By Kritika Gupta
When I joined the University of Mississippi in 2019 as a Ph.D. student, I fell in love with the University. I knew I wanted to stay around—but how? As my dissertation defense date approached, I learned through my network that CERE was hiring a Postdoctoral Research Associate. I had closely followed CERE’s work through LinkedIn and Twitter, and I thought its work was very different from what I had learned through the mainstream curriculum. Turns out, it isn’t. It aligns with what I have learned and the skills I’ve developed throughout my education. What I needed to do was to connect the dots between the work that I had done previously and the work yet to come.
Connecting the dots and using your skills
While I had gained extensive experience using qualitative research approaches like focus groups and observations through my work as a Research Assistant and advanced courses (e.g., Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research), I only made the connection between these skills and CERE’s work when I took Program Planning and Evaluation in Public Health. My Ph.D. research was, in essence, evaluating national child nutrition policies. I had explored barriers and challenges for stakeholders and strategies developed to address barriers. I was unaware that I was evaluating the policies and that evaluation itself is a specialization. I also didn’t realize that the processes and methodologies I employed for those research projects would ultimately benefit me in getting my first job. Through most of our graduate work, we are really developing the basic research skills needed to be an effective evaluator—scientific and non-scientific writing, project development, project management, literature synthesis, data analysis, familiarity with statistical software, etc.
Summing up a month at CERE
My first month at CERE has been exciting, and I would not trade it for anything. I feel valued and seen at CERE. My ideas are always welcomed and appreciated. Beyond our regular, everyday exchange of greetings, I love that we also have a structure where all team members meet biweekly or monthly to make sure anyone who needs assistance receives adequate support. Communication is key. If you are a current or prospective graduate student at the University of Mississippi reading this blog, develop and polish your research skills. You never know when and how you will use them! Visit us sometime at South Oxford Center!!