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Why a Ph.D. in Literacy was Right for Me

September 3, 2018

Written by: Anna Shur, Ph.D. Curriculum and Instruction doctoral program with an emphasis in literacy, minor in Qualitative Research Methods, and English Graduate Certificate.

college of education buildingI am an international student from Russia and a foreign/second language instructor with 10 years of professional experience in both the U.S. and Russia. I had already had a graduate degree from Russia when I decided to return to graduate school in the U.S., gain more knowledge in the field of literacy education, and apply it to the foreign/second language context. My search for an academic program that could provide me with professional and scholarly experiences in both literacy and second language acquisition led me to pursue my doctoral degree in the College of Education at the University of Wyoming.

Here, I met a team of scholars who view their mission as (a) helping their students achieve their professional dreams, and (b) accommodating their students’ educational needs. The following story is a great example of my mentors’ support. When I entered the Curriculum and Instruction doctoral program with an emphasis in literacy, I was interested in studying the development of second language literacies. However, the professor with expertise in this field had just left UW. Nevertheless, my chair respected my choice and research interests. She contacted the most prominent scholars in the field of second language literacies, and Dr. Keiko Koda, a professor from the Carnegie Mellon University, agreed to serve on my PhD committee. I recently finished my dissertation under my UW professors’ and Dr. Koda’s supervision. This example illustrates the unprecedented support that doctoral students receive in literacy at UW. In our literacy program, faculty members encourage and support our development as educators and researchers.

My development as an educator
My instructional experiences were limited by teaching foreign language classes before entering my Ph.D. program. At UW I had the chance to teach a wide variety of graduate-level classes. Some of these courses were taught online, so I became a skillful user of the Canvas platform that is used in many institutions. My mentors provided constructive feedback when I worked as a graduate assistant in their classes. These invaluable experiences helped me better learn the U.S. mainstream classroom culture. My professors’ mentorship and support boosted my confidence and increased my content knowledge in the classes I was co-teaching.

My development as a researcher
My myriad research experiences in this PhD program were the most important part of my professional growth during the last four years. My dissertation was quantitative. I also completed a minor in qualitative research methods.  As well, I became a skillful user of many research apps (e.g., NVivo, SPSS); the knowledge of these software apps is considered a marketable skill in many higher education institutions. Our professors encouraged us to use these apps in our team and individual research projects. Every year our UW team goes to the annual Literacy Research Association conference and other conventions. Our Endowed Chairs generously support students present their research at conferences because they view professional conference attendance and networking as a necessary part of our scholarly development.

Laramie is a small, cozy college community. It provides numerous opportunities for many activities that include skiing, hiking, and camping. All these factors make Laramie a great place to live, work, and study!    

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