2017 MATC Scholars Program: Dr. Yvette Pearson
Dr. Yvette Pearson, Associate Dean for Accreditation and Assessment at Rice University, shares her ideas for succeeding in Graduate School. For more information, please visit http://matc.unl.edu/education/scholars-program2017.php.
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[00:00:06.648]And thank you Amy, thank you Judy for inviting me,
[00:00:12.117]it's a pleasure to be here.
[00:00:15.846]Eric has told me about this meeting for a number of years
[00:00:19.073]and so I'm happy to be able to visit and join you this time.
[00:00:26.524]I just want to share with you, I was asked to share
[00:00:30.138]ideas for what's needed to succeed in graduate school.
[00:00:36.558]And as I was thinking I thought about the things that I'm
[00:00:40.459]going to share with you tonight are not just applicable
[00:00:43.687]to graduate school, but they're also applicable
[00:00:47.227]in life in general, so I'm going to dive in, I have four
[00:00:51.151]quick points, I was already told by people at my table
[00:00:54.588]who shall remain nameless, that the sooner I finish,
[00:01:01.562]the sooner they can leave and go do some other things.
[00:01:05.513]So I will try not to keep you long, but I was also told
[00:01:09.271]that I could open up for question and answer at the end
[00:01:14.409]which I would love to do and to learn a bit more
[00:01:16.785]about you all and answer any questions you might have.
[00:01:21.058]So four things needed to succeed in graduate school.
[00:01:26.638]And again, just in life in general.
[00:01:29.645]I call them my four P's.
[00:01:31.933]Planning, preparation, perseverance, and people.
[00:01:41.571]Planning, preparation, perseverance, and people.
[00:01:47.472]So we'll start with planning.
[00:01:52.338]When you set out to do anything you should have a plan,
[00:01:56.367]I always tell people to begin with the end in mind.
[00:02:01.150]Say it when you're thinking about giving a presentation,
[00:02:04.738]when you're thinking about what your next step on your
[00:02:08.847]journey is, and when I say the end, when we're talking about
[00:02:12.676]your journey, keep realizing that it's more of milestones
[00:02:18.948]than endpoints, but begin with the end in mind.
[00:02:22.919]Think about where you're trying to go and have an idea
[00:02:26.757]of how you're going to get there.
[00:02:28.756]Now I understand you're at different stages right now
[00:02:32.706]in your undergraduate careers and you might not have
[00:02:36.372]a clear picture, when I was in my sophomore year I was
[00:02:42.226]in mechanical engineering and thought that man this static
[00:02:47.776]stuff is cool, I loved it, I'm so glad I chose mechanical
[00:02:52.998]engineering and I was by the way in this man's class
[00:02:56.437](laughs) I'm sorry I'm telling your age, didn't mean that.
[00:03:01.595]But, and I ended up talking to one of my civil engineering
[00:03:06.651]professors, Huey Lawson at the time and he said well I hate
[00:03:10.796]to break it to you but static is more civil and I was like
[00:03:16.027]well you're just trying to get me to change my major
[00:03:18.540]so whatever and so he took me to his office and he's
[00:03:22.834]a structural engineer and so he showed me some
[00:03:25.164]of the projects he was working on and I was like yeah that's
[00:03:27.897]civil engineering alright and I changed my major
[00:03:32.827]to civil engineering.
[00:03:35.660]Also while in this gentleman's class, I decided because I
[00:03:39.003]would have study groups all the time at my house, I tried
[00:03:43.232]to get him to come to a couple and give us a leg up
[00:03:45.611]but it didn't work.
[00:03:47.467]But I found myself in a position where I was able
[00:03:54.400]to explain things to my classmates and I could see
[00:03:57.677]the light bulbs go off and right then it ignited a spark
[00:04:00.902]in me to become a professor and that's when my plan
[00:04:05.441]kind of started.
[00:04:07.824]So I was going to be this structural engineering professor
[00:04:10.736]because this was just the coolest thing and then when
[00:04:15.533]I got to my senior year, I needed some elective courses,
[00:04:19.953]the only things that fit my schedule were environmental
[00:04:22.680]courses, I took those environmental courses and said wow
[00:04:27.056]well this is pretty cool and guess what I'm an environmental
[00:04:30.847]engineer, but again, I have the plan so I know I'm going
[00:04:35.328]to finish this degree.
[00:04:36.640]Ultimately I'm going to become this professor, but I was
[00:04:39.612]flexible enough to change along the way I wasn't so stuck
[00:04:43.764]rigidly into become that structural engineer or what
[00:04:47.156]I thought before was that mechanical engineer
[00:04:50.270]that I couldn't change courses and so that's what
[00:04:52.800]I encourage you.
[00:04:53.984]Develop your plan, write it down.
[00:04:56.144]I mean I know I loved when I had my curriculum in front
[00:04:59.634]of me as an undergraduate when I could check off
[00:05:02.286]the classes at the end of the semester, put the grades in,
[00:05:05.444]and see the sheets fill up, that made me feel like I was
[00:05:08.400]getting some traction, making some progress.
[00:05:11.073]I still do that today, my most productive days start
[00:05:13.602]with a checklist and end with at least one thing done
[00:05:17.793](laughs) but so start with your plan and remember in your
[00:05:23.168]planning to have flexibility and that flexibility allows
[00:05:29.523]for you to navigate through these different crooks
[00:05:33.013]and turns that you'll find that life will take you through.
[00:05:35.441]So the second thing really aligned with that
[00:05:41.517]Preparation is so critical, if you're going to accomplish
[00:05:45.008]anything in life you have to put in the work and as you
[00:05:49.446]know as engineering students that are advanced in your
[00:05:52.883]degrees for the most part, it takes a lot of work.
[00:05:56.784]So you've heard the saying before, anything worth having
[00:05:59.617]is worth working for.
[00:06:03.134]And if something comes too easily, it's probably not worth
[00:06:06.304]very much and we could take that in a different direction
[00:06:10.864]but I won't go there today, but that is true.
[00:06:14.512]My mom always says this to me and she still says this now,
[00:06:17.135]you get what you pay for and you pay for what you get.
[00:06:22.430]So you'll find that the things that have the most value
[00:06:25.263]to you in life are the things that you have some skin
[00:06:29.937]in the game for, you've put in some sweat equity
[00:06:32.832]and sometimes it's blood, sweat, and tears, but you treasure
[00:06:38.005]it and you value it so much more.
[00:06:40.797]And what that preparation does is it helps you to...
[00:06:48.796]It equips you to be ready for opportunities that may
[00:06:51.420]present themselves, opportunities that right now may not
[00:06:56.014]even exist or opportunities that exist but you don't know
[00:07:01.138]that they exist.
[00:07:03.773]And so when you're thinking of equipping yourselves,
[00:07:06.814]think about putting things that you need in your toolbox.
[00:07:11.907]Having your toolbox as ready to go as possible.
[00:07:15.290]I remember one night after church, somebody had something
[00:07:21.118]break down and someone needed a particular tool.
[00:07:27.745]The puzzling thing to me was that nobody had any tools
[00:07:32.299]except me, I always have tools.
[00:07:37.405]And so it's like whatever tool you need just look in that
[00:07:40.252]little orange bag in the back of my car and you'll find it.
[00:07:44.942]And so you want to have the tools because you don't know
[00:07:48.307]what you're going to need in the future.
[00:07:53.162]One of my favorite tools is my Mr. 7 Hands,
[00:07:58.980]has anybody ever heard of Mr. 7 Hands?
[00:08:02.083]It's a tool now, don't take this in another direction,
[00:08:05.601]but it's a screwdriver basically that has seven hands
[00:08:10.545]on it, so any kind of screwdriver in any size you need
[00:08:14.016]you basically have it covered in that one tool.
[00:08:18.372]And that's how I'd like you to think of yourselves
[00:08:20.973]as you're getting this preparation, what are those tools
[00:08:24.337]that you get put in your tool belt along with your degree
[00:08:29.990]to help make you marketable as a graduate school
[00:08:33.860]candidate or any an employee or as an entrepreneur
[00:08:39.111]or whatever your path ends up being.
[00:08:42.055]So think of things in terms of lifelong learning,
[00:08:49.208]look for every opportunity you can get to gather more
[00:08:53.224]knowledge and to be able to use it.
[00:08:57.128]I was thinking earlier of the steps that I took.
[00:09:06.466]When I got my PhD everybody calls that a terminal degree.
[00:09:12.997]And I really hate thinking of it in that way because it
[00:09:17.061]makes it sound like you don't need to know anything else.
[00:09:19.975]After you get this, that's it.
[00:09:23.428]I decided I wanted to have an education consulting company
[00:09:27.014]and I went and got a graduate certificate in education
[00:09:31.416]research methodology, it's one of my tools in my toolkit.
[00:09:35.561]Every time I see a professional development opportunity
[00:09:38.661]come along that has something to do with sustainable
[00:09:40.981]design which is my area within environmental engineering,
[00:09:44.013]or even communication, those types of things end up being
[00:09:49.539]more tools in my tool belt.
[00:09:53.750]Amy mentioned that I am a program evaluator for ABEC,
[00:09:58.741]which is an accreditation board.
[00:10:02.774]That was something, that was one of those opportunities
[00:10:05.602]that was kind of beyond my line of vision.
[00:10:09.857]Someone suggested it to me, I went and did the training,
[00:10:16.948]became a PEV and what that ended up doing was when
[00:10:22.452]I fastforward a few years, there's a job announcement
[00:10:26.165]for an associate dean at Rice that they wanted to be a PEV
[00:10:30.516]for ABEC, had I not gone and taken advantage of that
[00:10:34.035]opportunity I wouldn't have had that tool in my tool belt
[00:10:37.333]and I probably wouldn't be sitting here in this position
[00:10:39.910]that I'm in now.
[00:10:41.780]So don't think so narrowly when you think about your plan
[00:10:47.622]and as you're preparing, grab all the tools you can along
[00:10:51.489]the way and they'll benefit you, so think of it as lifelong
[00:10:54.052]learning, think of it as continuous improvement.
[00:10:59.650]How you can go about improving yourself.
[00:11:02.402]The other thing is when you're trying to decide on what
[00:11:04.792]those tools should be, I always advise people to talk
[00:11:08.806]to someone who's doing what you think you might want to do,
[00:11:13.250]if you could talk to that person and find out how they got
[00:11:16.549]to where they are, what would they do differently if they
[00:11:21.266]could do it differently.
[00:11:23.724]What steps did they take that were right, and so get a sense
[00:11:27.810]of that from that individual.
[00:11:30.937]If it's someone you can't reach, the web is a wonderful
[00:11:35.626]tool, get online, if it's someone within a company
[00:11:38.797]or within a university, get online, look for their bios,
[00:11:42.683]look for their CV's, find out things about them.
[00:11:46.793]If you're looking at a particular graduate school
[00:11:49.142]or you're looking at becoming a professor at a particular
[00:11:51.867]university, go look at the people, look at where they got
[00:11:56.630]their degrees from and apply to those schools because people
[00:11:59.533]are creatures of habit, they tend to kind of go back
[00:12:03.177]to the same places, so if they're getting their professors
[00:12:07.422]from programs at these institutions, and you want to work
[00:12:12.548]here, you probably need to be working towards getting
[00:12:15.914]into these institutions.
[00:12:19.177]Now you see some flexibility in that but by and large
[00:12:22.567]people are creatures of habit, so do the research and figure
[00:12:26.874]out what you need in terms of your tool belt and in terms
[00:12:31.898]of your path.
[00:12:34.394]And then the next thing is perseverance, overcoming
[00:12:37.834]obstacles is critical to success.
[00:12:46.333]Sometimes I think we back away from challenges out of fear
[00:12:50.245]of failure, and I encourage you not to do that because we
[00:12:55.098]can learn a lot from failures and others can learn a lot
[00:13:00.021]from our failures as well, but don't be afraid to face
[00:13:05.268]challenges that seem to be insurmountable.
[00:13:11.259]It's up to you to decide would you face a challenge
[00:13:14.707]or you face an obstacle, is this going to be a hurdle
[00:13:22.054]or is it a barrier and that's your choice.
[00:13:26.696]A hurdle, anybody run track in here?
[00:13:30.450]Okay, so hurdles are designed to be overcome, do you win
[00:13:34.908]the ran if you run around them?
[00:13:37.670]Okay, what's that?
[00:13:41.398](audience member speaking far off)
[00:13:43.626]But hurdles are intended to be overcome.
[00:13:49.351]Something that's a barrier and I get the example
[00:13:51.732]especially if I'm on my mobility scooter and I come up
[00:13:55.206]to a curve that's four inches tall my scooter has a two
[00:13:59.179]inch clearance, if there's no curve put out I cannot get
[00:14:03.405]onto that sidewalk, that is a barrier, it's stopping
[00:14:06.177]me from progressing.
[00:14:09.152]And most of the challenges we face, most of the challenges,
[00:14:12.785]I won't say all, but most of the challenges we face,
[00:14:16.258]I believe we have the decision about whether that challenge
[00:14:19.473]becomes a hurdle to us or it becomes a barrier.
[00:14:25.905]So pay attention to those things and try to figure out
[00:14:29.489]how to make it a hurdle that you overcome.
[00:14:33.749]Some things are road blocks, some things are just detours,
[00:14:37.812]you just know what, didn't work out this way,
[00:14:42.978]GPS is rerouting, we're going to go, (audience laughs).
[00:14:45.750]It's Houston traffic, you're on I59 trying to get
[00:14:48.285]to the airport, I'm sorry, (laughs), you have to reroute
[00:14:52.720]you can't go 59 you've got to go 610.
[00:14:55.655]So be prepared to reroute when you can.
[00:15:02.731]And then the other thing is the last thing and not the least
[00:15:06.497]important by any means, people.
[00:15:11.267]You need people in your life who are champions and who are
[00:15:17.283]mentors and I'm so happy that I had those people in my life
[00:15:22.867]very early and again two of them are sitting at this table.
[00:15:27.682]One I'm going to describe a role they played that they
[00:15:31.029]probably don't even know about, they were one of those
[00:15:34.019]secondhand mentors when they didn't even realize it.
[00:15:39.502]But Dr. Edgar Blevins when I was a freshman in college.
[00:15:45.181]First of all, my original plan was to major in music
[00:15:49.800]and foreign languages, my mom convinced me to major
[00:15:53.005]in engineering, she saw potential in me that I did not
[00:15:56.055]see in myself and I'm glad she did.
[00:15:59.077]She never forced me to do it, but she said hey I think
[00:16:02.758]you're selling yourself short, try it and if you don't like
[00:16:06.357]it change your major, that's what she told me.
[00:16:08.807]I think she was kind of using a little psychology on me
[00:16:13.433]in retrospect because she knows once I start something
[00:16:16.379]I am going to finish it and I remember my freshman year
[00:16:23.605]going into Dr. Blevins' office and crying because oh I have
[00:16:31.388]this C in calculus and the world is coming to an end
[00:16:35.389]I cannot do this engineering, stop.
[00:16:39.225]And I was boohooing when I came to his office he just
[00:16:41.803]started handing me the Kleenex and said look I have a class
[00:16:44.763]to go to but you're welcome to stay as long as you want,
[00:16:49.152]here's the Kleenex (laughs).
[00:16:52.108]But, he never discouraged me, he never said well maybe
[00:16:55.244]you should think about changing your major, he always said,
[00:16:59.914]well look, pointing me to resources, told me wail til
[00:17:05.835]next semester, he was always pointing to next semester,
[00:17:09.341]next semester will be better and guess what it was
[00:17:12.534]it got better.
[00:17:14.636]And I'm thankful for that kind of encouragement and that
[00:17:19.101]kind of push, that kind of cheerleading that pushes you on
[00:17:25.792]and you need that in your life and it may not be a professor
[00:17:28.972]it may be a sibling, it may be a parent, it may be a friend,
[00:17:32.492]but you should have that in your life.
[00:17:36.251]The other example I want to give you is during my masters
[00:17:39.852]program when I started my masters program I didn't know
[00:17:44.956]what to do, I knew I needed to take these classes
[00:17:48.524]and at some point do a thesis, which I really didn't have
[00:17:51.597]a good idea of what that was either.
[00:17:54.864]And my advisor, I'm on camera.
[00:18:00.308]Was not as hands on as I would've liked, I think I said
[00:18:05.405]But I had a colleague who was working on a dual degree
[00:18:11.419]and she had Dr. Judy Perkins for an advisor, so guess what
[00:18:16.304]Dr. Judy Perkins, you mentored me through my masters
[00:18:19.849]degree and I don't even think you knew it because everything
[00:18:23.629]that you would tell Timeko, she would come and explain
[00:18:27.532]to me, this is how you do a thesis proposal, this is what
[00:18:30.781]you do for this, this is how you set up a research plan.
[00:18:34.860]And so she was a peer, but she was that mentor,
[00:18:40.465]so the champion is kind of that cheerleader that's behind
[00:18:43.881]you that's pushing you and driving you, the mentor is that
[00:18:46.970]person who can help shepard you through the process.
[00:18:51.544]And so you need both of those sorts of people in your life.
[00:18:54.876]My momma's my hugest champion, she still is today.
[00:18:58.905]But she can't mentor me through the things that I go
[00:19:04.094]through because she hasn't experienced those things.
[00:19:06.379]But your peers, your faculty members, and those folks can.
[00:19:11.883]And so in the other example of a cheerleader even in my
[00:19:17.307]old age now as an engineering professional, Dr. Jones.
[00:19:25.213]He will talk to me about things or I'll hear him say
[00:19:28.568]something or he'll communicate something to someone
[00:19:31.239]about me and I'm like wow whoever he's talking about that's
[00:19:35.209]a pretty cool person.
[00:19:38.286]But he's that cheerleader pushing me to say you know
[00:19:41.360]you don't see this in yourself still but I see this in you
[00:19:45.212]and I think you should and then fill in the blank and so
[00:19:49.393]don't think of it as because I'm a student I need this,
[00:19:53.084]as a professional I still benefit from those relationships
[00:19:58.139]in my life.
[00:20:00.781]So that's kind of an ongoing thing and the other side
[00:20:03.178]of the coin on the people side of things is, you want to be
[00:20:07.469]a champion and a mentor to others.
[00:20:10.895]Because that's where you will really get some fulfillment
[00:20:14.667]and so don't just say well I have mine, I'm good, I'm going
[00:20:19.404]on, make sure you're working to help pull other folks
[00:20:23.644]along with you.
[00:20:24.761]How many of you saw the movie Hidden Figures?
[00:20:28.413]Okay the thing that stood out to me most other than
[00:20:32.944]Taraji P. Henson having to run to the bathroom
[00:20:35.693]in the rain and get fussed at for not being at her desk,
[00:20:39.408]but when oh what's her name, Octavia Spencer's character,
[00:20:46.400]when she decided I'm going to learn how to program
[00:20:52.799]She didn't say well look I'm going to take care of me,
[00:20:55.536]she said come on ladies, let's do this.
[00:20:59.404]And that's how we have to be with each other, come on
[00:21:01.596]ladies and gentlemen, let's do this, let's get this
[00:21:05.721]and give yourselves those steps up.
[00:21:09.598]So I will leave you with that and I will take questions
[00:21:13.180]and answers, so the four P's what's the first one?
[00:21:18.780]Planning, the second one?
[00:21:21.591]Preparation, the third one?
[00:21:24.146]And the fourth one?
[00:21:26.524]People, so please take all four of those with you
[00:21:28.105]on your journey, thank you.
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