Navigating Doctoral Studies with Young Twins and Working Full-Time

A blog post by PhD in Leadership Studies Student Ambassador Stefanie A. Johnson Shipman

As I begin my final year of the Leadership Studies PhD program, I find myself reflecting on my experience, including navigating doctoral courses and dissertating, teaching full-time at a community college, and being a parent of young twins. My twins were 2.5 when I started and are now nearly 5.5.

The biggest thing I learned is to ask for help when I need it. My spouse, Eric, is extremely supportive—from helping me put together a poster for a class presentation in my first semester to helping me figure out formatting dissertation data in Excel. We also moved closer to my hometown; then everyone in my family could help me during this journey. For example, during my global studies course on Brazil, which was on Zoom for several hours a day, my mom and sister helped watch our twins.

My peers in the program have been kind and supportive, including some I met at Admitted Students Days. I have been able to count on them and have their help, like bringing coffee when we were in-person our first semester to filling me in on Zoom when I would step out to say goodnight to my twins.

There are a couple more things that have helped me. Having a positive mindset and remembering my purpose has been essential. I often remind myself that this program is not forever. I also think of the example I am setting for my kids—being steadfast in working towards an important personal goal. Finally, I remind myself that we can do hard things.

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