Office Hours: Kristen Kenner
Kristen Kenner @Kristensway
Public Management and Healthcare Policy M.P.A. Student at Baruch College
B.A. in Communications from Temple University
What inspired you to attend grad school?
I'm only the second person in my immediate family to obtain a college degree. I'll be the first to earn an advanced degree. Beyond wanting to make my family proud, I realized pretty early on the type of work I wanted to do and saw grad school as a way of pushing me forward and helping to "climb the corporate ladder" in the industry I chose (healthcare + communications).
Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?
Honestly, my proudest moment was being accepted into grad school! I received my acceptance letter on the last day of women's history month. Since then I've been doing all that I can to maintain good grades and not slow down at work (I still work full-time).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
The best piece of advice I tell myself is to remain focused on the end goal. There dare days (read: weeks) where I have a million competing priorities between work, school, my blog, and then some. My schedule may get shuffled, deadlines may shift, and I may need to ask for an extension on something, but no matter what I'm in it to get the degree and propel my career forward. Keeping that in mind keeps me going.
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
"Formation" by Beyonce. "I see it, I work hard, I grind til I OWN IT!"
Also, anything by the Queen Bey.
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
Managing my time. Work-life balance is extremely important to me, but it can be hard to achieve that when you're someone with many interests and pursuits.
For instance, I recently started a blog (The Mod Mentor) that offers advice and guidance to millennials in the form of a "virtual mentor". A lot of what I talk about on the blog are those everyday life occurrences and decisions one has to make related to careers, school, finance, and more (e.g. should I get another internship? am I too old to intern? when should I move out? how often should I update my resume? etc.) I offer perspective on those decisions from a mentors point of view for those who may or may not have one.
In order for me to successfully run the blog, maintain my standing in school, and make sure I'm not slacking at my 9-5 I have to manage my time wisely. If I don't add something to my phone's calendar it's like it was never planned. I also mark emails unread if I know I need to go back to them at some point and give a more detailed response. Also, everyday before I leave work I make a to-do list for the next day and star/highlight those tasks that absolutely MUST get done.
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
It's taught me that I am more disciplined than I thought. Before starting grad school I wondered how I would find time in a 24 hour day to fit in going to class, completing assignments, and studying for exams. In undergrad I went to school full time, but in grad I'm working full time. But one thing I've learned about myself is that I will (somehow) get it all done.
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?
I would tell myself to take it easy. In my first few semesters I was obsessed with being the student who pulled in A's on every assignment. I think it great to aim high, but I realize I spent a lot of time stressing myself trying to achieve perfection with each assignment. Now that the end is insight I realize that perfection isn't necessary, demonstrating overall comprehension of the subject matter and applying it to your work is what really counts.
How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?
I am a black american woman or as Malcolm X put it "the most disrespected person in America." It's been hard to be proud of myself for being the first person in my family to pursue an advanced degree while living in a country that reminds me everyday that my life (and the lives of the men and women who look me) doesn't matter. However, I continue to use my identity as my driving force to earn this degree and make a name for myself and open the door for other POC to follow.
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
I'm currently a communications manager at a healthcare company. I'm honored to have the job and career path that I do. I want to use my grad degree to dive deeper into healthcare and public health. Ultimately, I'd like to one day be the director of a healthcare facility/community organization that provides services for women and POC.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
Don't go broke trying to get a grad degree! I think many of us go all out and feel the need to go to a big name school/university for undergrad and some of that trickles over into our grad school decision. Unless you have a scholarship or 100% tuition reimbursement for grad school it is a-okay to go to the local community collage and get that grad degree. I'll be paying back my undergrad loans for awhile, but I have zero debt from going to a city college for grad school.