Office Hours: Derrick Pollock
Derrick Pollock @dpollock23
Curriculum and Instruction Ph.D. Student at Florida State University
M.S. in Foreign and Second Language Teaching from Florida State University
B.S. in Psychology from Florida State University
What inspired you to attend grad school?
Well, I initially had no intention of going to graduate school, but I knew I did not want to go back home. I started researching graduate school and was not interested in psychology for graduate school because I no longer had a passion for it, but I did for learning (Spanish especially) and teaching others. I spoke with my Spanish professor, and he told me the best way to get better at something is to teach it, and so he suggested the Master of Science in Foreign Language Teaching. Flash forward, I became an adjunct at FAMU and realized many Black students had no interest in learning Spanish or any language for that matter and I wanted to know who. So, I applied for my Ph.D. program and got accepted.
Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?
The proudest moment in graduate school for me was getting my proposal accepted at an international conference in Hawaii this past January. First of all, yes, it was a trip to freaking Hawaii. Lol But more importantly for me, getting accepted at an international conference showed me that my research and hard work matters. I didn't need to present with anyone on a topic in which I had no interest. It was great! Nerve-wrecking, but great!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
his may or may not apply to Master's students depending if they are pursuing a thesis. However, the best piece of advice I got was that "the process to completing your thesis/dissertation is like a trip on a bus. You are the driver, and your committee members are the experienced passengers that help guide you to ultimately where YOU want to go. At times, you may let them take control and drive you down a path they find interesting or know a little bit more about, but you have to take it back because only you know where it is you want to go for this trip." That reference basically means: your committee members and your advisor may tell you "consider this route for your interest because I am more familiar in this area" and sometimes you should oblige them to get through your thesis/dissertation, but ultimately it's about what you want because you have to do the research and write the final report.
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
"911" by Wyclef John ft. Mary J. Blige. Like I said, emotional health is vital. A lot of times I felt so bad and depressed. I didn't want to be around anyone or do anything. The Ph.D. was the lover that just always got me to a dark place but like the song says "But every time I look into your eyes Then it's worth the sacrifice." I had to look at the reason why I was pursuing the degree, and that also helped to get me through.
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
My most significant obstacle in graduate school has been the infamous "impostor-syndrome." Throughout my whole graduate career, I have felt like I should not be in my program and each time I reach and pass a significant milestone I feel like it was just because of luck. For me, I searched and got me BLACK mentors. I felt that was part of the reason I felt like an impostor because there were not many Black people in my program. In fact, one of them was my wife during my masters, and I was the only Black doctoral student in my cohort of about 15-20. But yeah, my mentors helped me to build more self-confidence in the skills I developed and already had. Additionally, speaking about it with friends in the doctoral program as well helped so much.
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
When put under pressure, I can be more resilient than I thought. There were so many times I wanted to give up in the beginning but then as time went along I started to become relentless when something wasn't right with my track to get out of this degree. I began to call professors out on their laziness and gave firm nos when I felt something was not justifiable. If you knew half of my experience in this degree, you'd understand how significant it was for me..
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?
"Take care of your emotional health. When you feel like you are getting down, don't be ashamed to see a professional."
I would say this because I fell into a dark place during the pursuit of my doctoral degree (definitely not ashamed to admit it). Thankfully I have a wife who knew better (shout out to bae!) and suggested I go to counseling. In the Black community, a lot of times we are raised to keep our business to ourselves, "what happens in this house, stays in this house... Keep people out your business." I lived by that, and now I realize it wasn't healthy. Seeing a counselor was the best thing I could have done. It saved my marriage and saved my life.
How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?
As a first-generation Black male, I would say I've had a more difficult experience because there are just some things you are expected to know about graduate school and know about the process. I felt like I was always playing catch up. Also, it took a while for me to get comfortable with my topic. I felt like I always got the side eye when asked about my research interests, to which I replied "Black students' motivation to pursue a foreign language." At first, I was not confident when I said it, but my mentor told me to "own it and be confident!" So that is where I am now. If I don't research to make improvements for my people, who will?
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
As the title of this site says, I'm "just tryna graduate." When I get through, I will let you know. Lol no, before I went through the gauntlet, I wanted to be a director of my own foreign language center in South America. That hasn't changed but the path to get there I am contemplating very slowly right now.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
It is hard work, but it can be done. Find a mentor and follow the footprints in the sand of how they made it through.
Feel free to reach out to Derrick: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Instagram: @dpollock23