The field of special education is a small and connected community. Faculty members in the Department and College are leaders in their respective areas. Connections students make with faculty and peers during the program can last throughout a student’s career. Therefore, being a good citizen, both professionally and personally, is key to success in the doctoral program and as a future leader in special education.
It is important for doctoral students to seek out opportunities to help them develop professionally. Faculty are often interested in working with students on research projects or in courses. If there is a class a student is interested in learning more about or teaching, they are encouraged to talk with their advisor about helping with the course. Similarly, students could use the first year as an opportunity to learn about faculty research projects and actively participate in the Special Education Graduate Student Association (SEGSA), on Department or College committees, and in student groups within state and national associations. The first year in the doctoral program is an excellent time to explore these opportunities. Such conversations and experiences will provide students with a chance to work with leaders in the Department, College, and field, as well as access to mentorship from experienced doctoral students.
The doctoral program requires that students devote a significant amount of time to studying, reading, writing, supervising, conducting research, and teaching. Developing and maintaining strong and consistent communication with their advisor and peers will help students stay on track and navigate program milestones. It is important to communicate frequently with one’s advisor regarding any concerns and to obtain feedback on progress. One’s doctoral student cohort and other doctoral students can also provide professional and personal support, for the doctoral program is demanding of time and energy. Students are encouraged to concentrate on building the best academic program for their interests and skills without being overly concerned about the progress of other doctoral students, because students progress at their own pace through program milestones. After doctoral coursework is completed, much of the work is self-driven and self-designed. Therefore, members of a cohort may move through the program at different speeds.