Office Hours: Marques R. Dexter
Marques R. Dexter @MarquesDexter
Kinesiology, Sport Management & Policy Ph.D. Student at University of Georgia
M.S. in Kinesiology, Sport Management & Policy from University of Georgia
B.S./B.A. in Sport Management from Robert Morris University
What inspired you to attend grad school?
I went and pursued my master’s degree right after my bachelors because it was instilled within me that the degree was needed to be marketable and successful. In addition, I was interested in pursuing coaching as a career, so I was able to obtain a volunteer position at UGA with their Cross Country/Track & Field staff. My doctorate degree is different. My mentors in undergrad (all Black faculty) kept putting in my mind that they foresaw me continuing my education and kept asking me “When’s Dr. Dexter going to happen?” Having such prominent representations of Black excellence see such excellence within me provided perpetual affirmation. So, when I lost my love of coaching, compounded by the loss of one of my mentors to cancer, I decided to stop allowing fear to hold power over me and I quit my job, emptied my retirement, moved 1000mi from upstate New York to Fayetteville, Georgia, and I committed to doing everything I needed to in order to be admitted and attend UGA for my doctorate degree.
Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?
Whew! Each semester has provided so many blessings. Yet, I would have to say the best moment so far is one that was a result of a rejection. You see, I applied for a graduate research grant; my first ever grant proposal. I spent hours getting feedback and making edits before I finally submitted last May (2017). From there, I waited months until the notification date (October 1st). Well, it came and nothing! A week went by and finally I received the rejection e-mail. Typically, one would assume this wouldn’t be good news. For me it was, as I took on a leadership role on campus and had to conduct an independent study for my program requirements; I knew that my year was going to be crazy. Nevertheless, I contacted the committee back and asked for feedback on my proposal. Here’s where things go from good to great, when I finally got the chance to speak with the director of the grant program, she had nothing but rave reviews of my proposal. There were only a few lingering unknowns that, although I was a finalist (Top 10), I did not make the cut for the 8 awardees. Yet, for the first time ever embarking on what is considered one of the most daunting tasks as a scholar, my work was applauded for its excellence and was practically begged to reapply with minor adjustments. This news caused me to have a smile on my face bigger than the Joker’s. To be a first-year doctoral student (at the time of the application submission), not coming from a research background, and I’m getting applauded for the quality of my work, well, I’m still in awe of the affirmation such an experience provided.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
Do NOT compare yourself to your peers! This is your journey!
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
Nina Simone’s "To Be Young, Gifted and Black." Other than the fact that it describes my very existence and experiences navigating the educational system of our country, it is also special, as my research focuses on academically and athletically high-achieving African American males; a population that is frequently described as deficient. As I embark on pursuing a research agenda that shall provide counter narratives to such salient tropes, it also is a reminder of the excellence that I embody! #BlackBoyJoy
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
My biggest obstacle is and has always been myself; I am my own worst and toughest critic. I set high expectations for myself, because I feel as if the work I do, all of my accomplishments, every person I impact, my family, friends, mentors…everything I do is for them and I do not want to let them down.
To combat this, I’ve set limits for myself. I leave my laptop in my office to not allow myself to bring school home with me. This becomes my time to disconnect and exist outside of school. I also take naps and binge watch shows. Additionally, I set rewards for myself. When I have a goal and it is achieved (can be tasks also), I set rewards with them. That way I know what the prize is, and I can pursue it knowing what will be the “spoils.”
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
This journey has certainly taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned how imperfect I am, and that this imperfection should be accepted. It also taught me that my limitations are virtually endless. There’s so much more I have been able to pull from myself that I never thought I could handle or do. Lastly, I have learned that the journey is about so much more than myself. I feel as if I am affecting change with the knowledge I am absorbing, and that this knowledge can be used to make a difference for others. This journey isn’t about just the paper, the status, the title I carry, but the sacrifices so many have and continue to make in order for me to be where I am. Because of this, I feel a duty, an obligation, to pay it forward!
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?
That maroon and grey sweater vest was not poppin, bruh! LOL! But seriously, I would probably tell myself to relax more and stop worrying about the future, what others think of you, what you believe you should do; that you need to live more in the present and have FUN!
How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?
I have been blessed to get to a point where I can finally bring all of me, the queer, Black, cis-gen male from Philly, who is a silly, sophistaratchet, boughetto nerd, and take up as much space as I want. Living and presenting a more holistic version of me to the world has been liberating!
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
My intentions are to seek out a post-doc position (should I not get a GOOD faculty position right away) and to conduct research that causes society to see Black males achieving as a normalized thing. Eventually, I would like to progress into higher education administration by becoming a college Dean, or even a Provost.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
Don’t be afraid of change, but don’t feel as if you MUST change who you are to be respected and understood. Embrace all of you and throw dem bows to every doubt that tries to hinder you from living your best life!
Feel free to reach out to Marques: firstname.lastname@example.org
Instagram and Twitter: @MarquesDexter