Thank You!

I just want to send out a quick thank you to all my new followers, subscribers, readers, etc!  It’s so nice to be hearing from people who discovered this blog through our profile on Emelina Minero yesterday.  If you haven’t had a chance to read it, please do – Emelina has been doing some amazing work since she graduated from college and she shares some very good advice for people trying to juggle freelancing with launching their own projects.  And, if you enjoyed Emelina’s profile, be sure to check out all the other great, inspiring post-collegiates who have been featured in the past!

Finally, if you know someone who you’d like to see featured on the blog (including yourself!), let me know!  Just send a note to postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dot] com and tell me a little about yourself (or your friend/colleague/idol/bestie/role model).  I would love to expand the scope of whose featured here and share your stories.  So, seriously, what are you waiting for?  Email me!

That’s all I have for today.  Be sure to check back in the next day or two with some resume-writing tips (always relevant!), some thoughts on the post-collegiate characters played by Chris Eigeman (aka Digger Stiles!), and a few other surprises up my sleeve.  Enjoy the day!



Profile in Post-Collegiate Courage: Tawnya Ravy

Calling courageous post-collegiates! Our interview series is back with a vengeance as a semi-regular blog feature!  Want to nominate a courageous post-collegiate to be featured (including yourself)?  Email postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom].

I strive to offer different perspectives on this blog, especially considering that this blog is borne out of the realization that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life and where I’m headed.  This week, I wanted to introduce you to my college classmate (and – full disclosure – current roommate/slumlord – just kidding!) Tawnya Ravy.  What makes Tawnya’s perspective so different from mine as she has used the post-collegiate years to work her way through a master’s degree and into a doctorate program at the George Washington University, all while turning around to teach students not much younger than we are!  She was kind enough to share a little advice on taking the higher education post-college path.

Tawnya, from undergraduate leader to doctoral candidate and teacher in just a few years

Hello, roomie!  For those readers who do not share a domicile with you, would you mind sharing a little about yourself.

I am originally from California, but I have now lived on the East Coast almost as long as I lived on the West Coast. I just turned 26 years old and now live in Fairfax, VA.  As you know, I attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia and then straight into the graduate program at GWU.   I originally wanted to pursue law but majored in English and never looked back.  

You had a pretty impressive resume coming out of college, especially with being Student Body President.  What was your initial plan when we graduated?
Luckily, my plans were pretty much set on the last day of college because I was accepted into the GWU English Graduate Program. My plan was to pursue a PhD. in literature.  I had ambitions to finish my PhD early as well as harbored dreams of traveling and teaching abroad.    I thought that graduate school would give me the flexibility and credentials to do so but have learned that finding the time was more difficult than I imagined because it eats your life!
I know a lot of our fellow classmates, as well as students across the country, who choose to wait a few years for graduate school.  What made you decide to go right away?  Do you have any regrets?
The fall before I graduated college, I was planning on attending law school. Half-way through an application process, I realized that I did not have enough passion for law to make it worthwhile. Luckily, I was already majoring in English because someone told me that it was the best preparation for the amount of reading/writing required in law school. I discussed my options with a trusted professor who suggested I begin applying to graduate schools right away. My first choice was GWU, and I heard from them fairly quickly in the application process. So far, I do not have any regrets about beginning graduate school right away, especially because I thrive in academia and was able to utilize my undergraduate experience right away, building off those four years’ of momentum.
Since I witness your day-to-day life up close, I am always impressed by the balance you strike between school (graduate classes, dissertation research) and work, which for you is teaching 2-3 classes a semester.  How do you maintain that balance and choose what opportunities to pursue?
I am flattered that you think I have struck a balance. It is much better now than it was when I first started. I was working over 40 hours a week in an unpleasant working environment while maintaining a full course load in my first year of graduate school. I realized quickly that this could not continue if I wanted to succeed in my program, so I moved back with my parents for a little while.  Now that I have an M.A. I am able to teach and continue my studies, but the fact remains that my teaching load often trumps my graduate work – something that will only get tougher down the road.
Having so much on your plate, what things have you wanted to pursue but haven’t been able to yet?
I have been fairly blessed in that I have been able to do most of what I set out to do. I am sure I had some wonderful, crazy ambitions in college to take a month’s road trip around Europe, but I have ultimately been satisfied with a week’s trip here and there. The one thing, right now, that I would love to do is teach college abroad for a year or two. I loved living abroad in college, and I want that experience again before I settle down in my adult life. The trick will be timing – when exactly to do this in the never-ending process of obtaining a PhD.
It could seem that things have gone smoothly for you – straight from college to a graduate program with teaching opportunities on the side.  But there are challenges on every post-collegiate path – can you share some of yours

Tawnya, with fellow graduate school scholars, enjoying the District's signature cherry blossom season


I would say that graduate school itself has been a great challenge, as it is for most people, but especially because I have been completely unfunded from day one. The biggest challenge for me has been achieving that desire to support myself while going to graduate school full time. Now it has evolved into balancing the desire to teach a full load and to make progress on my graduate work. At the moment, this is further complicated by the fact that I am receiving little support or guidance from my advisers. I am proud of what I have accomplished so far, but as I enter the dissertation-writing stage of my program, I am more than a little anxious about the challenges to come.
Something tells me that you are more than up to the challenge!  Obviously strong planning and hard work have contributed to your success but do you have any examples of random happenstance that have helped bring you here?
When I began the graduate program, I was fairly confident in my ability to do scholarly work, but, as an unfunded student, there was no opportunity to try my hand at teaching. One day I received a fairly random email about an interview process for new M.A. holders – a teaching opportunity. I arrived to meet my future boss with no idea what I would do in the classroom. The fact that, despite my obvious inexperience and lack of preparation, he still gave me a job is a miracle. It was this opportunity that convinced me that I have chosen the right profession. After teaching for two semesters, I had an “aha” moment when I realized that I would love nothing better than teaching at the college level.

Last week, when I interviewed Sara, she shared a couple books that inspired her own writing.  As the resident literary expert and book buff, is there a book that you think encapsulates the post-collegiate experience?

This is going to sound weird, but I often think of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim when I think of my own post-collegiate life. Officially trained for one career, Kim ends up in an entirely different role which, although exciting and rewarding, threatens to compromise his true nature and his path to a higher calling. I realize that there are many books about newly graduated people facing a new, “real” world, but Kim is the novel which, for me, speaks to the fundamental compromises we all make upon entering adulthood.

Tawnya and I, in an obligatory roommate photo at a recent luau-themed soiree

My gratitude for Tawnya for taking time out of her ridiculously busy schedule to share all this with the blog (I guess I owe her a dinner now…)  Interested in more graduate student advice?  Feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section and I’ll be sure that Tawnya answers them!

Your Words: How I Quit My Job That One Time

When I was 27, I had been working at a big media company for three years, focusing on what was then called “online community” and is now known as “social media” because they figured out that “online community” didn’t make any money.  I had my own office on a very high floor.  I had a generous travel and entertainment budget (the mid-90s were awesome) [Ed. note:  Truly unfair for those of us still toiling away at secondary education during such a time.]  I hired some fantastic people.  I had a great relationship with the head of the online division, who told me the company would pay for me to get my MBA.

The leadership of the company changed.  We all got reorganized.  I was dispatched to a new magazine for teens, supposedly working on its online content but really just sending mildly pornographic IMs back and forth with my fellow reorg victim while we waited for something to happen.  The head of the online division wouldn’t return my calls and was never available to meet with me.  I got a new boss, one who didn’t delegate anything and didn’t invite me to meetings and didn’t copy me on status reports: all things that sound trivial, but in a workplace, that kind of behavior can make someone invisible.

I spent two months doing nothing all day, then going home to cry to my roommate.  I didn’t start looking for a new job because obviously I wasn’t the kind of person anyone would want to hire — if I were, then why would the company I’d worked so hard for be freezing me out?  I ate a lot of cheese and drank a lot of beer.

And then one day in January, sitting at my desk in the mostly-empty bullpen, I IMed my fellow reorg victim: I need to get out of here.

Lunch? he sent back.

No, I mean I need to GET OUT.

I got up, walked over to my boss’s desk, waited for her to acknowledge that I was standing there, and said: I don’t think this is working out.  Do you want me to work through my notice period?

Honestly, she looked at me as though she’d never seen me before. After a minute she said no, and I got my bag and walked out.

I spent a week sleeping till ten, pretty much paralyzed with fear.  My roommate, who hated HIS job, told me to shut up and enjoy my freedom while it lasted; he had a point.  The next week I borrowed a car and went on a solo road trip.  The third week I started making some calls to industry acquaintances, some of whom believed I was actually employable.  I was shocked.  The fourth week I got a new job — one that was lucrative and ended up eating my soul, but was a hugely valuable experience anyway.  I switched careers eventually, and then took a few years off to have babies.  I’m not at all sure what I’ll do when I go back to work.  But the benefit of having had a couple of agonizing work experiences is that I know now that nothing is permanent, no job or career should define me, and if I keep an open mind and can psych myself up enough to take some risks, there are a lot of opportunities out there.  Also, I shouldn’t have eaten so much cheese.

Many thanks to the anonymous reader who submitted this real life tale!  Want to share your experience?  Drop us at email at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom].  Cheese references not required but encouraged.