Julie DeGraw, the new vice president for student life and dean of students, has a passion for her new job at Bluffton, and loves the interaction she is able to have with students and faculty on a daily basis. DeGraw has acquired her doctorate in higher education from the University of Michigan, and encourages female students; especially ones looking to go into higher education, to as she likes to say “try it on.”
She has developed this idea through her own life experience as well as research, and has seen the benefits of where all her hard work has gotten her. DeGraw said that acquiring a doctorate is good because “it’s a ticket to the table if you really want to be able to make larger institutional changes in higher education. “
DeGraw also said “it’s a diversity issue to say, gender isn’t the whole piece of it, but maybe you need to have different identities around the table because it brings various perspectives as to what you need to be thinking about – especially when making big decisions for the institution.” She said that she does not think that women do a better job than men, but that women could bring a new “identity” to the table which is dominated mostly by men.
DeGraw said that the journey to achieve her doctorate was mentally one of the most challenging things that she has ever done. She said it takes more “perseverance than intelligence” but through setting goals and showing discipline a student can make it through process of achieving the ultimate goal.
She advises female students interested in acquiring a doctorate to look into different programs of interest, talk to students involved in the program, and get opinions from people about that program. DeGraw also encouraged female students to take a risk and jump into it. This is where her idea of “try it on” comes into play.
For her the phrase “try it on” meant that she would try something and see how it would turn out. She said she decided to try the GRE, and if she passed great, and if she did not it was not the end of the world. She did the same with applying to colleges. By doing this DeGraw believes that a student can eliminate much of the stress that comes with the doctorate process.
DeGraw said acquiring her doctorate gave her the chance to learn, grow and study about her specific field. She said that having her doctorate has been “empowering” and that in the field of higher education, it has helped her to command more respect.
Statistics show that often times a woman will put furthering her education to the side in order to care for her family. DeGraw encourages female students that are considering grad school and other further education to keep persevering after their undergraduate schooling.
Senior social work major Samantha Ritter, said that she was planning on furthering her education, but that she was going to beat the statistic, and wait to achieve her goal. She said she wants to try and get some experience in her field before she goes on to the next level of education needed. She is not worried about this statistic.
DeGraw believes that, depending on the context of the place that you work, having a doctorate can be very beneficial, but that it is mostly the self-empowerment that one can feel when acquiring a doctorate that is most fulfilling. She said “you feel more equipped and able to do your job.” She encourages students to “try it on” and talk more about Grad School and other forms of higher education. DeGraw said “What can it hurt?”