The Road to an Academic Career – Graduate School 101

Graduate School 101

Picking up where last week’s episode left off, host Dr. Anthony Comegna continues to discuss our Graduate School 101 program and interviews Doctors Brandon Davis and Theodore Christov about their own academic career journeys.

Brandon Davis headshot

Dr. Brandon Davis, Professor of Law and Society at the University of Kansas

I think the first step in that is choosing your classes wisely and choosing classes that are going to benefit you in the long run.

Dr. Brandon Davis

As part of his Graduate School 101 lecture, Dr. Davis spoke on the importance of using your time wisely while in school. While that concept may sound daunting, it can be as simple as how you organize your class schedule.

“I think the first step in that is choosing your classes wisely and choosing classes that are going to benefit you in the long run,” says Dr. Davis. “I kind of look at it like a funnel. So, when you first start graduate school, you have the fat end of the funnel, and you’re putting in big pieces, like American politics core, public policy core courses, things like that.

Grad Students Take Notes

And within those core courses, those seminar papers, they allow you to take all the literature you’ve read all the semester and target it towards something in that field that you enjoy, that you find interesting. And I think that’s the beauty of this progression is that you can always work on things that you find interesting.”

“…as long as you follow up to your commitments what you would want to accomplish, I think [graduate school] does pay off.”

Dr. Theodore Christov
theodore christov

Dr. Theo Christov, Associate Professor of Honors, History, and International Affairs at George Washington University

For Dr. Christov’s lecture, the focus was on working with a purpose. He emphasizes how the graduate school experience is different for everyone and how commitment plays a role. “As long as you commit,” he states, “as long as you follow up to your commitments what you would want to accomplish, I think [graduate school] does pay off… But you also need, in addition to intelligence and being smart, a certain level of confidence that you have to take pride in the skills you’re developing. And that comes with a level of self-recognition that what you’re doing is important… But if anything, just stick to the main commitment that you have made, even though sometimes it will be challenging to meet that commitment.”

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to be a part of graduate school, but rather it boils down to a person’s drive, passion, and current path in life that shapes the graduate school experience.

“I think what really surprised me that first semester is that I was able to compete,” Dr. Davis recalls. “I was taking it as almost like a challenge every day, to be prepared, and to be able to contribute to the discussion.

Preparing for Graduate School

And when I found out I was able to compete, which probably isn’t the best word, that’s what really got me hooked.”

“So, for me, it took me about six years to finish from start to finish,” states Dr. Christov. “And that’s not counting the master’s degree that I obtained before going to my PhD. I would say, overall, it was really the best time of my life… I think it was a time when you tried to emulate the work of your own advisor, tried to hone in your skills in research and writing, and trying to perfect the craft of your own discipline.”

Join the discussion! Download this episode and others of Ideas in Progress on our website, SoundCloud, or iTunes. New episodes are available every Wednesday. Considering attending graduate school? Visit our website for more information on Graduate School 101career resources, advice, and funding opportunities.

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