My name is Kimberly L. First I wanted to start off with a little info on me and my grad school journey
Currently I am a Doctoral student at Virginia State University (VSU). I’m working on my PhD in Health Psychology with a focus on Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. Currently, my research focus looks at intersectionality theory, gender roles, and gender consciousness and mental health (that’s my dissertation work which I will defend next week, my last stop on the road to getting my PhD!!!) I also have a Masters in Clinical Psychology and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology with a Women’s Studies minor.
Over the past 6 years that I have been at VSU, I have done research work with African American women and Sexual health in particular looking at the use of the female condom. My goal has always been to find ways in which to incorporate my love of gender studies into psychological research. I’m always looking to expand my knowledge and explore new areas, so I try not to limit myself too much. I really would love to get into more research on substance use, in particular alcoholism, and intervention programs that can be developed for adult children of alcoholics. I want to turn my personal experiences into programs that can help change individuals, communities and society overall.
Throughout my time in grad school, I have grown so much. When I first started, I was so scared to be not just in grad school but at an HBCU as well. Sounds strange right. Well, growing up, I was always told that I was “not black enough” because I was such a nerd (well…I still am a nerd or as I like to call it BLERD!!!). I did not do the same thing as everybody else, so I never felt like I fit in with any group. On one hand I had black people telling me I was “too white,” and white people did not really understand what it meant to be the “token black” in class or a group (can anyone else relate to that???). Not only did I feel like an outsider within the larger society, but I also felt like an outsider within my own cultural group. I just did not fit in anywhere.
Anyway, as I went to undergrad, I struggled so much. Not so much with coursework, but the social scene. I spent a great deal of time alone and trying to please others in order to make friends. I went through a long period of depression and developed anxiety issues (such as anxiety attacks) that I still struggle with to this day. Some of my issues came from growing up with an alcoholic father who constantly put me down. Other issues just came from not feeling as though I had a group to call mine. I did (and still) go to therapy just to have a chance to work through my problems with a neutral person (we all need that safe place). It wasn’t until the end of my undergrad journey where I met a group of women who changed my life (and for that I am forever grateful). I had finally met people who wanted me to be me. I did not have to act one way or another, I could just be myself.
After graduation, I came home and did some graduate work at VCU before going into my Master’s program at VSU. I was a whole new world for me. It took me a while to open up, the workload was insane, and by the middle of the first semester I was ready to throw in the towel and give up. Now 6 years later, I am one week away from being done with graduate school and having my PhD!!!
Through my time in grad school, I have learned so many lessons that I try to share with those who are up and coming in grad school. First lesson was that I was not in grad school to make friends, I was there to learn. Once that idea clicked, I did make connections with those that are better than the connections I had the beginning of my grad school journey.
Most importantly, I learned that grad school is not just about the work, it’s about finding out who you are. Yes. Will you know who you are by the end?…NOPE, but you will not be the same person you were at the beginning. This piece of advice was something that did not make sense until the end, but I love to share it now because grad school is a journey, not a destination. Take it one day at a time, build an awesome support system, and know that even through the difficult moments, YOU WILL MAKE IT!!!