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Dontá Council @DONTACOUNCIL
Public Administration & Policy Ph.D. Student at Old Dominion University
What inspired you to attend graduate school?
I came into college knowing that I wanted to be an attorney. After interning for a law firm in undergrad, I knew that the law field was not of interest to me. However, I still had a deep rooted passion for public service. I decided to pursue the MPA program. After working in the nonprofit field for a couple of years and attending various conferences, I began to gain an interest in teaching and research. Shortly after my exposure in attending various conference, I began to seek admissions to a Ph.D. program in public policy and administration.
What was your proudest grad school moment?
My proudest graduate school moment so far has been obtaining my masters degree. I am a first generation college student, so the collegiate career path was not one that I was extremely comfortable with. I struggled a bit in undergrad and graduate school. I was not proud of my GPA, but I was most certainly proud that I set out to accomplish a goal, and I achieved it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
The best piece of advice I got in graduate school was to be a self-advocate. The discipline it takes to complete graduate level coursework requires there to be a level of self-responsibility and motivation. I really had to learn to be more organized and to plan ahead to complete my work.
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
I would definitely have to say "Hustle Hard" by Ace Hood. I remember when T.I. was on a show and someone asked him why do rappers continue to talk about struggles. His response was brilliant. If they stopped experiencing struggles, they wouldn’t rap about it. "Hustle Hard" definitely hits home for me. I could literally do a lyrical analysis and relate about 70% of the song to the black graduate life. Most of us out here are hustlin’ hard. Our programs and personal lives demand us to do somethings the impossible. Our journeys compass the epitome of overcoming trouble and triumph through our everyday hustle. It definitely helps me get my day started every now and then.
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
One of my biggest obstacles I’ve had in grad school is being too involved in my family’s struggle while trying to pursue a doctorate. I definitely have what they consider “survivor’s guilt” and many of the issues that my family faces I end up taking on as a burden. It has caused me an extreme amount of anxiety and stress that becomes overwhelming from time to time. One of the strategies that I have used to overcome it has been to attend counseling on a regular basis. The process has definitely been enlightening, learning to accept the woes of life and drawing boundaries, and learning healthy ways of coping versus the maladaptive coping mechanisms.
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
The experience has definitely taught me that I am much more resilient that I thought I was. I have truly learned to bounce back from major struggles both academically and personally.
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?
If I could give myself advice, it would be to not date during graduate school. It lowkey has been nothing but a distraction and it hasn’t yielded any desirable results, yet. LOL.
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
I plan to enter the academy upon completion of my degree. My ultimate career goal is to be a university president. My alternative career goal is to be a life coach.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
The world is yours if you’re willing to desire it.
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