Knowing Alternative Paths

    Posted on Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016
    There are times when you are in graduate school and everything isn’t going your way. With several influences on your life as a graduate student such as family, friends, research duties, teaching assistantships, organization involvements and so much more. But in the back of your mind, you feel like you have everything under control except the core reason you are in graduate school, research.

    It goes without say that at one point in your two to ten year journey as a graduate student, you will second guess why you are there or if your research is your true passion. Is this really something that you can do for the next x amount of years? We have all been there and/or will go through it, so don’t feel like you are alone. Graduate school is like a really really long roller coaster with both ups and downs, good and bad.

    When research is producing data and going great, you feel like you are on top of the world. Your experiments may be delivering excellent results, you are making your boss happy and you’re making headway in your thesis or dissertation work. At that moment, life is grand. With that perfect data you are able to submit abstracts to conferences and begin writing manuscripts. At this all-time high, there still may be a little voice in your head that is steering you away.

    Many graduate students have felt this way and this article is to provide you with some resources for help if you don’t feel happy in your program. It is okay to feel lack of motivation, disinterest in research and even depression. More importantly, how you handle those emotions will change your future paths. For some, the next step is to talk to their advisor and explain what is going on, often with the end result being improved advisor relationships and potentially shifts in research aims. Although, this isn’t always the case. I among several of my friends have been in a situation where our research interests and passions did not align with current work being conducted in the lab we were in or even sometimes disagreements/conflict with our advisor. Several alternate paths may be available for you to turn to if you are going down a road you wish to not be on. The Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS) has an incredible resource, ombudsperson, (http://ogaps.tamu.edu/New-Current-Students/Ombudsperson) which will allow you to talk with an unbiased individual to help with conflict resolution. This safe, off-the-record conversation may be just what you need to bundle up the courage to talk to your advisor. If you feel that one conversation left you unknowing of what steps to take next, schedule an appointment with Student Counseling Services (http://scs.tamu.edu/). This FREE resource has trained counselors and therapists to walk you through your thoughts and emotions, with hopes to come to a positive resolution.

    track_race.pngWhen you feel like there is no other paths or hope, don’t give up because they are there, you just need to seek them out. If neither of those options have assisted you, then the next step may be for some more serious assistance from professionals. A fairly new facility, Rock Prairie Behavioral Health, (http://www.rockprairiebh.com/) is open to the public and students for in-house assessments and counseling to promote positive influences on emotional health and well-being.

    Remember you are not alone, there are many resources for you at Texas A&M University and in the city of Bryan-College Station. We, as a family of Aggies, support one another to be the best that we can be and that is why I wrote this article. Whether battling stress, depression, anxiety or potentially suicidal ideation, there is a family of 60,000+ Aggies and a community of over 100,000+ that are here to support you!

    Thanks and Gig’em,

    Kristen Hicks MS, RD, LD, PhD Candidate | Nutrition and Food Science

    Kristen Hicks is a PhD Candidate and Registered Dietitian in BCS who aspires to improve the health of all Americans.


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