There was something exciting about being on a college campus- observing students chatting as they headed to their classes; listening to professors sharing their expertise; engaging in a faculty meeting. This felt like the next best move for me. I could take what I had gained from my practical experience coupled with my subject matter expertise and now help create a pipeline of future professionals. Satisfaction and excitement filled the air as I got in my car and headed home. The next day, on the other end of my phone was the Department Chair extending an offer to me to join the faculty of the Education Department at this college. My Instructor position would require me to teach, supervise students in their external clinical practicums, and establish a college clinic that would provide internal practicum opportunities. This was a dream position and I couldn’t wait to get started.
At the first campus-wide faculty meeting, it was evident that I was among the youngest to join the faculty and among a few faculty members that had been trained out of state, much less a graduate of a “Big 10” institution. I saw myself as an asset to the college. There was so much to be shared and value that I could add to the college and my specific department. It didn’t take long before community partnerships were identified and external student practicum sites established. Next was the grand opening of the on-campus clinic, much like the one I had utilized at my undergraduate program. Students loved having access to me to problem solve, and brainstorm innovative interventions. Things were going great, at least that was what I thought until I was called into my Chair’s office. I could tell by the look on the Chair’s face this wasn’t going to be the positive meeting that I thought.
“Miss Patricia, ‘Dr.’ Jones has brought it to my attention that the students say you are in your office every day. I thought we had discussed during your orientation that you only need to be in your office during established office hours. Maintaining daily hours is creating problems for the other faculty with their students. Now don’t make it necessary for me to remind you again “Miss” Patricia to just keep your office hours.” I couldn’t believe that I was being reprimanded for caring about my students and once again being “put down” by being called repeatedly ‘Miss’ Patricia. This had occurred in our faculty meetings as well. Everyone referred to me as ‘Miss’ Patricia with an emphasis on ‘Miss’ as they addressed each other as ‘Dr.’ The faculty committee assignments were disseminated and the Dept. Chair announced that I was unable to chair a committee because that position was reserved for faculty with a doctoral degree.
Regardless of “what” the chair and faculty members called me, I remained confident that I was adding value to the department, contributing to the intellectual growth of the students, and developing a pipeline of quality professionals. But I had come to a point of frustration. I reached out to my Advisor from my graduate program with whom I had maintained contact after graduation.
He was now my professional Mentor. Dr. B. informed me that growth in any academic institution would require that I obtain my doctoral degree. I could always count on my mentor to be straight forward. Before getting off the phone he asked, “So what are you going to do?” My mentor was good at challenging me to think and take personal responsibility.After our conversation, I began conducting research on doctoral programs then selected the one that met my requirements, applied, got accepted, and earned a fellowship.
At the end of the academic year, I handed in my resignation. The Dept. Chair looked surprised as he asked “What are you going to do ‘Miss’ Patricia?” My reply was simple, “I am going back to graduate school to earn my Ph.D. degree.” Within record time, three years later, I had earned my doctor of philosophy degree. I was now “Dr. Patricia.”
Upon graduation, I was hired to teach at a University in the Nation’s capital. My new position required teaching in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, directing master’s thesis, doctoral dissertations, and conducting research.
I sent a note of thanks to my former department. Their “put down” had “lifted me up!”
Your B.E.S.T. thoughts
What are some put downs that you have encountered?
When did you turn a put down into a lift up?
How have you let others influence you “being your b.e.s.t.”?
How has your mentor helped you navigate a “put down?”