So I Met Celeste Watkins-Hayes… *runs in circles* #phdchat #blackedu #hiphoped

So today, I got to tell one of my academic sheroes that she inspired me to embark upon this journey. (I probably also should’ve told her I don’t hold it against her on the days when I’m upset, just in case she finds this blog, LOL.)

Me + Celeste Watkins-Hayes * same table = SUPERGIDDY

Me + Celeste Watkins-Hayes  X same table = MANDA SUPERGIDDY

For all the drama we endure in this program, we have some absolutely fabulous opportunities to rub elbows with the world’s top scholars. I specifically requested that this particular scholar come to visit this year and I’m ecstatic that the coordinators were able to make it happen! In case you’re wondering, her presentation was on the results of The Health, Hardship and Renewal Study, which investigates how women with HIV/AIDS navigate (or avoid) existing services. It turns out quite a few people in my program are focusing on the same or similar issues.

As a bonus, I was able to score a one-on-one with Dr. Watkins-Hayes after her talk! *runs in more circles* Of course, I started by gushing about how we read her book in my first Master’s program and how much I appreciated her work. She seemed genuinely shocked when I told her she inspired me. I don’t understand this shock, but I digress.

After asking about my research interests, Dr. Watkins-Hayes gave me some pointers for how to direct my study. I hadn’t thought of the things she suggested, but I think I have a great article/background chapter idea on my hands. I’d been mulling over parts of the points she made, but sometime you really need that one conversation to make everything coherent. \o/

We also talked about what it’s like to be a Black woman in academia (and yeah, I said “navigate ‘Blackademia.'” She thought it was cute, lol.) Dr. Watkins-Hayes encouraged me to build my village, in addition to my committee. I kind of expected that part, but definitely needed to hear it. However, what she said next threw me for a loop for half a minute minute:

Busy academics have lots of requests, so you have to get their attention by doing good research.
How does someone filter requests? They often choose who they will work with based on the quality of your work.

I'll let you people have your celebrities; I enjoy my researchers just fine, thankyouverymuch.

You people can have your celebrities; I like my researchers, thankyouverymuch. Also: click the image for a link to purchase the book.

In retrospect, I’m not quite sure why I was shocked by this. It only took a minute for me to connect the dots: working with a student needs to be beneficial to both parties – the student AND the professor. Besides, who has time or patience to try to drag along an under-performer or someone who just wants to ride along on your good name?

Although I pretty much have 2/3 of my committee set, I’ve spent a good portion of this year worried about who my outside person will be. Talking with Dr. Watkins-Hayes reminded me that I need to slow down and get through all the steps of my process. I haven’t published anything for anybody’s journal yet; I really need to focus on that. The outside person will come once I build real relationships with the advisors I have in my own department. Duh, Amanda Michelle, duh.

So anyhoo, #shoutout to Courtney Patterson, a fellow Penn Alumna who gets to be Dr. Watkins-Hayes’ Research Assistant (of course, I name dropped). I shall continue to jealous you, but GO QUAKERS, anyway!

Oh yeah… Dr. Watkins-Hayes also told me, “It is better to have your babies now. Of course, you always want to pick a time that’s best for you, but there never is a ‘good time’. Trying to have babies when you’re on the tenure track is incredibly stressful. Plus, the longer you wait, the harder it may be to get pregnant.”

*le sigh*

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