Office Hours: Janelle Morris
Janelle Morris @FirstNameJae
English Ph.D. Student at Loyola University
M.A. in Africana Women’s Studies from Clark Atlanta University
B.A. in Political Science from Winthrop University
What inspired you to attend grad school?
Both of my parents have advanced degrees so it seemed only natural for me to go to grad school, too. I haven’t been able to really find a line of work that interests me nearly as much as school does. I don’t plan to be a professional student but grad school has given me the chance to really learn more about myself and my interests.
Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?
I had five papers accepted for conferences the first semester of my first year in grad school. The last one was an international conference in Paris. I was extremely proud of myself because my first year was so difficult for me. I had to withdraw from a course due to family issues and I didn’t feel like I was really supported by everyone in my department. I wanted to show that I was capable of the work so I started sending out abstracts on my own. I researched the conferences, submitted, and was accepted.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
Make sure you read before you write but don’t use reading as an excuse not to write. I had to tell myself this.
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
This is funny because I have a writing playlist and the song that gets played the most is Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
I am a parent so I have to consider my daughter before I make any decision. Having to consider someone else’s needs has forced me to be mindful of time management because all of things have to be taken care of but not at the expense of her quality of life.
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
I am smarter than I thought I was but at the same time not nearly as smart as I thought I was.
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?
Relax. You have something to contribute. You will become more confident as you read. Your voice will ring out.
How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?
Well I am a cis-het Black woman who studied Black women for two years in my MA program. I’m a mother to a daughter. I looked at the intersections of my identity and saw where I was also in a privileged position. Just having the ability to be in the academy can be considered a privilege. I see how being straight and able bodied is a privilege. I know that being a second-generation grad student, while still very challenging, has its privileges.
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
I honestly have no idea. I thought I wanted to teach but the academy is not a safe space for a Black woman. I want to find alternative ways to get the theories out there. There are some days I just want to quit and go to a trade school because I wonder if anyone really needs another Black woman talking about Black women and books.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
You’re never going to really be ready so you might as well just do it. Don’t come in thinking you know it all but also know that you know what you know. Find a group and be supportive of each other. Don’t let too many folks in on research topics until you have settled on them because intellectual property theft is real. Hold it down. Self care is critical for survival. Eat. Drink (water and wine). Travel when you can. Read a lot. Write something daily.
Follow Janelle on Twitter: @FirstNameJae