Office Hours: Raven K. Cokley
Raven K. Cokley, M.Ed., NCC @brilliantblkgrl
Counselor Education Ph.D. Student at University of Georgia
What inspired you to attend grad school?
I always knew that I wanted to go to graduate school, because (initially) I wanted to be a counseling psychologist. However, after completing my master’s in community counseling, I discovered that I could make a greater impact in Counselor Education. Aside from my career aspirations, I am also pursuing a doctorate because I want to break generational curses of poverty within my family. I also want to provide access and opportunities to other Black students from single-parent homes.
Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?
My proudest grad school moment (thus far) has been achieving a 4.0 my first year. While grades are NOT the main focus in graduate school, I still appreciated knowing that I could do the work required of a doctoral student and that I could do it well.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
“You can’t read everything”. I was determined to prove that this wasn’t true. However, in a doctoral program, you really can’t read everything! Once I accepted this advice, grad school became a little easier.
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
"Freedom" by Beyoncé: So much of my Black grad journey has been about my own freedom and liberation and that of Black communities. My work, research, writing, etc., centers Black communities and Black brilliance, because I believe that a GOOD, equitable educational system can help us find our freedom. Education (especially higher education), should be liberating. Until it is, “I’ma keep running ‘cause a winner don’t quit on themselves”.
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
My biggest obstacle has been maintaining a support system. I find myself doing damage control at the end of every semester because my friends/family feel I have neglected them for my studies. I now practice strategies like setting firm boundaries about when I am and am not available. I am just learning to be more upfront about my schedule and hope that those closest to me will understand in the long run.
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
I am brilliant. I am capable and brilliant. I can do this work and I deserve to be here.
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?
GO TO BED. I would stay up until 3:00, 4:00, or even 5:00 am my first semester, trying to read every line of every article and trying to make sure everything was perfect. I wasn’t sleeping well (or enough) and I felt tired all the time. Grad school is exhausting enough without being that harsh on my body. I can go to bed and still produce quality work!
How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?
Being a Black Christian woman from a single-parent home, my existence in academia is resistance. I am a first gen doc student (shout out to #firstgendocs), and by most standards, I’m not “supposed” to be here. As a result, I’ve found that everything that I do in my program (including presentations at conferences, mentorship outside of my program, etc.) is political. My research, teaching interests, and activism efforts are all personal and political. Intentionally centering Black people (specifically, Black women) in my work allows me to resist with my writing and is a form of empowerment.
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
My career goals at the moment include academia, where I would like to research and teach (within a counselor education program). I would also like to work for TRiO or another college access program, like College Summit.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
Become clear on your goals. You don’t have to know everything that you want to do right now, but you need to have an idea before beginning your program. Also, practice setting FIRM boundaries. Protect your time (it matters). Lastly, you can do this and you are NOT an imposter! Academia will tell you that you don’t belong here…resist, anyway.
Feel free to reach out to Raven: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Twitter: @brilliantblkgrl, and Instagram: @futuredrcokley
Personal website: ravenkcokley.com