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Graduate Student and Teaching Assistant, Temple University
Choosing a Major
Entering college as an aspiring journalist, Melody declared a major in communications. Although she graduated with a communications degree, her academic journey took a different path than she had originally anticipated. Experience in a general education course inspired her to pursue an additional course of study: “I took an Introduction to Sociology course my first year at Messiah and loved sociology as well, so I decided to double major in sociology and communication,” Melody describes, adding, “I love thinking about the ways that these two fields intersect and inform each other.”
The Messiah Experience
Extracurricular activities provide the opportunity for students to depart from the more theoretical realm of academic study and practically apply the skills they are developing in the classroom. Melody took advantage of “as many activities as possible at Messiah, particularly activities that would help me figure out what I could do with my major.” She observes, “I think one of the ways that being involved in activities related to your field can be beneficial is to allow you to realize what your weaknesses as well as your strengths are and recognize what you do not want to do as much as what you do want to pursue.” By assessing her impression of various student activities, both on campus and off, Melody realized that journalism was not right for her, and she began to use her experience to piece together an alternate vocational path.
“To get experience with newspaper journalism, I wrote for The Swinging Bridge,” she begins, “This was really valuable experience as it allowed me to realize that journalism did not match my personality, and encouraged me to think about other possible careers.” Melody began pursuing activities outside of her major, and she soon realized that she was drawn to interpersonal relationships and other social concerns: “I did a lot of volunteer work at Messiah Village as well as at an after-school program for youth in Harrisburg, and these experiences shaped my view of the importance of volunteering, caring about others, and trying to be involved in the lives of others.” From there, a semester at Messiah’s satellite campus in Philadelphia encouraged her “interest in and passion for urban life and studying the social context of the city.” As a senior, Melody engaged even more opportunities to explore potential interests: “My senior year I worked with Dokimoi Ergatai, which is an organization of students at Messiah that focuses on developing appropriate technology to meet the physical needs of people in other countries. This experience gave me the opportunity to think about inequality and culture on a more global level and the role of Christians in impacting the lives of others.
"My senior year I also did an internship at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which was a useful way to be involved in an activist organization that seeks to eliminate abuse and strives for gender equality. I also worked as a teaching assistant in the Sociology department which gave me incredible experience as a teacher and researcher, and this confirmed my interest in attending graduate school and pursuing teaching as a vocation.”
Career Center Experience
“The Career Center was a very helpful resource” Melody asserts, “from when I was initially thinking about attending graduate school to when I was decided which school to attend. I visited the Career Center multiple times to get information about all aspects of the graduate school application process. Meeting with the Career Center staff gave me the opportunity to talk through some of my questions and concerns, and I also found the Career Center website incredibly useful in choosing what schools to apply to and the logistics of the application process.”
Entering graduate school directly after graduating from Messiah, Melody sometimes feels as though she is “making a career out of being a student.” Nevertheless, she appreciates the skills she gained as an undergraduate, observing that “the rigor of academics at Messiah helped prepare me for the challenges of balancing the demands of classes, research, and teaching.” She explains, “I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for a Principles of Sociology class my senior year at Messiah as part of my senior thesis research. This was an invaluable experience that made me feel so much more confident in my ability to teach. When it came time to begin my assistantship at Temple, I already felt comfortable with teaching.”
What to Do Next
Melody took the somewhat daunting step of entering graduate school directly after graduation. “I don’t think there is any one right way to frame one’s graduate school career,” she acknowledges, “and for some people, taking time off after undergraduate [school] works really well.” However, although she feared academic burn-out and recognized the benefits of getting practical experience in sociology before beginning graduate studies, she asserts, “I felt quite confident that I wanted to pursue a career in teaching at the college/university level and knew that I would have to get my Ph.D. to do so . . . I also worried that if I took a break from school, it would be more difficult for me to get back in the swing of academia.” Melody completed her master’s degree in 2006 and is now pursuing her Ph.D.
Profile by Tiffany DeRewal, July 2006