Giving back: Empathy of doctoral student’s journey…Been there, done that

Giving back: Empathy of doctoral student’s journey…Been there, done that

Traveler, there is no path. The path must be forged as you walk. - Antonio Machado

Thinking back on your own doctoral journey, what were the potholes, detours, uneven pavement, and forks in the road that you had to navigate? Do you think those experiences were unique indicators of your personal doctoral journey? If you do, think again.

University of Phoenix has various means for students to share experiences, a way of reaching into the abyss to see if there is anyone out there who will answer a question and share in the jubilation of a milestone achieved. A social media platform is just one avenue on the doctoral highway that can be shared. But this is a HOV lane, where if you do not have FasTrak you may end up paying a toll.

Throughout each phase of the doctoral program and dissertation process, research and how to conduct research is a question that is tackled in isolation. Granted, the doctoral student does take classes in which they may have forged a cohort of dependable colleagues, yet the actual work requires the perseverance of Chuck Noland in Castaway. As doctoral students set out on their journey, sitting on the island of ideology, they may realize that finding a methodology and conducting the research “means there is no [clear] path and certainly, there is no way of knowing what you will find” (Brown, n.d., para. 1).

This is where alumni can step up to the plate, join the carpool to ease the traffic congestion, and of course, reduce the cost of tolls. Our doctoral students are “researchers as-voyagers, travel[ing] from familiar inner and outer landscapes into unknown territories with new horizons” (Batchelor & Di Napoli, 2006, p. 13).

The role of alumni is to support doctoral students via a journey of compassion. How many times while you were working on your dissertation proposal or study you wished you had someone you could reach out to and talk to, not just a text or email, but a real conversation in real time over the phone? Alumni have the power to be there, that person, to share their voice; the been there, done that of the doctoral journey.

Alumni, let’s rideshare, be the vanpool of individuals to support our current doctoral students. Who better than us to the help our doctoral candidates maintain sanity throughout this crazy journey? Alumni have a unique perspective. We are aware of the little known local resources of the University Phoenix, the networking and mentoring groups found at numerous University of Phoenix campuses, short cuts to locating research resources, how to develop networks to find research participants, who are the ‘go to’ people for a specific methodology or APA, the nuances of finding and working with an editor, who to contact when their dissertation chair drops out during QRF, and the tricks of how format the table of contents of the dissertation study. Alumni can share the importance of personal fortitude and championing each success a doctoral candidate achieves.

The doctoral journey is hard work. No road worth taking is smooth sailing. As advocates, who better to act as the GPS for our future alumni, helping to navigate through the traffic jams and bumps in the road?



Batchelor, D. & Di Napoli, R. (2006). The doctoral journey: Perspectives. Educate, 6(1), 13-24

Brown, B. (n.d.). Research. Retrieved from