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  • Ivan Gonzalez-Soto

For those of us to come

Updated: Mar 9

Last year, I intended to create a graduate school resource blog that might help fellow or prospective first-generation students of color in the humanities. If you read my first post, then you know that my idea was to create the kind of blog that I had searched for—but didn't find—when I was applying to PhD programs in the US. There are plenty of grad student blogs out there. I know. I searched for them. However, most grad student blogs were geared towards STEM, outdated, or simply hyperlinked to URLs which were no longer available. Equally important, I didn't find any fellow Mexican American graduate students blogging about their PhD experiences in humanities programs in a way that specifically shared tips for those of us to come. I wanted to change that despite the ramifications of our current pandemic. I’ve meandered from the aforementioned resource since I set out to do this six months ago, but today’s post is about continuing my blog’s original intent.

...I didn't find any fellow Mexican American graduate students blogging about their PhD experiences in humanities programs in a way that specifically shared tips for those of us to come. I wanted to change that...

A recent email revitalized the momentum for this resource blog and it came in a rather unexpected way. On a cold Central Valley afternoon in late January, I received an email from a former undergraduate student I had worked with as a TA for a Critical Race & Ethnic Studies course .That student has since graduated from UCM and is in the last semester of a masters program in California. Their email included life updates since graduation, post-graduate career experiences, and a genuine “thank you” for helping them apply to graduate school. That last part really resonated with me because I had found myself in graduate school only after someone else introduced that thought into my head along the way. Growing up, the place I was raised in (El Centro in Imperial Valley, California) didn't exactly encourage me to pursue higher education and I honestly didn't know what PhD programs were until I found myself applying to them.


With that in mind, I’ve made it a point to tell my story to the undergraduate students that I work with so that they might connect with someone else who's had similar experiences. Over the course of leading semesterly TA discussion sections, I’ve had the honor of having more than a few students reach out to me with questions about graduate school. I’ve helped edit and have provided feedback on more than my fair share of statements of purposes, letters of intent, and fellowship applications for first-generation students of color. As they go about their own way, I don’t always hear from them but I know that they’re doing good work wherever they are because the personal stories in their applications are genuine, determined, and tied directly to the changes they envision for a more just world.

... I know that they’re doing good work wherever they are because the personal stories in their applications are genuine, determined, and tied directly to the changes they envision for a more just world.

Back to the email though. As I read through my former student’s update, I found myself reflecting on people who have played an influential role in my graduate school journey. At the same time, I recalled the editorial role in helping edit their letter of intent, the encouraging words to help them tell their story, and how small gestures can impact someone else in their pursuit of graduate school. This blog is for you and for those of us to come.

This blog is for you and for those of us to come.

I’ve brainstormed a few ideas and will post at least once a month for the remainder of 2021. Below are the potential grad school-themed topics ahead. (I'll hyperlink as they materialize.)

  1. Grad School Tools to Stay Afloat

  2. Telling Your Story

  3. Graduate Work to Benefit Your Community

  4. Fellowships I Wish I Knew About When I Started

  5. Writing a Précis and Making Connections in Your Readings

  6. Planning Your PhD

  7. Networking on and off Campus

  8. Applying to Humanities Graduate School Programs

  9. Creative Outlets & Dissemination Plans

  10. Working Groups and Building Support Systems

  11. Historical Methods, Oral Histories & Real World Applications

  12. Speculative Futures and Public Presentations

When I was an undergraduate pursuing an Environmental Studies BA at Humboldt State University, I met an author on campus who signed my copy of their book. Their comments offered words of support in telling my own story and I think about their words every now and then—especially as I draft applications for grants and fellowships. The author's words keep me grounded when everything else about the application process is up in the air.



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