Happy Doc Student Podcast

#22 The Online Doctoral Journey: Building a Community of Support

April 07, 2021 Heather Frederick, PhD Episode 22
Happy Doc Student Podcast
#22 The Online Doctoral Journey: Building a Community of Support
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Happy Doc Student Podcast
#22 The Online Doctoral Journey: Building a Community of Support
Apr 07, 2021 Episode 22
Heather Frederick, PhD

With all members in your community:

  • Be mindful about who you can trust
  • Be proactive
  • Communicate (be clear, be candid)

Faculty
Chair – Ask for regular meetings; see their feedback as a gift (see episode: #18).
Committee members – They want you to graduate!
Instructors – Can be great cheerleaders; reach out to them.

Academic Advisors - Their role is to navigate you to graduation. Ask questions and be sure to answer their calls.

 University Support Services
Writing Center – Go here for tips, tricks, and editing services.
 Librarians – They can be a huge help in locating literature.
Editors – See episode: #11.

Family & Friends – Communicate and listen to their perspectives.

Peers – Reach out, pick their brain, share when you are stuck.

Colleagues – Network and join associations, especially those in your research area (LinkedIn, Clubhouse, etc.). 

Others who can help you be the best version of YOU (when seeking out these people ask for referrals and always, always go with your gut):

  • Coaches (dissertation, meditation, health/nutrition, etc.) 
  • Bodyworkers/Energy workers
  • Physical Trainers
  • Nutritionists
  • Spiritual Advisors / Religious Leaders 
  • Prayer Partners
  • Workout/Gym Buddy
  • Counselors/Therapists

Connect with us on LinkedIn (in order of appearance):
Heather Frederick (hfred)
Jodie Hemerda (jhemerda)
Todd Fiore (todd-fiore-phd-26a0331)
Kelly Stewart  (kellyolsonstewart)
Vernon Czelusniak  (drczelusniak)
Kennedy Maranga  (kennedy-maranga-ph-d-8529042)
Tim Rice  (drtimrice)
Travis Coufal (travis-coufal-32ba8513)
Melanie Shaw  (melshaw)
Cynthia Palmisano (cynthia-palmisano-psy-d-72531012b)
Tami Beaty  (tami-beaty-ed-d)
Mariko Carson  (mariko-carson-51841a29)

Learn more: http://Expandyourhappy.com

Show Notes Transcript

With all members in your community:

  • Be mindful about who you can trust
  • Be proactive
  • Communicate (be clear, be candid)

Faculty
Chair – Ask for regular meetings; see their feedback as a gift (see episode: #18).
Committee members – They want you to graduate!
Instructors – Can be great cheerleaders; reach out to them.

Academic Advisors - Their role is to navigate you to graduation. Ask questions and be sure to answer their calls.

 University Support Services
Writing Center – Go here for tips, tricks, and editing services.
 Librarians – They can be a huge help in locating literature.
Editors – See episode: #11.

Family & Friends – Communicate and listen to their perspectives.

Peers – Reach out, pick their brain, share when you are stuck.

Colleagues – Network and join associations, especially those in your research area (LinkedIn, Clubhouse, etc.). 

Others who can help you be the best version of YOU (when seeking out these people ask for referrals and always, always go with your gut):

  • Coaches (dissertation, meditation, health/nutrition, etc.) 
  • Bodyworkers/Energy workers
  • Physical Trainers
  • Nutritionists
  • Spiritual Advisors / Religious Leaders 
  • Prayer Partners
  • Workout/Gym Buddy
  • Counselors/Therapists

Connect with us on LinkedIn (in order of appearance):
Heather Frederick (hfred)
Jodie Hemerda (jhemerda)
Todd Fiore (todd-fiore-phd-26a0331)
Kelly Stewart  (kellyolsonstewart)
Vernon Czelusniak  (drczelusniak)
Kennedy Maranga  (kennedy-maranga-ph-d-8529042)
Tim Rice  (drtimrice)
Travis Coufal (travis-coufal-32ba8513)
Melanie Shaw  (melshaw)
Cynthia Palmisano (cynthia-palmisano-psy-d-72531012b)
Tami Beaty  (tami-beaty-ed-d)
Mariko Carson  (mariko-carson-51841a29)

Learn more: http://Expandyourhappy.com

Jodie Hemerda: [00:00:00] You have got to advocate for yourself in this journey.

Not everyone's going to be supportive. Be very mindful of who you trust. But once you build up that community of support, then trust them. 

Heather Frederick: [00:00:12] You're listening to the Happy Doc Student Podcast, a Podcast dedicated to providing clarity to the often mysterious doctoral process. Do you feel like you're losing your mind? Let me and my guests show you how to put more joy in your journey and graduate with your sanity, health, and relationships intact.

I'm your host, Dr. Heather Frederick and this is episode 22. In this episode, we're discussing the online doctoral journey and how to build a community of support. Today you'll hear from 12 people who have been involved in doctoral education for a very long time. I did the math and collectively we have over 200 years experience.

And have worked with just over 4,000 doctoral students. Now, the idea for this podcast was Jodie's. So Jodie, I'm going to hand it over to you to get us started. 

Jodie Hemerda: [00:01:08] Thank you so much, Heather. The idea came from an invitation to participate in the ADEIL conference. And when I clicked on the link, first word I saw was community.

First thing I did, contacted Todd. What can we do? This is our chance. Let's talk about community. 

Todd Fiore: [00:01:25] Absolutely. You know, I've worked with doctoral students at many different levels from an enrollment advisor to academic advisor, to now faculty and administrator. One of the things that has been consistent is the importance of community.

And one of those research studies I did, I looked at the role of academic advising on doctoral student persistence. But one of the interesting things that came out of it is an asking students who their advisors were? They came up with a list of 15 different titles, anything from chair to committee member, to their favorite faculty member, to their  spiritual advisor to their spouse.

So it really ran the gamut and it really reinforces the importance and the need for community and the importance of building a network. This is a wonderful opportunity to gather a lot of different perspectives. I'm really excited about this. 

Heather Frederick: [00:02:15] And I was really excited too. Not just because this topic is so aligned with the Podcast, but because Jodie and Todd are so much fun to work with.

 And what we decided to do was send out an email to people we considered experts in the doctoral process and we asked them just two simple questions. The first was: What individuals do you feel are essential to an online doctoral student's community of support? And: What are some best practices you can share it in terms of building that community?

What follows are just some of the highlights and listen, you'll definitely want to check out the show notes for more details. The number one players listed when talking about this community of support consisted of faculty and this included chairs, committee members, and instructors of content courses. 

Vernon  Czelusniak: [00:03:00] And then your most important thing, is   doctoral chair or committee members,  their role is really, really critical in this community aspect. The other thing about chairs is  they're a critical part because they're reviewing the drafts. So they have a tremendous responsibility of providing feedback. And as they provide that feedback to the student we're hoping that the student will be able to accept that feedback. And one of the things that I find really interesting is students don't realize the importance of the iterative process of going back and forth and back and forth. 

They think that it's something negative, but they need to see it as an improvement opportunity that they're always going to be better. When the committee members start reviewing these drafts, all they're doing is they're building their expertise into the study  and helping that student become as successful as they can be.

Kennedy Maranga: [00:03:56] It is also important to really share with students they communicate with their chairs and committees. The students need to be proactive. It is their responsibility to take the initiative, to connect with chairs or committee members, either use email or they request meetings through video conferences, which I've found to be really useful because when you meet students through a video conference, they tend to connect with you. They tend to see that we are a human being from the other side. So it's important that students take that initiative. But it's also important for Chairs to also take the initiative, to connect with students in various ways.

Kelly Stewart: [00:04:34] So I think one of the opportunities that students have is to really look at who has been their instructors through their program. And oftentimes students will find an instructor that just stands out to them. And I think it's important for students to realize they can continue to reach out to that instructor because instructors are oftentimes very willing to be the cheerleader, to provide resources, ideas. And so that is a great person to include in your community. 

Heather Frederick: [00:05:04] After faculty came academic advisors who are often the portal to other university resources. 

Tim Rice: [00:05:11] You know, one of the challenges many times is doctoral students can feel isolated, especially in an online setting and this doesn't need to be the case.

I believe that doctoral students, if they lean into their advisor, they can gain useful information on a variety of campus resources, such as a financial aid office or other academic administrative and faculty leaders to enhance their educational experience. And the one thing that advisors do is they listen to the needs of each student to really assist them in completing their degree.

And  they can be a very valuable resource, not only in their coursework, but particularly during the transition from coursework to the doctoral research project. It's one of the areas that can be very challenging for students because they're really on their own. And that's where the advisor can really come in.

Travis Coufal: [00:06:03] The advisor at your institution can be one of your most valuable resources.  And I know as an online doctoral student, you are busy, but I think one of the most important things is to answer the phone when they call and take the time to respond to their emails.

You can also make that a little easier by communicating your communication preferences. So if your advisor knows when you're available and the best way to reach you, they can adapt in order to make sure they're getting to you, when you'll have time to connect with them. Many advisors will have the opportunity for you to schedule an appointment, if you need that. Some will have a link that you can schedule directly on their calendar or via email, text message. So use that information to get in touch with the advisor. Because again, their role is to navigate you to graduation. 

Heather Frederick: [00:07:02] Next, were people who could support academic writing and library research. 

Melanie Shaw: [00:07:06] You know, for every tuition dollar a student pays in addition to the wonderful instruction and curriculum that they receive, they also pay for support services like the writing center and the library.

These are two underutilized aspects of the community that I think every single student can really benefit from leveraging. Oftentimes the writing center will provide not only great tips and tricks for academic writing, but even some editing support services. And a lot of students really don't know that that's a function that the writing center can serve.

At the institution's library, most of the time, there is a reference librarian who can help with things like the literature review, helping the student create a concept map so that they're making the connection between the themes that they're synthesizing as they're beginning to draft their literature review.

If a student is needing support above and beyond what's available at the institution, I always recommend the use of a professional editor. While an editor is an upfront cost, it's always cheaper than paying for an extra course. And typically the time savings that happen when a student uses 

a professional editor, it really does pay off in spades.

Heather Frederick: [00:08:26] And let's not forget about those all important, family, friends, peers and colleagues. 

Cynthia Palmisano: [00:08:31] Well, I look at family, friends and colleagues, especially family and friends as kind of the home team.  So we hope and know that that home team has our back and has kind of gone with us through life up until this point, but we can certainly kind of play around with the idea that as much as they support us, we cannot assume that they have maybe the understanding of the process that we do. So I think there's a couple of layers of kind of those assumptions, which need to be articulated just so that we can get that support that we need, especially from online learners who don't have the ground campus to go to. 

Family doesn't always get what are you doing on that computer late at night for hours and hours? What is this whole process that you're going through? Why does it take so long? So I think it's really helpful for doctoral students to be specific about what their demands are in terms of the workload, but then also specific about what they need in return from family and friends.

We cannot expect family and friends to understand the process. But we can certainly try to be specific and articulate what we need because they are the ones who have seen us grow through the undergrad years, the graduate years. And we'll be there to celebrate and witness all of those amazing things that are to come.

 So we need to kind of be specific  and perhaps telling them how. 

Tami Beaty : [00:09:47] So, one of my biggest points of advice to students is find the safe family and friends who are going to keep pushing you, carry you when you need to be carried. Not all of our friends and family while they may love us understand, or even really support what we're doing.

They might think it's frivolous, waste of time and money. So I think it's really important to make those connections with the friends and family that you trust and that are safe, that are safe to say I'm exhausted and they're not going to say, well, then just quit. Because you know, that's not what you need.

You just need somebody to kind of hold you up for a little while. One of the other things is find those colleagues who've gone before you. Find those people who have finished, are close to finishing. And then ask them about their dissertation, their doctoral process. Start picking their brain about what they experienced.

People love to talk about their doctoral work. They love to talk about all of those hard years of blood, sweat, and tears. And if you're interested in them, it will naturally reciprocate. And they're going to start asking you questions. Well, how are things going for you? I ended up using that strategy with three  colleagues who became really invested in me and my doctoral process.

And I found that very, very valuable.

Heather Frederick: [00:11:09] Building your community by networking with others in your research area was also high on the list. 

Mariko Carson: [00:11:15] So I would definitely say that one critical element to that sense of community would be mentorship. Someone who maybe serves as a subject matter expert in the field that you interested in studying or in the field that you are researching.

And the reason that I say that is because specifically for online doctoral students, this process can really feel isolated and you may be limited in the networks that you may have from a virtual environment. If you currently have networks in a particular industry, leverage those networks, see who has particular research interests that align with yours. And I would also say that it would be worth it to look into various associations that may be relevant to your area of study or your area of focus. I have become very engaged with LinkedIn because there are lots of different circles and communities within that social media platform.

  Even if you are not received in the way that you would have liked to have been received, there is still value because while there may be someone who doesn't receive you well, there may be three or four others who do.

Heather Frederick: [00:12:26] Todd, your thoughts about what we heard here today? 

Todd Fiore: [00:12:29] Couple, things really stood out to me in our conversation today. Number one is the importance for the student to take responsibility for building their network. We heard a lot of words like connect with, reach out, communicate, contact. If you want to be successful, you've got to take responsibility for that and build your own network.

To build on what some other folks said about family, friends, and peers is the importance of making those connections, because we know that doctoral research can be very lonely. We know that being an online doctoral student in particular, you feel very alone, but you're surrounded by a bunch of other students.

If you're not surrounded by them physically, you're surrounded by them going through the same experience. Reach out to them, connect with them, communicate with them, contact them, add them to your community of support. 

Heather Frederick: [00:13:21] And Jody, how about you? 

Jodie Hemerda: [00:13:23] I agree with so much of what's been said today and the things that I would want to leave everybody with, you have got to advocate for yourself in this journey.

You have to know yourself. You have to know what you need. You have to know what you know, and probably most importantly, know what you don't know and be open with that and be vulnerable. But when it comes to the community of support, be discerning in to who you let into your circle, others have already pointed out, not everyone's going to be supportive. Be very mindful of who you trust. But once you build up that community of support, then trust them.

Above all else, trust your chair. Your chair is your biggest fan and your best advocate. 

Heather Frederick: [00:14:13] As you heard here today, your community of support can be large and it can be diverse. It's out there. If you look for it. Remember we just scratched the surface on this short podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes for more details.

And one more thing. 

Jodie Hemerda: [00:14:28] You got this, 

Melanie Shaw: [00:14:28] you got this, 

Todd Fiore: [00:14:30] you've got this, 

Cynthia Palmisano: [00:14:32] you got this, 

Tami Beaty : [00:14:32] you got this. 

Kennedy Maranga: [00:14:34] You got this, 

Vernon  Czelusniak: [00:14:36] you got this, 

Todd Fiore: [00:14:37] you've got this. 

Heather Frederick: [00:14:39] The Happy Doc Student Podcast is brought to you by ExpandYourHappy.Com and you can learn more there until next time. Go on, get out there and find your tribe.