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Drew's Story

Working on his dissertation

Started Fall, 2015

Why graduate school?
I decided to attend graduate school for two reasons. First is the knowledge that graduate and terminal degrees produce higher quality positions, pay and social standing. Second is simply my love of school. I grew up in a family of educators and have always valued the ability to learn and increase my own awareness of the world.

Why did you select UNC?
I selected UNC because I was recruited to come here. During my master’s I made it known that I was searching for a Ph.D. program in the Higher Education field. Through recommendations from previous faculty I met my current doctoral chair, cultivated a relationship and ultimately was able to find a home here at UNC.

What do you hope to do with your degree?
My degree is designed to offer me multiple options when I graduate. First, I have the practitioner based knowledge of higher education that would allow me to work directly for a university. Based on my experience this can include Residential Life, Admissions or Athletics. But ultimately, I will be a college professor in an education department. My love of the classroom has kept me inside the university system and I plan to use this passion to connect with future students.

Drew's Headshot

Graduate Program

Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership, Ph.D.

Previous Degrees

B.S. – Communication – 2013
University of Louisville
M.Ed.  – College Student Personnel – 2015
University of Louisville

Is there anything that has surprised you about graduate school?
I am in my third year as a doctoral student and already beginning to write my dissertation. The main thing that I have found appealing is the autonomy created by the process. Through my first two degrees all of my work was prescribed by the faculty; they told me what to write about, how to do it and when it was due. The dissertation process is not like that, it is designed to give each individual student the ability to be themselves. For me, this means I am able to research a topic that interests me, contains a real connection to my life and is something that provides me an avenue to voice my own thoughts. While structure is nice in some aspects, the ability to think the way I want is the reason I pursued a doctoral degree.

Are there resources at UNC that you find particularly helpful as you work through your degree program?
Many! To start, UNC has created an atmosphere where any student can find the things they need to be successful. The university offers a wide enough array of services to meet the needs of all students. The resources here that have helped me the most are very unconventional and connect to my personal learning/writing style. The first one has been the UNC Athletic Department, this office has provided me a unique ability to step away from my life as a student and escape into the world of sport. The second is the Outdoor Pursuit office. This is the office on campus that facilitates all of the outdoor activities that can be found in Colorado, which seems to be never-ending! My love of the outdoors has been fueled by the resources and guidance located there. I firmly believe in the ability to step away, for however brief a time, and clear your head. Nothing does that like the mountains of Colorado! Lastly, my writing has been challenged, improved and cultivated by the relationships I have inside my program. The people I have worked with over the last three years have helped define my time here at UNC.

Are there strategies you have found helpful with staying on track with writing your thesis, capstone or dissertation?
The first thing to consider is that everyone is different. While there are some proven tactics for staying on track, each student must understand and capitalize on their own strengths. For me, I stay productive by staying busy (an easy thing to achieve as a Ph.D. student). I know my academic self well enough to know that if I have multiple projects running at the same time, I am able to keep myself motivated to complete them. This links directly to my biggest piece of advice; make a plan. The dissertation process is long, arduous and sometimes overwhelming; to mitigate the intensity of the writing it helps to set specific due dates for yourself. These need to be written down and hopefully looked at by another person. By setting goals and creating a type of game out of reaching them, it makes the whole process seem controllable.

Do you have any advice for students who may be considering whether or not to pursue a graduate degree at UNC?
The best advice I have for anyone considering this endeavor is to take some time and attempt to understand yourself before you begin. The graduate school process, especially at  the doctoral level, is incredibly personal. The learning is no longer about the degree, it is about making yourself a better student, friend/partner and person. To be successful, I believe it is necessary to understand why you want to make such a commitment and what you intend to get out of the experience; because it is just that, an experience. You do not begin any type of graduate-level work solely focused on the outcome, the journey through the degree is often more important and fulfilling.