Career Development for Graduate School Students

Meet Krista Craven

Posted by on Friday, January 30, 2015 in Successful Alumni.

In my application to Vanderbilt, I outlined my interest in utilizing a less conventional approach to research, known as participatory action research (PAR).  PAR involves elucidating the main issues that are of relevance to a particular group or community through dialogue and collaborative data collection and analysis, and then creating and implementing a plan of action to address these issues with the intention of improving conditions within their social contexts.  The training I received at Vanderbilt allowed me to explore numerous research methods, providing me with a solid understanding of how to engage in rigorous participatory research projects.   Moreover, the Community Research and Action (CRA) program provided me with the flexibility and support I needed to engage in a participatory research project for my dissertation.  For my dissertation, I partnered with a youth-led immigrant rights group to design and conduct a PAR project.  Collectively, we decided to document the stories of undocumented youth activists in Tennessee in relation to their migration to the U.S., their experiences growing up in the U.S., and their involvement in immigration activism, which the group hoped would be useful in guiding their movement-related work as well as influencing policymakers in Tennessee.  Through our research, we found that as undocumented youth come into contact with various social actors, institutions, and practices, they engage individually and collectively in multiple creative strategies to challenge and transform the socially erected barriers that preclude them from full participation in society.  We are currently sharing our findings via public presentations and publications.

In addition to taking a somewhat unconventional approach to my research, my path to my current position as an assistant professor at Guilford College is similarly unconventional.  I was interested in pursuing an academic position only if I could find an institution that supported the kind of participatory and social justice-oriented research that I was interested in conducting.  I received exceptional support and a lot of helpful information about the nature of the academic job market both from my department and the Graduate School.  For example, one of our department’s faculty members, Dr. Barnes, facilitated a very informative semester-long course for the first year doctoral cohort about how to successfully complete the PhD program and prepare for the job market.  I also attended almost all of the job market preparation events facilitated by the Graduate School, such as the half-day long workshops on cover letters and CVs, as well as the discussion with the deans at Vanderbilt.  The one-on-one sessions that Ruth Schemmer offered were also really helpful in preparing for the academic job market.

In my fourth year of the doctoral program, I decided to apply to a couple positions that I was really excited about to get a sense of what being on the job market entailed.  I ended up getting an initial Skype interview at Guilford College to teach in their Community and Justice Studies program, which was both surprising and exciting.  To prepare for the first interview, I spent about two weeks researching everything I could about the college and the community surrounding it to illustrate my enthusiasm for and interest in the position.  I then flew to Greensboro for a job talk about a month later, and again spent about two weeks practicing my presentation and reflecting on how the position could complement my research and teaching interests.  I was very excited to receive a job offer from Guilford, as it felt like an excellent place to continue engaging in social justice-oriented research and teaching.

Upon receiving the job offer, I had to ensure I would complete my dissertation by the summer of 2014. Thankfully, my dissertation committee members were enthusiastic about my work and they provided excellent feedback on my dissertation, which helped keep the process timely and efficient.  Additionally, it was helpful to recognize that my dissertation was not an end in itself, as I would continue to work with the data we collected over the coming years.

Although my career path is somewhat uncommon, what I suggest is to put a lot of time and energy into the few positions that really excite you.  In doing so, your passion will be evident and will hopefully draw the attention of the departments you aspire to work with.

Krista’s Fun Facts!

Current city: Greensboro, NC

Current position: Assistant Professor of Justice and Policy Studies at Guilford College

Degree program: Community Research and Action

Favorite professor: Sandra Barnes, Dissertation Chair

Favorite Nashville restaurant: Silly Goose

Favorite place to work: Ugly Mugs in East Nashville

 

If you would like to learn more about Krista and her work at Guilford College, send her an email.

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