When I was discerning PhD programs, one tidbit of advice kept coming up time and time again: You don’t choose the program because of the name or departmental prestige; you choose a program based on the advisor you want to work with.

Let me explain why this advice is flawed.
My PhD decision came down to two schools. One was my alma mater and the other was my current institution. Though my alma mater does not have the same renown as ___, there are no less than SIX faculty members there who fed me, supported me, & poured into me *beyond* the program.
When researching my current institution, I immediately noticed that the department was not an ideal fit. Still, I chose this institution over my alma mater because the scholar who was there matched my research interests to a T.

He took a great opportunity & left my first year.
So there I was, halfway across the country, away from my elders & my community of care, trying to navigate a [nearly] all-white department that, by all accounts, was a horrible fit.

The whole time I was told the institutional brand would take me far so I should ✌🏾just finish.✌🏾
In the past five years, my research has been recognized internationally. I have presented at our national conference an unhealthy amount of times. My network is strong & my CV is not missing any meals.

& I have been professionally miserable the entire time.
Simply put, no one should have the graduate CV I have, be in their fifth year in a graduate program, and contemplate leaving it all behind.

I am here because I chose an elite brand and one person over a smaller academic community of care.

Do not make this same mistake.
You might be afraid that you won’t get a job if you study at a smaller institution. This is a real & warranted fear.

But, please here me out, you are not guaranteed to a job if you graduate from an Ivy. And you can’t guarantee that your health will survive five+ years of THIS.
Choose a department that foregrounds care. If you are non-white, demand to see the Department CARFAX. How many grad workers from my subject-position have graduated this program? Why so few? Is this a toxic working environment?

If they can’t answer these questions, I don’t care how renowned the name is, they cannot & will not support & protect you when the toxicity seeks to overtake you.

Don’t attend the institution that you think will make you scholarfamous; attend the place where you can flourish.🌺
Please do not hesitate to DM if you are discerning programs and need a conversation partner. I am here to help however I can.

I am committed to helping grad workers have a better report than mine. 🖤🌻🖤

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More from @james_hhilljr

20 Feb
As a cishet man, I am painfully aware of how men build their careers on the unseen sacrifices of their partners. I have witnessed men get in front of microphones & proudly confess how they are never home because ✌🏾the work takes priority.✌🏾

These comments always turn my stomach.
When I began this PhD journey five years ago, I made a conscientious decision to prioritize my loved ones above any employer and every institution. I gave my all when it came to coursework, teaching, supporting colleagues & students, advancing my writing -and then I went home.
My greatest accomplishment in grad school will never be found on a CV. My greatest accomplishment over the past five years is never placing my wife in a position where she says the university gets more of me than she does.

My family never gets what left of me. They get ME.
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