Graduate student panel

Prospective graduate students get a peek inside Princeton Ph.D. programs

Oct. 10, 2018 11:24 a.m.

A panel of Princeton doctoral candidates share their experiences with students attending the Prospective Ph.D. Preview (P3) Fall Institute. Pictured from left to right are Jaime Sánchez, Kristina Solorio, Hadiya Jones and Erin Flowers.

Students interested in graduate studies at Princeton University convened on campus Oct. 4-7 for three programs designed to give them an intimate look at the University’s Ph.D. programs. 

Sarah-Jane Leslie

At a dinner on Oct. 4, Graduate School Dean Sarah-Jane Leslie, a Princeton graduate alumna, welcomes more than 50 college juniors and seniors attending P3, the 2018 EEB Scholars Program and 2018 MOL BIO Scholars. All three programs are geared toward first-generation, low-income and historically underrepresented students.

The Prospective Ph.D. Preview (P3) Fall Institute, 2018 EEB Scholars Program and 2018 MOL BIO Scholars were held concurrently this year, giving prospective applicants the opportunity to engage with Princeton faculty, staff and students to discuss the admission process, graduate student life, academic expectations and how to prepare a competitive application. 

At a welcome dinner, Renita Miller, associate dean for access, diversity and inclusion for the Graduate School, told attendees, “We hope that by the end of your visit, you will walk away feeling like you can see yourself here, that you belong, and that you are welcomed.” 

Renita Miller

Renita Miller, associate dean for access, diversity and inclusion for the Graduate School, hosts a full day of events on Oct. 5 for P3 attendees.

P3 is open to all interested students. However, given the disparity in graduate education across the United States, participation is encouraged from first-generation/low-income students and historically underrepresented groups. This year's P3 cohort of 36 students was chosen through a partnership with Rutgers Honors College, the City University of New York’s Macaulay Honors College, Howard University and Lincoln University. 

Students attended information sessions and tours to learn about campus life and culture. The 28 EEB and MOL BIO scholars additionally met one-on-one with graduate students and faculty and had an opportunity to present posters on their own research.

William Massey, Princeton’s Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, spoke to P3 attendees about “Encouraging the Next Generation of Ph.D.s.” He shared his experiences as a Bell Labs researcher and also as a professor at Princeton and how throughout his career he was fully engaged in a “community of research” that included mentors, peers and, eventually, his own mentees and students.

“Who creates Ph.D.s? Academic researchers,” he said. “If you want to be involved in creating more minority researchers, that’s how you do it.”

William Massey at event

William Massey, Princeton’s Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, speaks with P3 participants about the great legacy of minority researchers at Bell Labs, where he once worked, and how he has fostered a network of minority colleagues through mentoring.

A panel of current graduate students talked about their decision to attend Princeton, overcoming fears common to those on a Ph.D. track, and how to manage time and expectations.

Hadiya Jones, a fourth-year graduate student in sociology, assured attendees that everyone feels “imposter syndrome” — a feeling of “fraud” related to individual doubts about accomplishments. An epiphany about what she brings to her department helped her to assuage her own doubts. “It’s not like I don’t know anything,” she said. “I just have a different reservoir of knowledge.”

“As people of color, it’s easy to do that, to always compare yourself,” said Jaime Sánchez, a second-year Ph.D. candidate in history. “The lesson here is that there is no one path. That was a hard lesson to learn over time.”

P3 attendees said they appreciated the hospitality from the University and that the sessions were helpful in understanding the graduate student experience and learning more about Princeton itself.

“I felt like I got good vibes from the faculty and other students,” said Jacquelyn Chin, a senior at Howard University who is interested in earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. “For me it’s important to know I’m going to be comfortable for the five or six years I’m going to be here.”

Gabrielle Goubran, a student at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, who is exploring postsecondary options in economics and finance, said she was excited to see that Princeton was taking her seriously as a candidate from a public institution.

“It shows they’re taking seriously the diversity initiatives they have here,” she said. “I feel I’ve been able to get a fantastic education. It’s definitely encouraging.”