Educational Psychology Doctoral Student Patricia Foster

Patricia FosterWhen I first heard of this program, my thoughts were that it might be a nice little experience to be involved with. To help someone find out about the benefits and the effort of the graduate school experience might be valuable or at the very least, useful. Although I was fully committed to the program, to provide any information, help, or guidance that I could, I wasn't sure that my involvement would make much of a difference to anyone, regardless of who I was assigned to mentor. Boy, was I wrong.

Laura Torres has been in one of the first classes that I taught at UT as a graduate instructor. I knew her interests were in education, but didn't realize that she had hoped to attend graduate school, someday. I casually mentioned the IE program and asked if she might be interested, and although she was sure that the graduate school dream was one that was far off in the future, she agreed and we signed up. The ripples that have been created by that one chance encounter are still growing.

Through this program, and the activities that we shared, Laura has decided that she can be successful in graduate school, and knows that she will have lots of support to help her get through it. This was realized by getting to meet the U.T. faculty at a conference we attended, as well as the Area 1 Colloquium meetings which are required of the first-year graduate students but more advanced graduate students attend to lend support, advice, and discuss experiences.

To experience teaching to the college age student, Laura came to my class at A.C.C. and taught a session. She was wonderful, and immediately connected with the students. This led to the second part of the ripple by Laura's influence on one of the female freshmen in the class, who had expressed a desire to go to medical school, but had constantly remarked that there was no way she could do it. She didn't feel that a young, first generation, Hispanic female would ever been able to do it all. Laura connected with her in such a positive way, and as role model, that they are working together to help that student to apply to U.T. to begin her journey to medical school.

The third part of the ripple comes as that student has told me that her cousin had always wanted to go to college, but felt there was no way that she could be successful. To her, college is this scary, hard, place where no one really cared. After they talked about it, and my student has shown that it can be done, the cousin is registering for spring classes at A.C.C., with the hopes of being able to transfer to a 4-year university as a step to her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

Laura and I have shared many hours discussing the graduate school experience. We have attended conferences where she was able to make contacts with some of the most respected people in the field of college teaching. We have discussed research, how it is done, and how research ideas are formed. There have been discussions on what the classes are like, what it is like to take classes and teach classes at the same time, the financial issues of graduate school, and the joys and struggles of being in a graduate program. I feel that the relationship that we have built through this experience is one that will last a lifetime.

There have been other ripples from my participation in this program. By seeing how Laura was able to encourage my A.C.C. student, I have introduced two of my past students, both of whom are black, male, first-generation college students. One is struggling at A.C.C., and one has overcome many of the same struggles and is now doing well at U.T. They are forming a good relationship that will help the struggling student realize that success is possible, and helps the U.T. student feel very good about what he has accomplished and his ability to help another student get through it.

I'm not sure where the ripples will end, but it is my hope that they don't. Anyone who is interested in this program should be aware that it is more than simply sharing experiences and helping someone with the nuts and bolts of graduate school. It can be a life-altering experience, as it has been for me, and the others I have mentioned.

Thank you for allowing me to participate in such a worthwhile program. I hope to be able to participate again in the future.

A teacher affects eternity. You never can tell where his (or her) influence stops, (Henry Adams).

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