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Navigating the Ph.D.: Reflections on the Experience at UW

April 2, 2018

A person's hand is seen writing on a chalk board. Writing on the board reads My Career, 1. Goal, 2. Plan, 3. ActionWritten by: Tia Frahm, Ph.D. Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on literacy.

I began the C&I doctoral program, with an emphasis in literacy, at the University of Wyoming in the fall of 2014. As I enter into the final weeks of my program I want to reflect back on how it has prepared me for my future as an academic scholar.

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to secure a tenure-track position at a university. The numerous resources and support offered through the literacy C&I doctoral program allowed me to develop a plan for making my dream a reality.

One strong aspect of the program is the support you receive from faculty. In conjunction with my advisor, Dr. Dana Robertson, I mapped out the courses I would take so I could acquire the knowledge I would need to achieve my post-graduation goals. In taking them, learned how to critically read and analyze the research in my area. I also found there was space within my courses to supplement the assigned readings with ones that related to my specific research interests.

Additionally, I took classes on educational research methods and was able to learn qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches to designing studies. A unique aspect about this program is that you can choose to minor in qualitative research methods or quantitative research methods. I minored in qualitative methods, which allowed me to develop the expertise needed to do a high quality dissertation.

My experiences in completing coursework did more than advance my knowledge. They also gave me opportunities to present and publish on professional learning as it relates to writing instruction and in coaching contexts. I have presented nationally at the Literacy Research Association’s conference and internationally in Latvia and the Czech Republic leading to three publications in print and three in progress. My interest in writing instruction has led me to co-direct the Wyoming Writing Project with Dr. Amy Spiker, extending my research to provide professional development in writing instruction for teachers and writing opportunities for students across the state.

A strong doctoral program isn’t only focused on research. You also want a program that will help you develop your teaching abilities, and you’re in luck because this one does that! I was able to work in various teaching capacities during my time at Wyoming. Each of these helped me grow and develop as a teacher in some way.

Teaching experiences will not look the same for everyone. They will be crafted, in conjunction with your advisor, to meet your professional needs. Furthermore, you will not be left on your own to figure out how to teach! I have received assistance on how to provide feedback for undergraduate and graduate students, how to structure and pace course assignments, and how to teach online.

Finally, there are two unique opportunities available to the literacy C&I students. First, we truly have an amazing community. I had the opportunity to work alongside many wonderful doctoral students during my time at Wyoming. This lead to collaborations on research publications with fellow doctoral students along with national and international conference presentations.

Second, we have two literacy endowed chairs (Dr. Cynthia Brock and Dr. Leigh Hall)  who are committed to our success. This has afforded me the opportunities to research, present, publish, and attend national and international conferences.

These experiences have prepared me for a career in academia. Not only have I enjoyed my time as a doctoral student here at the University of Wyoming, I have formed lasting relationships that extend beyond the academy.


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