A Day In The Life of A Fourth Year Doctoral Candidate

Dominiqua Griffin


I don’t consider myself a writer.

I always excelled in Mathematics and I naturally performed well in English. I began my undergraduate career as a Biomedical Sciences major at the University at Buffalo. Somewhere during my freshwomen year I found myself snotty nosed, crying and walking across the campus talking to my grandparents about how I was not happy in my science and math courses. I held onto my hopes of becoming an optometrist, but I realized by my junior year that I would not be content in the field. I always had dreams of becoming a doctor and leading whatever field I entered. To this day, my bio on Facebook says “I’m more than what meets the eye, so you can start calling me doctor” which I wrote sometime in 2008 or 2009. I “hated” the science aspect of the field, but I loved the one on one experience with the clients. Microbiology, the second time around solidified my decision, I failed the class and I haven’t looked back. My high school internship, accompanied by the being an RA on campus, orientation aide position, volunteering in the admissions office, recruiting students from my high school, and speaking at the diversity recruitment events allowed me to understand my gift more clearly. I decided to switch to Sociology with a minor in African American Studies to pursue a career in School Counseling. With this career path, I would be able to keep the individualized time with clients and students, and discuss education, post-secondary options and emotional concerns my students were dealing with. My study abroad opportunity in London during my senior year further established my decision because I was able to counsel adolescent girls in a secondary school.

In 2011 I entered the master’s program at Howard University and concentrated in Guidance and Counseling, in which I was met with a new set of challenges. I had just returned from the international counseling experience and I realized I needed travel to be a part of my work, along with understanding different cultures. Limiting myself to being a school counselor felt underwhelming and I knew I wanted to affect change at a macro and institutional level. After attending Black Mecca and living #Beychella in real life (shoutout to Black Women everywhere) I worked briefly as a school counselor at a middle school in DC. I applied to doctoral programs mostly in International Education, and the one program that I was accepted into I obtained four years of full funding (tuition, assistantship, stipend, and health care for four years).

Currently, I am a fourth-year doctoral candidate (ABD) at The Pennsylvania State University, in the Counselor Education and Supervision program, with a Dual Title in Comparative and International Education. My research focuses on school counseling in Barbados, and understanding the roles, practices, challenges and demands of school counselors. My work extends to school family community partnerships and expanding college access for minoritized students both domestically and internationally. I just returned from Barbados but I was living there for the past 8.5 months, working as a counseling intern in one of their secondary schools, collecting data (interviewing and observing counselors), and establishing rapport with the counselors and Ministry of Education, I spent weekends on the beach, snorkeling with sea turtles, fetes, exercising, eating cou cou and flying fish, fried pork, drinking mauby, spent my birthday in St. Lucia, saw shooting stars on the beach, co-taught an online course, and applied to jobs. During the day I would write down minute by minute observations of how the school counselors interacted with students, parents, administration, the Ministry, the community, and other counselors. Sometimes I would have to step in and counsel the students or teach the guidance lesson if the counselor had another obligation. I would then go home, type my notes and think of questions that came up for me after observing or interviewing the counselors. I had many meetings with my advisor at Penn State along the way. Now I am in the final stage of analyzing the data and writing my dissertation (six-chapter book on the study) and I will be defending the study during the summer.

Even though I am constantly on the go, from writing to attending conferences, and analyzing data I still find time for self-care and showing up for my family, friends, and most importantly, MYSELF. I’ve been exercising pretty consistently, including more water intake, and doing things that I love. I truly believe that we need to gravitate to people, places, and spaces where our entire being is welcomed, where our work is appreciated, and we can breathe freely. I co-created, along with Latoya Haynes-Thoby, a digital platform for Black Women that are earning or already have their doctoral degrees, called Black Women PhDs (IG/FB/Twitter: @blackwomenphds) and we feature Black Women with PhDs and current doctoral students. We also discuss issues related to the PhD experience. I personally needed a space where I could bounce ideas off of like minded individuals and highlight the remarkable, underacknowledged achievements of BlackWomenPhDs. We are often the only one in our departments, our families, our cohorts, on the job, and in the office with this unique experience, doing the “silent work” that our white counterparts do not have to interface with, which we deal with on a daily basis.  We realized that we needed a space for US, to celebrate our work and accomplishments because many do not understand the layered experience of obtaining a PhD. My purpose for including this point: create the space you want if you do not see yourself reflected in the spaces around you. You are your greatest asset and you are meant to flourish and walk in your light, FULLY.

Am I a writer? I write because it is a part of a greater story but not my full label, just a component of the many ways I choose to share my light.

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