Twelve William & Mary Holmes Scholars attended the Holmes Scholars Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY in February as part of the 71st American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Annual Meeting. The Holmes Program, a branch of AACTE, encourages diversity in education by providing mentorship opportunities to students from high school through doctoral programs who are interested in careers in education. William & Mary’s 14 current Holmes Scholars are high-achieving doctoral students from populations under-represented in higher education.
During this year’s two-day preconference proceedings, Holmes Scholars elected new council members, developed their constitution, and participated in a host of break-out sessions. Round-table and poster session events allowed Holmes Scholars to practice presenting their research. Three W&M scholars took advantage of these opportunities — Kirstin Byrd, a doctoral student in higher education; Nancy Chae, a doctoral student in counselor education; and Jingjing Liu, a doctoral student in higher education. Through these opportunities, scholars were able to cull ideas and gain peer feedback as they build toward their dissertations. “The conversations with scholars were informative and insightful,” shared Liu. “I gained valuable feedback that helped me move my research forward.”
Byrd echoed this sentiment, and with an eye for the future, added, “The advice I gained from other scholars allowed me to further think about how to turn my interests into an academic career.”
Equally enriching were the break-out sessions. Chae and fellow Holmes Scholar Chandra Floyd, a doctoral student in gifted education, both commented on a session geared toward writing. Chae remarked, “I enjoyed the collaborative discussion with fellow counseling doctoral students from other institutions, where we shared our questions and insights about how to become more productive writers. This experience helped to normalize the doctoral program experience.”
Meanwhile, Floyd was impressed with how the session translated small amounts of time into productive writing periods. “In just 25 minutes, I wrote the introduction to a piece that had been germinating in my mind for over a year now,” she shared. “Before this session, I would not have considered 25 minutes a useful block of writing time, but this session helped me see otherwise.”
Holmes Scholars Denise Lewis, a doctoral student in curriculum leadership, and Danielle Giscombe, a doctoral student in higher education, reflected on another break-out session entitled “The Doctoral Journey.” Lewis curated her reflections on her blog, available here. An underlying theme of the session to which she alludes is the growth one can experience and should deliberately seek through this journey. Along these lines, Giscombe reflected on her personal growth, verified by the contributions she made during the session. She shared, “I went to the session to listen and gather information that would help me enhance or improve my Ph.D. experience, but I was surprised to find myself being more vocal in this session than I expected to be. I had not realized before this meeting that I had evolved and advanced in my program which provided me with insights about survival skills, work-life balance, and the ability to share my reality with students of color seeking future academic Ph.D. programs.”
Overwhelmingly, W&M Holmes Scholars alluded to the sense of community engendered through this diversity-embracing space. Leila Warraich, a doctoral student in counselor education, remarked, “It was an inclusive space where I got to meet other amazing doctoral students in education. It felt inspiring to learn from one another and see the great work being done by my future colleagues.” Likewise, Juvenal E. Abrego-Meneseses, who is completing an executive Ed.D. in K-12 administration and has successfully defended his dissertation, captured the essence of the Holmes Scholars Program and a key AACTE goal when he stated, “This conference was centered on one common theme: as we work toward improving education, school systems must commit to maximizing their efforts to foster diversity and creativity, as these are paramount to improving academic achievement and school climate.”