This weekend I went down to FAMU since 2 of my cousins were graduating. One graduated with a bachelor’s and the other with both a bachelor’s &  master’s. They’re both business majors and I am happy to see them accomplish a great feat of graduating from college. In the midst of all the terrible things happening to black males I can gladly say that I am related to two that are doing great things.

While I was at the graduation I was so surprised to see so many Black women graduating with PhDs in STEM fields. I honestly almost teared up. Being in that environment was so uplifting! No, but seriously.

This feeling was honestly overwhelming. While I was sitting in the bleachers it finally hit me that I actually just finished my first year of this PhD. I actually did the unthinkable, at least for me. I would have never went for this PhD if it wasn’t for my undergraduate research advisor, Dr. Kristy Boyer. Honestly I owe her a lot more than she will ever know. All it takes is a little inspiration from someone who can actually get you started and  believes in you. (I’ll probably make another  posts to talk about her and other motivators 😍 ).

This year has been a bit of a roller coaster but I think that’s what has made it so amazing. It’s the nature of research.  I’ve learned a lot about what I’m capable of doing, how mind blowing  research can be, and understanding things that are truly out my control. This year I learned to step out of my comfort zone. Dr. Parnin, my advisor, has encouraged and challenged me in ways that honestly help me grow. From data crunching to conducting interviews for my latest research. From blogging about my research to practicing my scholarly writing.

But that’s what I think what the PhD program is all about; stepping outside your comfort zone. Really, how can you expect to get better without pushing yourself to that next level.

Who would’ve thought sitting in the auditorium to watch my cousins cross the stage would warrant so much reflection. I guess being around family really brought out the humble beginnings of the journey and the beauty of the finish line.  Being around those encouraging vibes lets me know that this  journey will definitely be one for the books.

Denae Ford is a third year PhD student in Computer Science at North Carolina State University. 

Follow Denae on Instagram @dee.nae

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