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The heat is off, no presure

Step one for the aspiring masters or doctoral student is to attend the Graduate and Professional School Fair today from 11-2 p.m. in Hubbard Hall.

To students who don’t quite know what they want to do yet, TWU’s Interim Dean of Graduate School Dr. Holly Hansen- Thomas addressed: “For students who are considering grad school, they’re going to have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with, first, TWU faculty, and [next] people who know firsthand the ins and outs of their programs.” Hansen-Thomas also advised that students start researching their options as early as possible because sometimes it does take a while to figure out what career path will be the best fit.

Three current TWU graduate students, Informatics Masters of Science Tracy Stegmair, doctoral student Prepti Mody and Biology Masters of Science Danielle Steffey took time to share first-hand their journey to making their life goals a reality.

For Stegmair, grad school was always a dream, but there was never a program that quite fit her career in the Office of Institutional Research and Data Management, until this fall when the Masters of Science in Informatics program was launched at TWU. Now, in her 40s with two older children in high school, Stegmair has taken the step to learn more about her field of interest.

It won’t be an easy path for her, with her husband being a PhD student and professor at UNT, and her eldest son beginning college soon as well: “This may be a long master’s degree, I may have to skip from time to time. For me [the difficulty] is a matter of money; finding the money so I can go.” Stegmair graduated from TWU with her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in 2002 and while there are benefits for faculty who are also in school, there is not a program for staff.

Mody shared her assuredness and passion for her trajectory: “For me grad school was a no brainer. I had gone to college in India, came here to get a second master’s at UTD and I came to TWU to get my doctorate because I love molecular biology. I live and breathe it, day and night. Plus my dad is a physician in India, and in my dad’s side of the family we have a lot of genetic disorders, autoimmune disorders.”

Mody would eventually like to open up her own research lab and research autoimmune disorders. Her husband went to TWU before her and suggested the program when Mody was looking at which doctoral programs she wanted to get in to. Mody had applied to UT Southwestern twice and was not accepted even after working there three years, but it turned out well: “I’m happy that I’m here because I got something that I really enjoy working with, which is really important if you’re going for the long haul Ph.D.” Mody said she saw how students at UT Southwestern got burnt out and felt like the same would have happened to her had she gone there.

Steffey was on track to go to medical school as an undergraduate when she realized she wasn’t convinced that was what she wanted to do: “I decided I don’t really like the people aspect of Biology, I prefer more of the figuring out how to help people—I don’t want to be the one actually helping the people.” She shared that her undergraduate advisor was influential in directing her to the area of research. Steffey targeted programs that specialized in Microbiology. When it came time to schedule a visit at TWU, Steffey contacted Chair of the Biology Department Dr. Sarah McIntire who organized meetings for Steffey with other faculty members and advisors. “It was the most welcoming because none of the other schools kind of did that…they [Biology department] treated me like they wanted me to be there,” she shared

The most valuable resources students have, according to Mody, is their mentors and advisors, who teach them how to “think” and troubleshoot. Steffey said that the most important thing that grad schools look at is your personal statement, more so than your transcript because it tells admission staff why you want to be there. Stegmair and Mody both attest to the importance of essential and basic courses when you first start taking graduate level courses—to not become too complacent or overconfident in your own knowledge and ability.

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