a host of other important things that all seem to fall within the month or two in which I am trying to set up a future for myself.

Here is where the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program has been crucial. Since the program results in a grade, it has forced me to prioritize and put my graduate-school work alongside my other responsibilities. I have met with my faculty adviser numerous times and kept myself motivated when the last thing on my mind was a silly personal statement.

Beyond graduate school applications, the program allows you to research one on one with a professor, receiving guidance that is unheard of in the classroom setting. Other people in the program are working on publishing articles, doing case studies and developing their theses. The program also gives you the opportunity to pair up with a current graduate student, go to some classes, see some lectures and get an idea of what graduate school is going to be like.

My high school had a program where, in the place of a usual class, I was forced to work on college applications with a school counselor. I say "forced" because at the time, I hated it. But looking back, I don't think I would have gone to college without that much-needed prodding. I'm a procrastinator by nature, and when thousands of other people are applying for the same spot you are, procrastinating can be the difference between the graduate program of your dreams and eating Hot Pockets on your mom's couch after a long day at Best Buy.

I would love to see UT work to support graduating seniors who are looking at more education. Programs like Intellectual Entrepreneurship are one way to help students like me. But more could be done. More acknowledgment could be given to these programs. Seniors could be encouraged to take a light semester their last year to work on applications, since it's quite difficult to balance the obligations of school and work and still complete a successful application.

But for the time being, I can endorse the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program in the highest regard based on my experience. It's helped me -- and I hope it helps many more busy and uncertain students in the future.

Stonecipher is an English and history senior.