Back in School: Doctoral Candidate Wears Many Hats
It's not an easy decision to go back to school. Adding classes on top of work and family responsibilities can be stressful. But plenty of University of Arizona employees have taken the leap, taking advantage of the Qualified Tuition Reduction to build their skills through master's and doctoral programs.
Over the next several weeks, LQP will profile some of these employees to find out why they chose to go back to school and how they're striking the balance between work, school and life.
If you're on the fence about going back to school, we'll provide some tips and information along the way that could help you make the decision, from how QTR works to how to choose a master's program. If there are specific questions you'd like answered, let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn what first steps you can take towards earning your own degree using QTR at the end of this article.
Returning to school for a master's degree and then continuing on to pursue a doctorate is no small feat. Yet that is exactly what La Monica Everett-Haynes has done – all while working full time as senior communications manager for the UA's Office of Communications.
After earning her master's degree in higher education with a specialization in student personnel in 2010, Everett-Haynes chose to go after a doctorate in higher education. She's now three years into the program.
Her initial career path led her to journalism and a job as a reporter at the Tucson Citizen. But she found her passions were working directly with higher education institutions, especially to help underserved student populations, including students from low-income families, students of color, and also lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
"I want to help provide a voice for these student populations and their experiences," she said. "I also want to produce sound research that helps engage these students in meaningful ways."
She said she hopes getting her doctorate can lead her to a future career that involves research and outreach. At the very least, Everett-Haynes hopes to leave her mark on the world by continuing her research and service work.
"I definitely want to be in a position where I'm doing research," Everett-Haynes said. "I don't have a five- or 10-year plan. I respect people like that, but that's not me."
In the meantime, each day is a delicate balancing act of working full time and making progress on research projects.
Once her morning cuddling session with her dog, Topee, is complete, Everett-Haynes is swiftly out the door and off to work, where she juggles various projects, including writing UANews articles, helping members of the media, managing the UA's official blog and supervising work-study students.
Despite everything on her plate, Everett-Haynes still manages to find time for volunteering. She is an Arizona Assurance Scholars Program mentor, a member of the Commission on the Status of Women, a book review editor assistant for the Journal of Higher Education and an article reviewer for the Association for the Study of Higher Education's annual conference.
"Work before play," Everett-Haynes said. "That's how I was brought up."
Her weekends are typically reserved for research so she can relax during the week. In the past when she tried to complete coursework after getting home from the office, she struggled with the stress of it all.
"I was constantly tired and overwhelmed, and I wasn't doing my best work," Everett-Haynes said, adding that she still experiences difficulty at times. "I struggle finding balance, especially at times when I'm missing my family."
Phone calls to her mother, who lives outside of Los Angeles, meditation and the support of her friends help her regain balance.
For fun, Everett-Haynes is also an active reviewer on Yelp. She started doing CrossFit for exercise, an activity that leaves her feeling sore but more energized. She's also a sushi aficionado who enjoys cooking Asian, Ethiopian and grilled foods.
"I'm a very good cook," she said. "I'm definitely that person who comes home and if I haven't gone to the grocery store, I'll look in the pantry and whip something up."
For other full-time employees considering attending graduate school, Everett-Haynes has several tips, including finding a study group immediately and taking time for relaxation to avoid becoming overworked.
"It is never healthy to overwork yourself; I find the glorification of overworking to be quite distressing," she said. "Balance your school with your personal life. Even if you're against a deadline, force yourself to take time to rest. Take time to take care of yourself."
Everett-Haynes says it can be helpful to come up with one's own personal formula for how much time goes to work and how much time goes to pleasure.
"Stress is going to happen," Everett-Haynes said, "but it's how you manage your stress that's important."
Next week, learn why Amanda Tachine, assistant specialist for the UA Cancer Center, says she has two babies to deliver in 2014.
Getting Started With Qualified Tuition Reduction
If you're eligible for QTR and are ready to pursue a degree, you might be wondering about where to start.
The first step is actually identifying which program is right for you – whether it's your dream to get a master's degree in fine arts or your doctorate in physics. Check out the UA's degree search or set up an appointment with your college of choice's advising representative to explore your options. Human Resources also offers Employee and Career Advising if you need additional assistance deciding what degree aligns with your overall career goals. Call 621-8298 if you'd like to set up an appointment with an adviser.
The next step? Apply to the program of your choice! QTR can only be applied once you've been admitted to the program and registered for classes.
You can apply for QTR online through the Education Assistance Plan under the Self Service tab of UAccess. You must submit your QTR application by the 35th day of the semester for which QTR will be applied.
For a handy checklist of QTR application procedures, click here.