Convocation 2017 Remarks by Tamara R. Mose (Ph.D. ’08, Sociology)

Tamara R. Mose at Convocation
Good morning, everybody.

Welcome incoming Class of 2017! I stand before you today as someone who has been in your very seat, someone who was an international student from Canada, traveled from Los Angeles where I did my undergraduate degree to attend graduate school here at the Graduate Center, and as someone who would later become a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College.  Today I want to share with you a bit about my journey. We don’t all have a conventional path that led us to the Graduate Center. Mine certainly wasn’t. I had been a choreographer and dancer in Toronto, Canada, for a decade before deciding to pursue academia. In my late 20s, after getting married, I decided to pursue my education. We traveled to Los Angeles for my partner’s work and so that I could pursue a degree. After obtaining my B.A. in psychology, I decided to apply to a Ph.D. program. I thought to myself, “Well, going back to school was easy, doing my B.A. was easy, why not just continue?” Just like many of you, I waited patiently until the spring months and after already accepting a master’s degree offer from UCLA, I received a letter in my mailbox that read the Graduate Center, City University of New York. I opened that letter and jumped for joy that I had been accepted into the sociology Ph.D. program. I was thrilled! My partner and I packed up our apartment and went through the process of moving to New York City — this big place I knew virtually nothing about. It was intimidating. We searched and searched for a suitable one-bedroom apartment and quickly learned that money does not go as far as you would like it to in this city. Luckily, we found a place in Brooklyn.

I came into my program with all the confidence in the world. Here I was, valedictorian of my community college, honors and awards recipient in my undergraduate program, and a straight-A student. I thought to myself, “I’m a smart person and will fly through this Ph.D. program.” I was prepared! Then I entered my first class and heard other students speak. In that moment and probably for the first semester, I realized, “Oh! Wait a minute! I am now in class with the smartest people from all over the world. Hmmm, maybe I’m not that smart after all.” Students had such a range of ideas, value systems, political leanings, historical knowledge about countries I had never visited. They brought with them cultural intellect, street knowledge, corporate work experiences, as well as hippy minded freedom of thought. I was beside myself. I cried after receiving my first written paper with comments. “But wait,” I thought. “I thought I was the smartest student and that’s why I was here.” Well, needless to say, it was a rude awakening to find out that being smart was the last thing that would get me through a doctoral program. It took that entire first year for me to understand that being at the Graduate Center as a student means so much more than what you think you know. The Graduate Center is a space that helps guide, create, produce, and share our collective and individual interests. It is a space where we collaborate with professors who are generous enough to impart upon us a thing or two about what they have learned and created over the years. It is a space whereby some of the greatest minds come together to give texture to an exciting world. More than this, it is a space where you become a participant, and your greatest challenge is not the theories you will learn, not the methods you apply, and not the professors you eventually choose for your orals committees; the greatest challenge will be yourself! 

In research and statistics, we have a saying called an N of 1. What this means is that there is only one case or participant that is under investigation. What we know about having an N of 1 is that no matter what you find out about that N of 1, your results are not generalizable to the entire population. You cannot apply what you know about this one case to all cases. Well, I’m here to tell you that you are an N of 1. We cannot generalize you or your results! What you do here in this building and in using this great urban center as your laboratory for creative learning will be up to you….and only you! You will determine what classes you take. You will decide which direction to go with your research. You will ultimately figure out what strategies work best for you to move through a doctoral program. You will be your greatest critic. But I am here to tell you that despite being an N of 1, you are one of many who will be going through the same process that you are going through. These are your peers in this room! These are your greatest supporters and, at times, your greatest competition. These are the friends that you will take with you throughout your career. Be in the moment, take advantage of their advice or words, but remember, ultimately…you get to choose your own outcomes! No one else! I implore you to think of this process as an exercise in stretching your mind and your social network. Believe in your ability to be the expert in how you have lived your life and learned what you have learned over the course of your years on earth. No one else has had your experiences, so use them to inform the work you do! What you do here at the GC over the next several years is another step, another hoop to jump, but I want you to make it the best jump you’ve ever taken. Give it your best and then go get paid to give your best to others. This is not your life’s work, it is the beginning of what you need in order to get paid to do your life’s work. It is your internship, with all of the pain, heartache, laughter, and insight you would expect. Allow yourself to be open to challenges and when that one professor makes you feel like you just didn’t read enough or learn enough, making you want to curl up in the fetal position (because that will happen), I want you to pick yourself back up and mentally fight that feeling of being an imposter and show them that you were chosen to be here for a reason and that you have every right to be here and to be great! Allow yourself to be your best you and then go out into the world and teach others how to be the same.

No one knows you like you. No one will be a better cheerleader to you than the people sitting right next to you today. Your N of 1 is exactly what your department was looking for, so go get ‘em and just remember, this is your stage of getting ready, then you will set yourself once you move through to the final stages of your program so that you can eventually go! We want you to go! This isn’t a race, but we want you to go be awesome! Go be someone who knows more coming out than they did coming in! Go and be the doctors that we know you will be! So, wake up each morning and say to yourself, “Ready. Set. Go!”

Thank you.

Submitted on: AUG 22, 2017

Category: General GC News