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I call shotgun. You drive.

This post is for anyone that has even the slightest desire to pursue post-secondary education. This post is not about studying hard to get good grades, or productivity hacks or even about volunteer work or extra-curriculars to show you are "well rounded". Though, I'm sure there will be posts about those eventually. Rather, this is the boring, mundane, 'are you kidding me??' kinda stuff that no one ever mentions until it's two-weeks before the application deadline for that program, or that grant, or that award and you find out the hard way.

My parents always tried to save me from learning things the hard way. But, like most, life is meant to be lived and experienced, to try things for yourself and to make mistakes on your own. You can't live life through the experiences of others, you need to learn somethings for yourself, right? WRONG. (Well, not totally, but I did that for dramatic flair.) Here's the deal. You will learn a bunch of things yourself and few people can just tell you the pitfalls they had and expect that this will save you from making them too. Occasionally, though, people can give you some insider knowledge that will make the process of doing the things you want to do and getting you where you want to go a little easier.

Consider these posts like the 'google maps' of the academy. Punch in your starting destination and where you want to go, and we'll get you there - together. That's why it's called Passenger PhD, you're always in the driver’s seat, but the road is long and sometimes you need someone to sidecar styles.

I've learned some things and am continuing to learn. I started my PhD in a global pandemic. I started in a cohort of 4-5 people, and I continue on my journey as 1 person for a variety of reasons. I am learning the hard way about publications, research funding, portfolios, and committee members. I am teaching myself the nature of reality, how to read hundreds of pages a day (and retain anything) and how a 'good enough' approach is the best approach to take given the very nature of knowledge-production.

I am not your average PhD student. I have not been in the academy for over a decade and that is a detriment to me, but a distinct advantage to you. As I cannot assume anything, and I do not know most things about the process, the resources, the opportunities - I ask everything. I have had to be the most resourceful I have ever been during this pandemic as everything was turned upside down and things that are often made available for student success went into survival mode. I am also not your average PhD student as I was a former health system leader, educator, registered psychotherapist and a entrepreneur. Also, my husband is a researcher and academic, so it made me wonder, if I am having this hard of a time figuring all of this stuff out and I have all of these opportunities, how do other people do it? It's at that point I learned, at the best of times (not a global pandemic) the rate of success in a PhD is only 50% and that is of the people that manage to be successful in making it through the first hurdle. If any business performed that poorly, the entire business would shift around its processes to get that number higher and while some institutions make some efforts, the academy is competitive, often serves a certain type of person and people with power and opportunity are able to wield that to gain access to more power and opportunity.

I recognize I have privilege, power, and opportunity; I also recognize that is not a bad thing, it's what I do with it. I spoke to people about the premise of this site, that I was going to give away the resources I get, the tools I make, the tips and tricks I found out. Most everyone told me not to as then I would have more people to compete with for the grants, awards, funds, publications. They are not wrong, technically. The difference, I don't see you as my competition, I see you as my colleague. I live by the phrase (which I believe has historic nature in African proverbs - but please email me if you know the actual origins as I would love to be able to cite it properly) "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." The issues and problems of today are complex, they require all of us coming together to figure out how to create meaningful knowledge to make positive impacts.

I have met a lot of incredibly smart people that would blow the academy away with their thought-leadership but do not know where to begin with their application, how to create a CV, how to ask for a reference letter and who their references might even be. If you don't want to pursue higher education - that's okay (sorry you've had to read this far!). However, if it is something you do want to do - you don't have to do it alone and you don't have to struggle unnecessarily. Some struggle is good for the soul - it strengthens purpose, creates meaning and builds grit. Other struggle is just wasted time, it is unnecessary and it’s frustrating AF. That's the struggle I am hoping to address over the days and weeks to come. I hope this site may be a help to you. I hope you can turn to it when you're googling "what is ontology" or "how to prepare for candidacy." I hope it will be the perfect amount of:

  • comedic relief, when you find someone so ridiculous you can't imagine they have a PhD;

  • comfort, when you get your first rejection from a manuscript submission;

  • anger, when you read a journal article that you cannot believe was published and you write your 'Letter to the Editor' and take them on even though your fingers are shaking;

  • hope, when you sit back and realize that you have the ability to write history differently with everything you're learning which means you can also write the present and future differently, too;

  • swears, because the PhD requires a bunch of them;

  • reminders, because sometimes it's just putting one foot in front of the other, one more word on a page, one more time running your numbers through SPSS, one more journal article and it seems like it's never-ending, but you are moving;

Lastly, and I would say most importantly, a place to turn.

We got this.

Yours in solidarity,


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