Catching Up With Rachael Houston

Today we catch up with Rachael Houston! Rachael was president of the Phi Rho chapter at Coastal Carolina and took part in the 2016 Pi Sigma Alpha National Student Research Conference. In 2017 she was one of five winners of the Pi Sigma Alpha Penniman Graduate Scholarship. Today, she is about to enter the second year of the doctoral program in political science at the University of Minnesota.  She writes:

“The first year of my PhD program at the University of Minnesota was a very challenging, but very rewarding experience. I think what surprised me the most is how I thought I had my entire graduate career mapped out before I even entered the Social Sciences building. I thought I knew exactly what I was going to study and research for the next 5+ years. However, graduate school exposes you to new fields, new ideas and people, and new ways of thinking. I quickly learned that you have to be open to new things, and you have to embrace the fact that your interests may shift. If you are considering a PhD program in political science, keep an open mind about everything. Explore new research areas, learn both sides of an argument, take classes that do not exactly align with your current interests, speak out in class. Get uncomfortable. It’s how you will grow.

 
In graduate school you also need to be able to motivate yourself. Be your biggest supporter. It can be an emotionally draining experience, so you need to be able to pat yourself on the back and tell yourself good job when no one else does. You also need to rely on the people around you. It can be easy sometimes to avoid interacting with people, or cancel plans because you have too much work to do, but I cannot tell you how important it is to make friends with the people in your program. These people will be your backbone, the only ones that will understand exactly what you are going through. Make the time and effort to connect with them. It can be as quick as a coffee break!

I have grown this past year more than ever. I have learned new things about myself and pushed myself in ways that I did not think were possible. I am very thankful to be in such an amazing program. I cannot wait to be a TA this upcoming year, finish my coursework, and (hopefully) pass my preliminary exams. It will be a difficult year, but I am sure I will push myself harder than I ever have!”