By Matthew Trotter
Graduate school can be intimidating. Stacy McGoldrick, Ph.D., an
assistant professor of sociology, agrees.
“[Graduate school] seemed like something other people did, not
something I did,” said McGoldrick.
That’s why she and Dr. Enrique Ochoa, the Weglyn Endowed Chair,
put together the Panel on Graduate Study on Thursday.
The two faculty members assembled a panel of four graduate
students to answer undergraduates’ questions about graduate school.
McGoldrick hoped the panel would eliminate irrational fears of
graduate school. Many students are afraid of graduate school simply
because they have no idea what’s involved.
The panel members were as follows:
– Ricardo Ortega, a Chicano studies Ph.D. candidate at
California State University Santa Barbara and a Cal Poly
– Lani Cupchoy, a history Ph.D. candidate at the University of
– Bailee Rad, a second-year law student at Southwestern
University and a graduate of Cal Poly’s gender, ethnic, and
multicultural studies (GEMS) program
– Amber Gonzalez, a Chicano studies Ph.D. candidate at CSUSB and
a graduate of Cal Poly’s GEMS program.
Ochoa gave the panel several guided topics to make sure students
heard the most important information about graduate school.
Most of the panel members learned about the possibility of
attending graduate school from a professor or other mentor.
Initially, Ortega was concerned he didn’t fit the mold of a
“I wasn’t going to do it because I didn’t think I’d be
accepted,” he said. “I didn’t have a 4.0 GPA or a lot of
Ortega and Gonzalez were encouraged to go to graduate school by
Dr. Terri Gomez in the ethnic and women’s studies department.
Gonzalez believes it is important to find a professor to be a
“Things happen,” she said. “You want to make sure you find
somebody to mentor you through graduate school.”
It was tough for all panel members to explain their choice to go
to graduate school to friends and family. Cupchoy found it was the
hardest when her studies took her away from her family.
“It’s tough when you’re at a family party and you’re in the
corner writing a paper,” she said.
Rad found it was difficult until she learned to balance school
and her social life.
“My sister used to make fun of me and say, ‘You married your
desk,'” said Rad. “And we’re still not divorced.”
The first-year transition from undergraduate studies to graduate
school is difficult. The panel didn’t sugarcoat that fact. Each
member had a story about an outrageous number of books they had to
read. Each member also said time management was a fundamental
McGoldrick assured students that although the panel’s stories
may seem incredible, that sort of workload can be managed.
“Your skills catch up with your demands,” she said. “It’s not
going to be that brutal forever.”
The panel also talked about how to pay for graduate school.
There are several options, including loans, scholarships,
fellowships, and getting a job as a teaching assistant, graduate
assistant, or research assistant.
Gonzalez had a full-time job and a full course load as an
undergraduate. She said that can’t be done in graduate school.
“It takes away from what you’re trying to do,” she said.
The panel members agreed that self-motivation will ultimately be
what gets students through graduate school.
“If you can hang through your first year, you’re pretty much
going to make it through,” said Rad.
Matthew Trotter can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone at (909) 869-3747.
Ivan Portillo/The Poly Post
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