Back in School: Researcher's Growing Family Keeps Her Motivated to Earn Her Doctorate
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 past several weeks, LQP has profiled 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.
Don't have the time or resources to pursue a master's degree or doctorate? At the end of this article, we'll outline some other professional development opportunities available to UA employees.
Amanda Tachine says she has two babies to deliver next year.
The first will be another addition to her family; she's already a mother to an 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son and is expecting a sibling for them in the spring.
The second is her doctoral dissertation.
Tachine works as a research specialist for several different projects on campus, many of which align with her higher education dissertation focusing on the challenges and strengths of Native American college students.
Her research examines how the University can acquire and keep Native American students in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – programs, as well as the experiences of Native American freshmen and their families as they transition into life at the UA.
Tachine says many factors keep her motivated to pursue her doctorate while working full time.
"One of the main ones is to really get research out there – in terms of Native research – into the broader context because there's a lack of understanding," she said. "Another level is to show my little ones that mom can do this. … That's part of my dream, my pathway – to get this doctoral dissertation done and give back to the community in terms of the research I provide, but also to be an example for my babies."
Tachine has worked at the University since 2006, first working with Native American Students Affairs before transitioning into her current role in order to focus more on research projects.
"It was because of the support of the tuition reduction that the University provides employees that I was able to complete all my coursework for my Ph.D. while working," she said. "I'm so indebted because I was provided that."
Tachine admits that she feels overwhelmed at times juggling work and school responsibilities on top of being a good wife and mother at home.
"I try to be a perfectionist at everything, which is impossible to achieve," she said. "I'm really coming to grips with that as I get older. Everything's not going to be perfect, and that's OK."
During stressful times, she says prayer and her faith help keep her calm. She also uses exercise to give her energy and relies on a supportive network of friends, family and colleagues for strength and encouragement.
Another thing she has learned is that it's OK to say "no."
"It's hard, it takes discipline, but I find it has really helped me from overdoing it on my calendar," she said.
For other employees who are thinking of pursuing an advanced degree, Tachine says it's a matter of motivation.
"If it is part of your passion, your desire, then there's no question," she said. "Do the due diligence to follow what's inside of you."
She added that finding coping mechanisms during stressful times is key.
"In life, it's going to be tough," she said. "It's not going to be easy, but seek those ways you can find support. Practice what gives you strength in the process."
Professional Development Opportunities
Perhaps you're interested in getting an advanced degree but don't have the time or resources. Fortunately, the UA offers employees many other professional development options.
Although not covered by the QTR program, the UA Outreach College offers several credit and non-credit programs, many of which are available online for those who need a flexible schedule. From bookkeeping to financial planning, a wide variety of programs can help refine your on-the-job skills.
Human Resources also offers a Professional Development Series with courses specifically designed to enhance job skills and competencies. Courses are offered throughout the year for benefits-eligible employees, on a first-come, first-served basis. Explore which program is best for you on the Center for Professional Development website. The spring session schedule will be available on the Human Resources website mid-December. For more information about the Professional Development Series, contact Chelle Brody at 621-8298 or firstname.lastname@example.org.