How have your research interests changed from the time you began the PhD program to now, and in which direction do you envision your work moving upon graduating?
I entered GMU’s Cultural Studies program with an interest in digital media and communication, though it was certainly unfocused at the time. It wasn’t until my second year that I began to look at political economy and science and technology in combination with environmental issues. As I progressed through the program, I became interested in the ways we understand our environment; specifically, the mechanisms used to measure and distribute water. After graduating, I hope to continue pushing for new research methods to explore the various ways we come to know our environment and the impacts of environmental conflict.
What kinds of professional development did you pursue while a student and which do you think will best position you to get the job you want: publishing, presenting, teaching, service in the department, engagement in non-university service projects, acquiring particular research skills?
I began the program as a Product Manager on a software development team, and I continued to work in software companies throughout the Ph.D. program. One of the challenges I had throughout the program was balancing a corporate career with the demands of my classes, teaching, and service projects. Throughout the time, I tried to combine the skills used in people and project management with additional responsibilities of the PhD program.
Regarding professional development, I was a TA for TA for the Honors College Research Methods class, an experience I cannot recommend highly enough. Not only was the Honors college great to work for, the professors I worked with were kind enough to show me how to structure a class, create workable plans, and design lectures. Plus, it’s a fun group of coworkers and students.
I also spent two years working as a Director of Social Outreach for the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA). Getting involved early in a professional group was a great way to gain visibility into others’ research was a fantastic experience. I used quite a few of the connections I made managing the social media accounts for the IECA to find resources for my dissertation.
What is one of your best memories from your time in the PhD program in Cultural Studies?
There were many great moments in the program. I’ve made life-long friends and colleagues with many of the people I’ve met at Mason, especially those in my cohort. One particular class stands out: Dareen Abdulmohsen hosted the final Histories of Cultural Studies class at her house. The conversation and camaraderie stick with me, as we had become a group of friends trying to understand a rather large stack of texts and apply them to our own experiences. I don’t remember the specific topics, just the sense that I was lucky to be a part of the conversation.