Office Hours: Emmanuel Little


Emmanuel Little @itsmrlittle

Higher Education Administration Ph.D. Student at University of Georgia


What inspired you to attend grad school?

Grad school has been a means to an end for me. I knew that if I wanted to stay in higher education, it would help to get those letters behind my name in order to move up professionally. Thus, I've been able to take advantage of tuition assistance programs in my state that allow me to continue working full-time while pursuing graduate degrees without paying out of pocket.


Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?

My proudest grad school moment was passing my written + oral comprehensive exams in Fall 2017. It was special for me because these exams were the one aspect of the doctoral process that I was truly worried about upon starting. I'd always heard the horror stories about failing, so it was impossible not to somewhat internalize those possibilities. I was more relieved than happy to pass my exams, but it's definitely a proud feeling I'll always remember. That's the moment when I said to myself "I'm really doing this!"


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?

Cherish the small victories. Dr. Blanca Vega told me that years ago and it always stuck with me. It's important to celebrate every milestone on this journey, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Small forward progress is *still* forward progress.


If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?

It has to be Kendrick Lamar's "Alright". That album (To Pimp A Butterfly) and song in particular has gotten me through so much since 2015. Particularly with all of the police brutality over the last several years and seeing Black people killed on video, I needed something to carry my spirit. "Alright" is just that knowledge that yes, we've been hurt and down before....but even at our lowest point, I remember that "God got us" & we'll be alright. That's a legit negro spiritual. 

It's going in my dissertation acknowledgements. Watch.


What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?

My biggest obstacle in grad school has been finding balance. Being a father, husband, full-time employee and finding the time to also work on myself as a scholar is not for the faint of heart. Much of my time as a grad student, I've worked in one city for part of the day, then driven 80 miles to another city for class. Then of course, having to drive back's exhausting!

I'm not sure I've "overcome" the challenges, but ways to cope and at least survive include:
-blocking out times in my calendar for EVERYTHING
-setting boundaries and learning to say "No" without apologies
-Out of office emails are my friend.


What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?

This experience has taught me that I am smart enough, but it was never really about that in the first place. It's taught me mostly that I am stronger than I believe myself to be, and that I am nothing without my support system. My wife has been all of this and more, truly. 

It's also taught me that more often than not, if I "shoot my shot", I will be successful. This has been true regarding my initial application to get into grad school, with conference presentation proposals, grants etc. The key is understanding what shots are actually worth taking (given potential rewards) & which are fool's gold.


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 close my laptop, forget about emails and allow myself to focus solely on PhD stuff for the time that I'm taking these courses. Distractions are never good. 

I would also tell myself to read more, even with aspects of my studies that don't interest me as much. It's important to be as well-read as possible in order to have a solid scholarly foundation. This is easy to say but much more difficult to put into practice, especially with the amount of reading required for many courses. 

Most importantly, I would tell myself to take care of ME. And if I don't know how to take care of ME, learn before starting a phd program. My stress levels, mental health, etc. would thank me later. Get. Some. Sleep.


How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?

As a Black first-generation Christian straight male, my identities have informed my experience because as I've learned more about different issues I wish to address in my work, it's required me to re-evaluate my own systemic privileges and disadvantages related to my identities. Learning to navigate the world better while being cognizant of this has helped me assert my own voice and help uplift that of others.


How do you intend to use your degree in the future?

I will use my degree to help increase access and opportunities for marginalized people, particularly those who share my background. My work up until this point has given me important perspective in seeing the multitude of institutionalized barriers Black & Brown students face just to get to college, not to mention graduating with a degree as well. So climbing is useless if I'm not using my newfound strength/knowledge to lift others with me. Exactly what that looks like in practice later? Who knows? But I intend to find out. Stay tuned.


What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?

I would tell anyone considering getting a PhD to think long and hard about WHY you want this. It will take its toll on you in ways you can scarcely imagine. If you cannot articulate what you want out of this and why, don't do it. If you know you want to do this and why, then I would tell this person to make sure they have a plan on how to get your graduate degree *paid for* as opposed to how to pay for it.

Feel free to reach out to Emmanuel:

Twitter and Instagram: @itsmrlittle, and website: