What are your best memories about being a graduate student in the PPOL graduate program?
The camaraderie among my cohort. We were an incredibly diverse group of people going into an interdisciplinary program (a political science professor, a minister, a social worker, a high school guidance counselor, a police officer, and a newly-returned Peace Corps volunteer who was only two years out of undergrad). We had wildly different academic interests, but we bonded. We hung out. We supported each other. Some of them, along with a couple of other PPOL students, are now lifelong friends.
What are the top 3 things you took away from the PPOL program?
Expanded knowledge of things outside my immediate field (particularly adding some economics and sociology to my skill set), vastly improved methodological skills, and a piece of paper that says I have a Ph.D.
What advice would you give new students about how to succeed in graduate school?
Assert yourself. Find a mentor who has your back. Have an advisor who is not also the program director, so you have somewhere to turn if you have a problem with one or the other of them. A faculty member who is no longer at UNC Charlotte, and who shall remain publicly nameless, was the person with complete responsibility for overseeing my progress in the program for most of the time I was there, and he dropped the ball more times than I could count. I had nowhere else to turn, because he was both program director and my individual advisor. This added significant stress (and extra time) to an experience (getting a Ph.D.) which is already inherently intense. I should have bugged him to do his job more than I did (but then, I shouldn’t have had to bug him to do his job in the first place). Once I had a dissertation committee in place, my committee chair was a tremendous advocate for me, as was the new program director.