Office Hours: Jacinta Yanders
English Ph.D. Student at The Ohio State University
M.A. in English and American Literature
B.A. in English Education
What inspired you to attend grad school?
For a long time, I imagined I might go back to school at some point and get an MA. But I wasn’t always sure what it would be in. I’ve always loved learning though, and I knew there’d probably come a day when I wanted to be a student again. I didn’t really know I wanted the PhD until I was about halfway through my MA. Something clicked in me about the work I was doing that made me want to keep going.
Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?
One of my students won two departmental awards for a final project they made in my class. I love that my student felt confident enough about something they produced for me to submit it for an award and that a bunch of other educators, in determining the winner, looked at that work and saw how significant it was. Teaching is very important to me, and I’ve always to give my students assignments that allow them to create work they’re proud of. This is an instance in which I was able to achieve that goal.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
Schedule your work time on your calendar.
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
I feel like this is something that my response to would vary from day to day. But today, I’ll say “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato.
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
I think one of the biggest struggles has been maintaining my sense of self. There are definite ways in which academia wants you to fit a certain template…to walk, talk, and act a certain way. I learned how to play parts a long time ago, but the older I’ve gotten, the less willing I’ve been to hide myself. I want to be successful here, but I also want to make sure that when I come out on the other side, I’m still me. I’m not really sure about overcoming this to be honest, but one thing I do is try to give myself as many spaces to be real as possible.
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
I can do a lot of things, but I should probably not be doing everything at once.
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself?
Ask more questions.
How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?
I think that being in grad school has made me more self-aware of various aspects of my identity than I had been before I started my MA in 2012. Part of that is just a by-product of a lot of hours of reading about theory and identity, but also more so than undergrad, I can see multiple ways in which grad school was not made for me. I’m not supposed to be here, and academia makes that pretty clear on a regular basis. But I’m here, and I’m doing well. I’m working with folks from backgrounds similar to mine who are brilliant and beautiful as well, and though academia may not be made for me, I’ve also found allies that are actively engaged in changing that, which makes me slightly optimistic for the future.
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
Ideally, I would like to teach at the college level and to continue to do research in my areas of interest. With the job market as it currently is, I’m not sure what the likelihood is of that occurring, but it’s still the goal.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
Because of the aforementioned job market, I find it challenging to actually encourage someone to go to grad school right now (assuming they actually want a job in academia). But if it’s something they’re committed to doing, then my main piece of advice would be to seek resources. There’s quite a lot of useful information about applying to and thriving in grad school available on social media and elsewhere online. Sometimes we don’t have access to the networks in our real lives that would pass this info on verbally, but there are people all around the world that I’ve talked to online that have helped me at different stages in the grad school process. The other thing I would advise is that once you get here, you should help other folks, especially folks who you know might be similarly locked out of networks of information. I share as much as I can with other folks because I think we do better working together.
Feel free to reach out to Jacinta: firstname.lastname@example.org