Scholars' Lab Blog //A Heartening New Perspective
Blog //A Heartening New Perspective

Navigating a PhD program in your late-30’s is a humbling process. The inevitable and overwhelming feeling of imposter-syndrome is exacerbated at a ‘public ivy’ like the University of Virginia when you come from limited financial resources, had no exposure to academia, and very little ‘classic’ training. Within the academy, we are often conditioned to hide our own inadequacies and expose the deficiencies of others, a practice I have struggled with significantly.

My first several years in the PhD program were painful to say the very least. My style of communication, background, and approach to life, did not fit well within a traditional model of academic training. What I lacked in pedigree, I attempted to make up for with a willingness to work seemingly endless hours. After nearly 3 years of mimicking the toxic practices promoted within the academy, which induced a deep depression and stress-related neurological issues, I re-prioritized my physical, emotional, and mental health.

Despite the obvious struggles, my time at UVA has been enriching beyond measure. My experiences teaching over the past three years reinforced my desire to become an educator. Although it has been difficult for me to communicate in the same academic language as most of my colleagues, the undergraduates have made the entire process worthwhile. Additionally, my advisor has become one of the most influential mentors I have ever had.

Throughout my four years at UVA, I have heard countless positive testaments about the Scholars’ Lab from colleagues, students and faculty. Although I have only been a Praxis Fellow for several weeks, my experience with the Scholars’ Lab staff has been refreshing and heartening. My technological skills are severely lacking and the thought of writing code is mind numbing, but the spirit of the Scholars’ Lab has been unlike anything I have experienced within academia. Despite knowing much less about coding than my particular field of scholarship, I have been treated like a colleague rather than a ‘grad student’ — an incredibly rare dynamic within the academy.

If I could pass a message to future Praxis’ Fellows, it would be to get in some coding practice in the summer (especially if you have limited experience like myself), but regardless of your expertise, expect to be treated with respect and compassion by the Scholars’ Lab staff. I have already been reprimanded by my support crew for putting in too many hours. I need to remember that I can’t attain years of knowledge in a matter of months. I also need to appreciate the very small steps forward I’m constantly making. I can already sense that my experience with Praxis will be one of the highlights of my time at UVA, while also offering me an entirely different, and refreshing, perspective of the academy.

Cite this post: Joseph Foley. “A Heartening New Perspective”. Published October 26, 2021. Accessed on .