What sparked your interest in Higher Education and Student Affairs?
One of the first individuals I met at New York University was the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, an influential mentor in my life. With his guidance and advice, I searched for ways I could get involved at the university. I was your archetypal student leader – an RA, co-founded a student organization, and more. Through this involvement I began to discover my life passion.
As a first-generation college student, I recognize college can be an overwhelming and transformative time in a person's life. Higher education often serves as a place where students start to gain a stronger sense of self and develop some crucial life skills. For me, student affairs became my way to support these collegians as they navigate this integral period of their life. In particular, I advocate for equitable and inclusive practices within higher education for individuals from historically marginalized backgrounds.
Why did you choose Ohio State for your doctoral studies?
The Ohio State University was an obvious choice for my doctoral studies. The Higher Education and Student Affairs program immediately stood out to me. The faculty do such innovative work, especially around student development and college impact. Getting to know the current students also showed me that this would be a place where I would be simultaneously supported in my scholarly journey while also being challenged in a productive manner. Ohio State, as an institution, has a variety of resources available to its graduate students, whether it's in the form of research grants, methodology workshops, and more. I knew that the HESA program, the Department of Educational Studies, and the College of Education and Human Ecology would be a space where I could be exposed to numerous opportunities and develop my scholar identity in the process.
Why is the culture of the HESA program so important to you?
As an aspiring faculty member, I frequently pay attention to the ways a department’s or program's culture can significantly affect the trajectory of a graduate student. For this reason, I asked a great deal of questions about program culture when applying for my doctorate. As someone who thrives on supportive environments, Ohio State's HESA program lined up perfectly with my core values.
The scholarly community within the HESA program and Ohio State, as a whole, is one that promotes care and not competition. Our faculty members consider us colleagues, appreciating our perspectives in and out of the classroom. Students can often be seen meeting with faculty on campus, talking about the latest hot topic in higher education or discussing each other's research interests.
The same could be said for the student peer culture. I consider my doctoral cohort members to be some of my closest friends in Columbus. They are people whom I can reach out to for a manuscript peer review or play games with at Dave and Buster's. Ultimately, the supportive culture in the Ohio State HESA program bonds students together and makes us better scholar-practitioners.
What is the focus of your academic studies?
My research interests broadly seek to understand the experiences of students from historically underserved backgrounds in higher education. Specifically, most of my research focuses on collegians with multiple marginalized identities, attempting to advance asset-based perspectives about these populations. A major scholarly interest of mine under this umbrella involves centering queer students of color, a demographic that is still under-researched. Thus far, I have done some work on queer students of color as a larger demographic and have also studied the experiences of queer Latino men in higher education. Additionally, I have developed an agenda around new professionals and graduate students in higher education and student affairs, another passion area of mine.
How have the faculty at Ohio State helped you develop your scholarship?
The faculty have been such fierce advocates of my scholarship throughout my past two years here. My advisor, Dr. Susan Jones, was a big proponent of me engaging in individual research during my first year at Ohio State. With her support and mentorship, I completed a qualitative study investigating the concepts of belonging and resiliency for queer students of color. From helping formulate my IRB materials to working with me as I developed manuscripts from this project, Dr. Jones has been an important part of my research experiences at Ohio State. Other faculty have also been more than willing to have HESA students join them in their research projects. In my first year, I was able to assist Dr. Matthew Mayhew and his team with the Assessment of Collegiate Residential Environments and Outcomes survey, involvement that I continue onto this day. Ohio State is a great place for those looking to get hands-on research experience during their doctoral studies.
How would you describe Columbus and what it has to offer?
For me, Columbus is the perfect combination of a small town and a big city. First, Columbus definitely has a Midwest town feeling, making it feel like a welcoming community for most. Second, it has everything that a city should offer - lots of delicious restaurants, arts and cultural experiences, and more. It was pretty easy to transition to Columbus as a first-year doctoral student. There are tons of small coffee shops that are perfect for writing days, as well as great neighborhoods like the Short North and German Village to explore when taking breaks from schoolwork!
What do you do when you aren’t studying?
When I am not studying, you can often find me in a local coffee shop enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, my personal favorite drink. Moreover, I enjoy exploring Columbus restaurants and breweries with friends. Thursday nights have also become a consistent trivia night for my cohort and me to work our brains in a different way. Additionally, Columbus has beautiful spots for running and exploring especially during the fall and spring. Ultimately, lots of fun experiences and places exist in Columbus, perfect for an Ohio State PhD student.
What advice would you give to students who want to study HESA at Ohio State?
Identify your passion areas. I am a big proponent that doctoral education should be infused with love. It works best when you love what you do, love who you are with, and love your goals. Connected to this, individuals who want to study at Ohio State HESA should definitely reach out and connect with current students (me included!). Ask critical questions about your interests and how they would align with those currently in the program. This is your opportunity to find a place that is going to help you discover your scholarly voice in the field of higher education. We hope that Ohio State HESA can be that place! Go Bucks!