Sunday, September 22, 2013

Diversity Fellowship Opportunities - Apply Soon!

It's fellowship season! Well, it is actually fellowship season year-round, but here is some information on three significant government fellowships, and also information on how to locate additional fellowships.

Fellowships are similar to scholarships in the way that they offer funding to conduct research. Fellowships tend to require a more structured approach to the application, with more detailed research goals and sometimes include specific work experience under the program or funded travel to a conference or short-term training program.

It is true that the application process can be lengthy and the pool of applicants can be competitive, and this can be daunting. Nonetheless, even it you don't receive the fellowship,  it doesn't  work against you to apply and it will only help you in terms of improving your writing skills while clarifying your research plan for future applications. If you don't apply, you can't get the funding, so why not try.

The three fellowships I will discuss here are the NSF GRFP, the NIH Predoctoral Diversity Fellowship, and the Ford Fellowships. Although these are all federally funded, it is fine to apply to more than one, as long as your funding does not overlap. For example with the NSF GRFP, you have two years within the five year period to receive funding elsewhere before beginning the fellowship.

It generally takes 6 months to hear back from these institutes on their final decisions. If you are awarded the funding, congratulations! Even if you don't receive the award, you may still receive an honorable mention. Nonetheless, if you don't receive the fellowship the first time, you are actually encouraged to try again as long as you still meet the criteria. 

1. NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
If you are a first year graduate student or a graduating undergraduate this year, it is important for you to take a look at this fellowship. Applications are due in early November so it is important to review this NOW.

I attended a seminar on this one just a couple of weeks ago. Graduate students who receive this may receive the funds for 3 years over a 5 year period. This gives you some time to get into a graduate program if you are still applying, which is nice and helps remove some of the stress of the grad school experience! Funding consists of $32,000/year and tuition waived for those three years.  From what I was told in the seminar, NSF is looking particularly for more applicants in the social sciences, and for those with a transdisciplinary focus.  Although this is the National Science Foundation, they are also interested in funding fields of social, behavioral, and economic science.

Here is the link to the program solicitation:

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
You can follow them on twitter @nsfgrfp

2. NIH (F31) Ruth Kirschstein Predoctoral Diversity Fellowships
Apparently the NIH receives significantly more funding from the federal government than the NSF, so it is worth a try to attempt an application to an NIH fellowship. And, as students of color, this is a great reason to apply for the F31 Predoctoral Diversity Fellowship. 

The application process is definitely somewhat trickier than the above NSF fellowship and requires you to have a strong mentoring team of professors and researchers on campus, but can be well worth it. You will need to have a strong network on campus with your department and this research can also be the beginning of your dissertation research. 

You would select the specific institute within the NIH that your research falls under, and it is important to make sure that your project meets the mission of that institute (for example, the National Cancer Institute, or the National Institute of Drug Abuse). Then, you can contact the program representative within the institute with any questions.

The great part about this fellowship is that there are three deadlines throughout the year in April, August, and December. Funding can cover up to 5 years of research.

I am still trying to work through the logistics and details of this fellowship, but if you can find someone who has received this or mentored a student in this program it will likely make all the difference.

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Parent F31 - Diversity)

3. Ford Foundation Fellowships
Among the three fellowships here, this one is probably the most well-known. There are three separate fellowships here for predoctoral, dissertation stage, and postdoctoral students from underrepresented groups. For predoctoral students, the Ford Fellowship awards students with $20,000/year for three years within a five-year period. I believe the process is relatively similar to the NSF GRFP process. 

Dissertation fellows receive $21,000 and Postdocs receive $40,000/year

The deadline is annual and is coming up very soon in November 2013.

Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs

Finding Other Fellowships
Ask around at your department and at the career center for leads.  There should be a funding office at your school, and hopefully they will have purchased access to an online database of fellowships and scholarships such as If there is access to this, make an appointment to review fellowships for your particular field. 

If you are applying to the NSF and the Ford, now is the time to apply. I wish you the best of success in your application process!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Insecurity and the Classroom - Don't Doubt Yourself

Have you ever felt that everyone else must just be so much smarter because they made such intelligent sounding comments in the class?

I walked into a class last week and it seemed to me that several students in the class were very comfortably contributing to the class conversation. They sounded so intelligent. Wow, I had not thought of that concept, I thought in reaction to their statements. I was on the verge of doubting my knowledge and intelligence. But, I snapped myself out of it and decided to step away from the psychological game. I decided to appreciate the other students' statements and comments, but to focus instead on what my thoughts and responses were to the discussion.

It's unproductive and unnecessary to compare knowledge with students who speak well in class. I have experienced this situation many times and found that no matter how much I attempted to doubt myself, my grades ultimately were as good as I wanted them to be.

In another writer's blog post online entitled "An Open Letter to My Fellow Insecure College Students", I found a great description of one student's experience in feeling insecure in the classroom. Here's an excerpt from the post:

I looked around the room, and saw the concentrated ease-filled faces of my peers as they nodded at the professor with empathy in their contemplation. “Has anyone ever been to Poland?’ He asked the class. The lecture was now steered towards the direction of Eastern Europe. The petite girl next to me with purple streaks in her hair nodded as she shared her experience, “Oh yes, It’s a beautiful country. I feel I didn’t completely understand the influence that early 20th century Soviet Marxist ideologies had on the country until I encountered it myself in person visiting Krakow last summer.”
A stern-faced boy with a buzz cut a fraternity sweatshirt raised his hand. “But let’s be honest today in modern Poland post 1989 communists barely influence the politics, economics, or even the society within the country.”
As, Buzz cut and Purple Hair began their debate quoting the Communist Manifesto, I pondered to myself. I knew absolutely nothing about Poland. I knew nothing about communism other than it was bad and Russian from my 8th grade civics class. I didn’t know about the Cuban missile crisis. My mind’s self-pitying stream of thoughts was drowning itself in all it didn’t know. I barely had any notes written. How did I even get into this university? I was now divulged into a realm of insecurity. Maybe I was just some lucky idiot, who by some random streak of luck was admitted.

Some folks are just more outspoken, appear confident, and are just more talkative. As stated later in the blog post, another student reached out to her and told her not to feel intimidated, and that the class discussions were just "all B.S.". To be fair, I wouldn't say that class discussion is 100% B.S. ;)

Students do receive some credit just for participating in class. Professors encourage discussion to spark class participation and to hear responses, or to see whether students are even still awake in class. Professors may just have allotted some required class time for students to talk about anything related to the course.

Nonetheless, like the writer of the blog post I cited above, I don't think it really matters much. If you have already been though undergraduate school, it's basically the same experience. What students say in class is a small fraction of the grade compared to what professors will expect from you in writing, and your exam scores tend to matter much more.

Sometimes we really do just have different frames of reference. For a variety of reasons, we don't come from identical knowledge foundations. However, what matters is what you are learning in class, and where this leads you in exploring additional themes of interest -- to you.

If you have ever felt this way, it's so important to remember :  You were admitted into this graduate program for a reason. You succeeded in your past degree in order to be here, and you are smart and obviously capable.  I wouldn't say in this case that "talk is cheap", but speaking in class is just a smaller part of the overall grade. So many other factors make you who you are as an intelligent and capable student.

(photo credit: via

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Asian American Students and Graduate School - Is this Just the Natural Progression?

Today I want to share some information on the AAPI (Asian American/Pacific Islander) community in the United States and college rates. I also hope to help demystify some of the "model minority" stereotypes in education. Some of us really just can't relate!

If you are like me, you have an Asian American parent (yes, I have one), and you were not raised to expect higher education. You may have been told not to attend college due to the cost. Maybe you knew of one or two  Tiger Moms (1) from school, but could not identify because your parents raised you in a different environment. You spoke English at home with the occasional Asian language phrase here and there, may only have taken an orchestra class for fun in school, and do not know what the heck Kumon is.

Why It Actually Still Matters to Support Asian American Students
The Multicultural Doctorate aims to provide resources and support to the full diverse range of individuals who did not not have role models in higher education growing up - including Asians/Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Here's why:

According to the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE), a review of American Community Survey Data from 2006-2008 showed that among those who identify as Asian American, the following have not attended college:
65.8% of Cambodian Americans, 65.5% of Laotian Americans, 63.2% Hmong Americans, and 51.1% of Vietnamese Americans. Looking also at larger demographics and a major holder of "model minority" stereotype status, 34.5% of Chinese Americans have not attended college.  Among Pacific Islander Americans, 57.9% of Tongans, 56.8% of Samoans, and 53% of Guamanians have not attended college. (2)

In a study published in the Social Science Quarterly in 2010, studies found that there are distinct differences between Asian immigrant and Asian American parents. Asian immigrant parents are actually more likely to have higher educational expectations for their children. Asian American born parents were less likely to expect their children to excel in education, even less so than the expectations of White American born parents. (3)

Still Much to Be Done
As you can see there is still much to be done in terms of encouraging students of color in higher education.  This blog's primary goal is to help bring diverse students into the world of graduate school and perhaps to become future faculty members of colleges and universities, where statistics are still low among professor demographics.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the Fall of 2009, college and university faculty/staff in the United States were 7% Black, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4% Hispanic, and 1% American Indian/Alaska Native. (4)  

Faculty positions for the most part require a graduate school degree, and more frequently require doctorate degrees. With a vision of seeing higher institutions adequately and equitably serve diverse populations, The Multicultual Doctorate blog serves to provide graduate school information resources to students of color, and to encourage students to find ways to network with organizations, professors, and other students.

1. Controversial in parenting circles, Amy Chua wrote this book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It's a very interesting read on extremely strict Chinese American parenting!

2.CARE, The Relevance of Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in the College Completion Agenda 

3. Raleigh, Elizabeth and Kao, Grace. (2010) "Do Immigrant Minority Parents Have More Consistent College Aspirations for Their Children?" Social Science Quarterly 91:4.

4. National Center for Education Statistics, Employees in Degree-Granting Institutions, by Race/Ethnicity and Primary Occupation: Fall 2009

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Mentorship, and Being a Good Mentee

As part of the campus minority mentoring program, I met my new mentor today on campus and she is awesome! I am looking forward to speaking with her more about her experiences on campus,  and learning more about the overall campus landscape.

This led me to write today's blog on how to find mentors, and how to identify great mentors. Whether you are currently in a graduate program, or preparing to apply for a program, it is important to find mentors who can guide you in the process.

Where to Find Mentors
There are many types of mentors that you can have, whether they are younger or older, someone who has skills or life examples to share with you can be a mentor. Mentoring can be for a set period of time, or can even be life-long.  Mentors can be part of your community or family. Mentors can be found at the workplace, at professional associations, structured mentoring programs, and even through contacting and getting to know professors who conduct research that interests you.  Some are assigned to you, and some mentoring relationships naturally develop from inspiring conversations.

I have found some of my best mentors at church, at work, at academic conferences, and at professional association events. There's no need to ask if he/she would officially be your mentor, although it's also fine if you do. Just spending time with the person, letting them know that you value their experiences and advice is often enough to cultivate a respectful and inspiring relationship.

What Makes a Great Mentor?
A great mentor is someone who has important life experience and advice to share, someone who is willing to share wisdom with you for your learning benefit. A great mentor is a good listener, and is someone who is interested in supporting your academic and career development. A great mentor is encouraging and inspires you to achieve the next levels of success. Finally, a great mentor is someone you can contact, and is approachable when you need words of advice. Mentors are also excellent at writing great letters of recommendation for you as they are familiar with your capacity and willingness to succeed!

Your Role - What Makes a Good Mentee?
According to The Mentee's Guide by Lois J. Zachary, an effective mentee should have a personal vision of the future, be willing to set and follow through on goals, and to establish a mentoring agreement of goals, milestones, and a work plan.

Consider what your goals are, the skills you are interested in developing, where you plan to be in the next few years, and whether you have the energy and motivation to follow through on the necessary steps for personal growth.

In terms of a work plan or milestones, my mentoring relationships have tended to be more friendly and informal, and because I know that we are all busy people, I let the discussions be as frequent or as infrequent based on our personalities and other obligations.  However, I suppose it is possible that the more structure there is, the better.

Best Mentoring Moments
My best mentoring memories are informal talks where my mentor shared a story of when they were in my predicament, and what they decided to do.  Sharing personal stories and testimonies is always a powerful tool as it allows the listener to walk in your shoes for a moment. Another inspiring moment in mentoring was when my mentor encouraged me to apply for a PhD program when I had not even been considering the idea.  Other powerful, empowering mentoring experiences involved my mentor suggesting a project or inviting me to be part of a research project. It is amazing how one person can inspire others to achieve success.

Not all mentoring relationships are going to work out. People are not always compatible and perhaps the mentor will be too busy to contact you when you really would appreciate their help and advice. Perhaps the mentor does not inspire, but intimidates. Or, it is possible that a mentor may provide advice that may not apply to you. It is fine to end a mentoring relationship if it does not work well for you. There are many other opportunities to meet new mentors and to learn even from this experience.

Don't Give Up
By all means, be sociable and network with your classmates, professors, and social organizations. You will eventually meet individuals that you admire and look up to. Some of them will be willing to reach out and share their advice and stories with you.

(photo credit: via

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to Find Inspiration, Guidance, and Motivation for Graduate School

This may be one of the most important posts I will write on this blog.  This is in part my story about the experiences I have been through and learned from. For students of color, we know that we are among the smaller percentages of individuals attending university, and many of us are the first in our families to attend higher education.

Family As Motivation:
It is possible that you were raised in a family that valued education, and encouraged you to go this far into your academic career. Even though you may be the first in your family to attend college, you may have had much motivation and guidance along the way. This is a great situation to be in, and I hope that you were able to make the most of your undergraduate experience and are now academically prepared for graduate school. From many stories and situations, your parents can be a strong motivator for pursuing university education.

Or Not:
There are also others who were not raised in a family that valued education. Perhaps culturally -because you are female, or financially - due to the cost of college, your family discouraged you from attending university. This was my situation. But my love of learning and understanding of the new horizons it could bring really motivated me to do well in school and apply to college.

Financial Considerations: 
I grew up in a blue and "pink" collar family (mechanic and secretary parents), and university was not seen as necessary. My dad, a Mexican American, did well finding work after high school, and college sounded pretty much like a waste of money. Finding funding for college was basically going to be a matter of student loans. Not only that, but finding guidance and mentoring was also going to be a huge obstacle. I still can't get my mind around the idea of funding a child's college education -- Who does that?

The good news is that there are many ways to manage your student loan debt. Unfortunately, at this time, bankruptcy is not an option for student loans, but there are other programs. There are income based repayment plans through the federal government, and also the Public Service Forgiveness Loan (you need to know about this!!!), which removes your remaining debt after 10 yrs of payments as a full time employee of a nonprofit or government agency.

Networking Considerations:
For students of color there are some great programs as you enter university, such as Upward Bound, etc. But it may not be easy to locate these programs if you do not have friends in college, or if you are multicultural and do not look like someone from an underrepresented group. Being multicultural (and multiracial), I often have to explain myself before being welcomed into some groups. (For example I received cold, unfriendly looks when I visited a MEChA meeting in college and never went back -- but that's another story!) I did my first college degree before the age of the internet, and in terms of finding resources or even knowing what to look for, I was lost.

Thanks so much to the internet, you can find these resources on your campus or in your community. There are some great mentoring programs for students of color, and also some national networks. The internet is a great place to start, and from there, joining campus cultural organizations will also bring you mentoring, guidance, and networking for academic success.

Pursuing Graduate School and Perhaps the PhD
At some time in the far away past I dreamed about having a PhD. But as student debt accrued and the work world demanded my time, I kind of stopped thinking about it. However, one day while I was a masters student, at an academic conference I met a professor who suggested the idea of a PhD to me. I will not forget this moment. Having a mentor encourage me to pursue the PhD made all the difference in the world to me.

If you are interested in pursuing graduate school, attend academic conferences in the fields you are interested in, even while you are not yet in school. Get to know people at these conferences (attend the small meeting sessions at conferences). Meeting professors and other students will likely propel you to take those first steps in applying to schools! Maintain contact with your new acquaintances. All of this matters.

These are the basic tips I have for now on finding your inspiration, guidance, and motivation for graduate school. I hope this information has helped you.

(photo credit: Aristocrats-hat via

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Blog Home on Blogger!

Please note that I have just moved my blog home onto Blogger. There are a couple of reasons for this but I found that I prefer the features on Blogger. The previous Wordpress blog will no longer be in use. Thank you!

Internships for Graduate Students

Unpaid Internships - Just as Competitive as a Paid Position?
Today  I was speaking to one of my classmates, a masters student, about the internship she is working with. The internship is clear across the other side of town (at least a 1 hr drive away), and it is unpaid although she referred to it as her job. She also mentioned that it is too late in the year to choose a new internship as demand is high and supply is low.
Now, when did it come to the point that free, unpaid internships were in such high demand that the workplace has become saturated with them??? When did we get to the point where it would be such a great honor to be selected to volunteer my time to work for an organization for free? We are living in such a precarious time, when free, unpaid work - let alone normal paid work - is not something we can so easily secure.
Apparently, it doesn't matter where you live, what your demographics are, or even whether you are in the Ivy Leagues. Not too long ago, a friend of mine owned a small business, and young unemployed graduates were competing for unpaid positions at her company too. Including ivy league students.
Advice for the Student in Search of an Internship
I choose to believe that the solution will involve a combination of resourcefulness and networking.
1. Get Acquainted with Professional Networks:  If you are aware of local associations in your field, by all means become a member and attend the conferences and networking meetings. This can open up opportunities for you to intern - or hey, even find paid employment with the organizations your acquaintances are part of.
2. Frequent Your University Career Office: Also, get to know your university career center, browse and scour through their listings. Being a student at the university will likely flag your resume to the potential employers/internship coordinators who chose to advertise at your school.
3. Keep in Contact with Faculty Advisors: Let your department advisor know that you are searching for an internship and they may have information about campus opportunities to share with you.
4. Utilize the Internet: Assuming you have already cold-called or cold-emailed your favorite organizations and companies and provided your resume and haven't heard back from them, I recommend going ahead and placing an ad on a site such as craigslist, saying that you are searching for an internship position. Don't be afraid at this point to state that you are hoping to be paid for transportation or a small stipend, but that you are open to negotiation.
I hope these tips are useful. These are what helped me to locate my volunteer opportunities and campus job. I wish you success in your search!

Graduate School Funding Resources

Here are some links to useful graduate school funding resources. 
These are generally lists provided by universities and although may provide scholarship info just to internal students, some of the information is useful to all graduate students:
Columbia College: List:
National Science Foundation:
North Carolina State University:
University of California, Berkeley:
The University of Chicago:
(Please note that some of the information will be repetitive, and some resources may be out of date or no longer funding students.)

The Unsubsidized Student Loan Monster

I am just a little out of the loop I guess, but maybe I'm not the only one. I applied for a student loan for graduate school this year, but when I saw that I was offered only an unsubsidized loan, I decided to turn it down to pursue more work opportunities to cover remaining costs. I had no idea that the subsidized loan for graduate students had left the scene!
Beginning in July 2012, graduate students applying for Stafford loans will only be offered unsubsidized loans with a 6.8% interest rate and 1% origination fee. Unlike subsidized loans, you will accrue interest on all of the loan while you are still in school. Before 2012, students were able first consider borrowing the majority of a subsidized loan and if necessary after this, then to borrow a portion of the unsubsidized amount.  It makes me uneasy to consider a student loan that accrues interest before I have even had the chance to complete the education it was borrowed for. But if this is what you need to do, it's best to attempt to pay off the interest while you are in school before facing that interest-accruing monster amount after graduating.

Welcome to the Multicultural Doctorate!

Welcome to The Multicultural Doctorate! I am April, the Multicultural Doctora in training. I live in Southern California, and am a PhD student.
For the most part in the United States, if you look around at the graduate school classmate demographics, ethnic and cultural diversity continues to be low. My goal is to be a support to women of color who wish for a graduate school education but don't quite know where to begin. The purpose of the blog is to be a resource for students of color who are pursuing graduate studies in university - from the women's perspective.
In 2009, the Council of Graduate Schools publication, Broadening Participation in Graduate Education (2009), reported that only 12% of students from underrepresented populations were enrolled in graduate programs. (1) The stats on women of color in academia are extremely low. As recently as 2007, the NEA reported that women of color working in faculty positions were at a national percentage of just 2%. (2)
With this blog I hope to serve as an encouragement for women of color to continue to seek further academic study. Not only this, but to find the capacity and resources to do well in school, locate scholarship and fellowship funding, and ultimately secure successful work in academia and other sectors.
Getting into a PhD program - with full funding - was not easy. It took me a few attempts but I finally got through. Here are the stories, resources, and useful tips I learned along the way!
1. Council of Graduate Schools:
2.National Education Association: