In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Christiana Kelly, a PhD candidate in Education, Culture, and Society, was placed as a Fellow with the Penn Libraries – Educational Technologies & Learning Management. Read about Christiana’s experience in the CEF below!
Describe your experience working with your host:
I conducted my fellowship while collecting data back home in Sierra Leone for my dissertation on national education reforms and education technology policies and programs. Working with my host provided an opportunity to learn new education technology terminologies and different learning management platforms. It was very interesting to compare the kinds of digital resources that were available to educators and learners at Penn to continue teaching and learning during COVID in contrast to the lack of digital resources in K-12 schools and universities across Sierra Leone.
What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?
One of my primary goals during the fellowship was to learn how to communicate my research to a general audience. I participated in several CEF workshops where I heard from panelists who has successfully translated their work to their current roles across different sectors. In April, I won first Penn’s 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which provided a platform for me to practice communicating my research in a concise and clear manner. I also participated and received an honorable mention at the National Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS) 3MT competition. Hearing how different panelists during the CEF workshops were able to apply their research to different fields was helpful in preparingfor these competitions.
How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?
CEF eased my stress about entering the job market after completing my PhD. While I’m still interested in pursuing a faculty position, it has been reassuring to learn from others the many ways a PhD is useful in different roles in an outside of academia.
What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?
One of my biggest takeaways from my CEF experience was how to be purposeful about networking. I participated in a workshop on making the most of informational interviews where I learned how to request informational interviews, develop specific questions for the interview, and leave with a concrete ask after the conversation. I also learned how to strengthen my LinkedIn presence and was able to make some valuable connections to support my research.
Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:
There are many opportunities for professional development through conferences, seminars, workshops, and student activities during graduate school that you not may always have time
for while conducting research. The CEF provides time to focus on professional development and to be intentional about buildingyour academic and professional networks.