Lesson 1: Don't Lose Your Path
In his poem, The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost wrote, "Two roads diverge in the woods, and I took the one least traveled by/ And that has made all the difference." In this poem, the narrator had a choice of two roads. However, I've discovered that life is a little more complicated. Sometimes the path we embark on is not always the one we choose. Sometimes we are pushed or pulled in certain directions and we have to react to our environment.
My path to a college education has been filled with bumps, potholes, detours and roadblocks. The signs often read "yield" and "do not enter." The path has not always been clear, but I've kept my eyes opened, focused on the road ahead, and the experience has made all the difference.
During my freshman year in high school, my mother remarried and I had to move from Colorado to Kentucky. One year later, we relocated back to Colorado after they divorced. During my junior year in high school, my mother remarried again and I had to change schools again, although we remained in Colorado. Thus, I did not have a sense of continuity during high school and although I recognized that my path would lead me to college, I was not ready to commit myself to school full time. Instead I went to work full time as a grocery clerk and worked my way up to assistant manager. I then moved into customer service work and finally fell into an advertising manager position. I took several night courses during this period until I was ready to commit to school full time. Although I could have continued with work, I knew that it was not what I wanted to do and once I committed myself to attending school and realized that I wanted to study Sociology, I have proven myself to be an above average student. This past year, I earned all "A’s” in my courses.
Although it took me a bit longer to complete my undergraduate education, I consider it to be my greatest success. I paid for it, I struggled through it, and I gave up a great deal of my life for it. I also realize that my educational path is not complete. I believe that my struggles, perseverance, and triumph through my undergraduate studies qualify me as an excellent PhD candidate in your Political Sociology department.
Lesson 2: Become an Active Listener
When I was growing up, whenever the phone would ring, my mother would say, "the doctor is in." I believe that one of my strengths lie in the way I communicate and deal with children. I think that we must become active listeners in order to understand each other. During my internship with the Institute for Social Justice, I worked with inmates on research for alternative social models of punishment. In order to do the job effectively, I needed to empathize with the inmates so that I could understand their concerns and needs and remedy any self-destructive conduct they exhibit. The work also involved an all out hunt on my part to place these inmates into environments and programs that would prove healthy for them.
I maintained a working relationship with my friends at the Institute and checked their progress weekly. I believe that the power to empathize, or the ability to put yourself in someone else's place begins with an open mind. When I say that we must become active listeners in order to understand one another, I mean to say that there are subtle movements in our speech, certain words that we use, certain utterances that are not directed towards us, certain circumstances unrevealed to us. We must endeavor to hear all of them. I believe that this skill will help me greatly as a PhD candidate in your department.
Lesson 3: Learn From Your Experiences
In 1997, my mother was diagnosed with lupus. I was enrolled in a full course load but I dropped three classes so that I could spend more time with my mother and comfort her as much as I could. I felt so helpless because I did not know how to help her. I resolved to know more about the disease; I attended Lupus support group meetings and found out about a diet that helps regulate the body's immune system. I also talked to several neurologists and researched several drugs that were FDA approved. Through our collective effort, we found a terrific drug and the disease has stabilized for almost a year. This experience has taught me that even if a subject is miles away from the reach of your contemplation, you can learn much from research and from the knowledge and experience of others.
And as I offer myself as a PhD candidate in your Political Sociology department, I bring to the table years of work experience which includes steady and continuous promotions, an unrelenting pursuit for knowledge, a compassion for children and people, and a belief that anything is possible if we can actively imagine it into existence. Throughout my adult life, I never lost my path and I hope that you will allow me to continue this path at the University of Nebraska.