Begin with the End in Mind

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DOCTORAL STUDENTS, Working or Not, PLEASE BEGIN Your Degree with YOUR END IN MIND.

What do I mean by this? No matter what:

TYPE of institution (brick and mortar vs online university),

HOW YOU ATTEND (full-time grad student with little to no outside employment vs. full-time employee doing school on nights and weekends),

DEGREE (PhD, EdD, PsyD, etc.) or

DISCIPLINE (Humanities, Social or Natural Sciences, Nursing, etc…)

in which you do your PhD, please have an idea of what you would like to do with your degree afterwards and research the feasibility of this goal for the institution, degree, and discipline.

For example, is it typical for a teacher who does a PhD at an online university to become a college professor at a brick and mortar university? If this path is typical, there will be others who have done it previously and your institution should refer you to those people as resources or examples for your own personal research.

As a prospective student for any degree program you should research what the graduates of the program are doing after they complete their program.

Do you want to do research, work for the federal government, or progress in your current profession after completing your doctorate? Whatever your goal, complete a degree that will allow you to accomplish that goal. Do not get a doctorate just to get a doctorate. The process is too stressful to not be intentional.

The following advice column is excellent for full-time graduate students but also has important points for anyone working on a doctorate. Check it out! https://www.chronicle.com/article/Odds-Are-Your-Doctorate-Will/246613

For you working PhD students out here or those considering a PhD, in search of more advice, comment below with your questions! I’d love to hear from you!

Dr. Frances, Your Dissertation Coach

GET PhinisheD with Frances

What’s the ROI on Your Opportunities for Excellence?

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Yesterday my friend from boarding school Desmond Walker and I reconnected for the first time in over 20 years. We were both thankful to reconnect but also so grateful for Mississippi’s investment in opportunities for excellence in us through our attending the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS).

We both agreed how the MSMS experience laid the foundation for our current ability to serve as national leaders of excellence in two careers: STEM education for me and Navy officer-ship for Desmond. As natives of rural Mississippi and graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), we both discussed how people with backgrounds like ours are sometimes not sought out to lead. However, when you pray, believe, and work hard so that you are ready for extraordinary opportunities that arise, the sky is the limit on God’s plan for your life as well as the lives of those you love and surround yourself with.

Thanks Desmond for taking time out of your day as Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations to give us a tour. I look forward to watching you continue to soar and using you as an example of educational and career excellence!

What are the ROIs (returns on investment) on the opportunities for excellence you have received? I’d love to hear some of them. I know they, like ours, have been beyond your original thoughts and dreams!

Don’t Let It Be This Long Before I Hear From You Again

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A lot has changed since I started this blog in 2010. I completed my PhD in 2011, married the husband I’d prayed over a decade for in 2012, worked at four different organizations in 2 states in 5 years & became a mom in 2016 and a twin mom in 2018. Yep that’s right…at the moment I have 3 children under 3! So how and why am I back at blogging…Well that’s the point of this post.

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Now that I’m a mom I’m working on balancing my personal and professional goals and making sure I’m my best mentally and physically to be the best I can for myself and my family. Through all the change, my passion for encouraging others especially as it relates to education and exercise remain the same. And believe it or not, I also have entrepreneurial goals for myself and my family. Previously, I’ve had an evaluation company with colleagues, completed training to open a daycare with my mom, and signed up to be an AirBnB host…they say good entrepreneurs are serial entrepreneurs, right? 

In search of the best entrepreneurial effort for my life right now, I recently started being coached by an excellent business development coach (Who you ask? Stayed tuned for that post!). From this coaching, I was directed to continue my entrepreneurial goals by adding income streams in areas of passion, purpose and present participation. So I’m back at blogging as I prepare to launch an income stream around coaching educational and career excellence. My website is where I will bring together all of my roles and passions, activities and social media presence as well as share resources related to educational and career excellence.

The posts on this site will also keep it real about how one can balance and work for it all (not just “have it all” as people like to say). To that end, I must thank my supportive, active and involved husband, mom and village that step in and help with childcare and household duties so that I can spend some time continuing the professional path I spent so much time on before becoming a mom. Let’s face it without a husband who enjoys cooking and doesn’t force me to do so, the mental energy required to post, coach or think entrepreneurially would most likely be lacking. Without a husband who will make and give a bottle and change diapers, it would be much harder or more expensive to write a blog post at 2am. Either I’d be exhausted or I’d be paying for nanny services (and working against building my own family’s wealth)…but again that’s another post. Without the dedicated grandmother my mom is by keeping my 3 under 3 at home while my husband and I continue our careers, it would be much harder to focus on my professional goals. I’ll try to explore the impacts of this support in future posts because believe it or not your support system is critical to your education and career excellence…but for now I’ll leave it right there until the next post…

p.s. I’m aiming to be creative with titles… they might be lyrics from songs, sports or political terms…If you recognize the song, artist or term or even if you don’t, leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts. and of course if the post resonates with you, leave me a comment…

Evaluation – Motivation – Dissertation

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I recently returned to Maryland after a whirlwind trip of professional obligations involving evaluation and motivation but all the while keeping my (and even others) dissertation(s) in my mind.  I’ll share some of my learnings and fun from these experiences as my first post on my blog that illustrates my life – academically, professionally, and personally . . .

As one of nine 2009-2010 American Evaluation Association Graduate Education and Diversity Interns aka GEDIs, I participated in our last group event and meeting with hundreds of other evaluators. It never ceases to amaze me that evaluation is done on such a wide variety of populations and the concern and care that goes into both helping others as well as designing and conducting quality evaluations.  I feel priviledged to have been trained as a culturally responsive evaluator in a leading non-profit organization and look forward to using my evaluation skills and training in my professional and academic opportunities.

I left the meeting with my fellow GEDIs early to speak to the 2010 cohort of MIT Summer Research Program participants about winning fellowships to fund their graduate education. This was my first co-invited talk with my fellowship colleague Patti Ordonez-Rozo. Without Patti, we would not have gotten this opportunity so I will be forever grateful. As winners of numerous fellowships to fund our graduate education, Patti and I worked well as a team at MIT. Our combined skills were especially important in this diverse audience with students hailing from various levels of Research Universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Servig Institutions (HSI) all interested in becoming the next generation of technical leaders. After answering tons of questions and seeing the students start on their application essays immediately during the workshop portion of our session, Patti and I left believing that we had motivated these talented students to continue to stretch themselves!  But who was more excited . . . Us or Them 🙂

Get Your Dissertation DONE!

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Who doesn’t look forward to a freshly baked, homemade cookie over a store-bought cookie? Your mouth is watering already thinking about warm cookies, fresh out of the oven that melt in your mouth. Some of you may already be reaching for flour or cookie dough to put some cookies in the oven…You love homemade cookies so much that you don’t care if the cookie is not perfectly round from being made with a cookie cutter or is a little lumpy. You know that those lumps represents chocolate chips that make the cookie great and the irregular shape represents the love, care and uniqueness put into the cookie to make it homemade and just right for you.

But why is your dissertation coach talking about cookies? I’m not a dissertation coach who provides cookie cutter services. Instead, I provide personalized dissertation coaching to unique, special and driven working PhD students. I don’t provide cookie cutter coaching because it does not move working PhD students to dissertation completion.

I build relationships to understand the personalized needs of each working PhD student with whom I work to help them complete their dissertations with excellence and expediency. Because your dissertation research must be innovative, novel and position you as a scholar, your dissertation coaching experience also needs to be unique to your topic, methods, skills and committee. Even when there is a gap in your skills and the needs of your dissertation, my coaching and network provide tools and resources that push the best type of dissertation, A DONE ONE!

I started dissertation coaching because I saw so many working PhDs students stuck in the process and knew I could help. So like your fresh out of the oven homemade cookies, reach out and lets get your dissertation DONE!

Get PhinisheD with Frances

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May is the time of year when students and families experience commencement, a celebration of completing educational accomplishments and commencing new experiences towards one’s career of choice. Unfortunately, for many PhD students, the road to commencement is often longer and less well-defined compared to the path to commencement for other degrees.

While I was fortunate enough to have a supportive dissertation advisor, be on a campus with a strong graduate school completion community and complete my PhD in 4.5 years, this was after I SWITCHED PhD programs TO GET THAT IDEAL SITUATION. So the question is what happens when your dissertation situation is not “the ideal?” What if your dissertation advisor is not often available? What if your life is already full of personal and professional obligations when the opportunity to pursue your doctoral degree becomes possible? Most doctoral students know how to complete coursework because they have successfully competed other degrees but the research and writing components of the dissertation process are less familiar and can delay commencement. When these situations happen, a DISSERTATION COACH is critical to navigate a more direct path to completion, commencement and an excellent career. I had various coaches for different parts of my dissertation completion process and know they helped me hone strategies of resilience and persistence that I still use today. Now I positioning myself to help others build those same skills.

If you are or know a working doctoral student who is feeling stuck at any point in the process, quickly refer them to me. My dissertation coaching program, GET PHinisheD with FRANCES, will help them move from dissertation delay to DISSERTATION COMPLETION.

Email dr.carterjohnson@gmail.com to learn more.

Ready to get PhinisheD? Click here to schedule a Scholar Assessment Session with me.

Mississippi State University Women of Color Summit Weekend

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It’s a great feeling to come home after extended time away and see progress. Progress is exactly what I saw and experienced attending the 2014 Women of Color Summit at Mississippi State University March 6-7, 2014. The goal of the summit was to encourage retention and success of current women of color at  State by illustrating the myriad of professional, academic and entrepreneurial opportunities that exist after completing a bachelor’s degree.

Dr. Tommy Stevenson, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion staff, and the 2014 WOC Planning Committee pulled together women of color panels, with emphasis on MS State alums and natives of the Hospitality state, who are contributing at home and all across the nation. The WOC team also pulled together prominent alum leaders as keynote speakers and Women of Color Honorees.

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My primary panel discussed how pre-college and college academic excellence allowed three MS natives to be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa (PBK), the nation’s oldest honor society. We reflected on how standards and strategies of academic excellence are necessary to complete advanced degrees and pursue research careers. My favorite part of our panel was when my MSMS-Spelman sister, Joyelle Harris and I, discussed being inducted into PBK at an HBCU, Spelman College, and our positive experience was echoed by our new MS-PBK sister, Christin Gates, explaining how creating an HBCU-like environment through various mentors allowed her to excel at the University of Mississippi.

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This was just one example of how our panel and others encouraged women of color to pursue academic success regardless of their environment.

Since I was home, my mom came down for the summit and used the opportunity to introduce my nephews to “college life.” Here are a few pics of them learning things like why college buildings are collectively called “campus”, the student union, the “learning buildings”, and the different play and practice fields for baseball, football, and soccer.

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I saw more family when I spoke with my sister for Women’s Month at my dad’s church, Walton Chapel and did an impromptu chat at Mt. Zion in Sardis. I apologize in advance to my close MS friends and family that I didn’t get to see while I was home but, in hindsight, I’m so happy that all of our hard work, at home and elsewhere, is paying off. . .let’s keep progressing. . .

STEM + Women Conference

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STEM+ WOMEN: Empower. Innovate. Lead.

STEM+ WOMEN: Empower. Innovate. Lead.

March 25, 2014 8:00 am to 5:00 pm GMU Fairfax Campus Johnson Center, Dewberry Hall.

High School Juniors & Seniors & College Women Don’t miss an engaging forum on STEM + education, careers and more!

 

Change: My Only Constant

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In June 2013, my old experiences all had new twists and my new experiences were in old familiar places, reminding me that change is sometimes my only constant. This may sound scary to a lot of people but I have always been one to embrace and thrive versus avoid change.

I started the month attending the Capital City Jazz Festival with my husband, his gracious fraternity brothers, and my 2011-12 roommates. I got to hear old and new favorite artists Babyface and Gregory Porter! While we had a great time as always there were a few key friends missing because they are making important educational changes in their lives. We missed them but are proud of their change and decided to do things a little differently ourselves. Normally, hubby and I attend both days of the jazz festival, but this year we only attended Saturday because on Sunday and Monday, I had an opportunity to attend the Society of STEM Women of Color Conclave, where I interacted with scientific family from UMBC, Spelman, Mississippi State, Howard University, and Puerto Rico. It was great to be inspired and motivated about the intersection of discrimination and education, network and work on upcoming projects with sister doctors all in one place!

At the end of June, I presented an annual graduate funding talk with my colleague Patti at MSRP. They new twists were new changes in the talk, a new room and as always a new group of students excited and encouraged to pursue graduate degrees and funding! The very next week I attended and was the author on two papers at the ASEE Annual conference. While I have cited ASEE publications, this was a new experience in an old place; it was my first time attending this conference but it was in my undergrad hometown of Atlanta. It was motivating to reconnect with classmates and their families and some of my many real-blood cousins in Atlanta. One of my friends from undergrad recently published his dissertation as a book. We met for a breakfast book signing and loosely planned intersections of our work.

All in all, change is constant in old and new experiences but balance is absolutely necessary to be a change embracer or to live life effectively whether you love change or not. This is what I remember when the challenge of change tries to get difficult (because of course you all know it does) but that’s another post.

Yes You Can! Be An Engineer!-A Motivational & Directional Talk to Middle School Girls

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I just returned from Atlanta where I was the luncheon speaker for Spelman College’s Fall 2012 Girls Leadership Institute sponsored by Spelman’s LEADS and the US Department of Energy.

Dr. Louis Johnson and Dr. Frances Carter-Johnson

The focus of the event was to expose  middle school girls at schools around Spelmanto STEM workshops on topics such as forensic science, electricity, lasers, and environmental science. Hopefully, this exposure will encourage them to pursue STEM experiences, opportunities and eventually STEM college degrees and careers. 

Entering the world of blogging and tweeting

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For almost 2 years now, one of my mentors at UMBC, Renetta Tull , has been stressing the importance of having and maintaining a professional online presence. She encouraged students in Maryland’s AGEP: PROMISE to have and maintain a LinkedIn Profile, a professional Facebook profile, a twitter account, and a professional blog or website.

At first, I didn’t fully understand the need for this, especially for tweeting and even more for a PhD student trying to finish their dissertation in a timely fashion. I thought,”Who has time to tweet and blog on a regular basis when I have to read, collect and analyze data, write my dissertation and present my research.” However, being the open-minded woman I try my best to be, I took the advice, began to process it, and agreed to begin to make my online presense important. 

I start by completing my profile on LinkedIn, started a wordpress blog, and opening a twitter account in Fall 2009. However, with school and life I did little beyond update my facebook status and continue to make connections on LinkedIn. Every once in a while I would use facebook to locate and work with colleagues in my field or spread the word about educational opportunities to my network. But someone, when I posted a FB status that I was using Facebook for work, no one seemed to believe me.

Then, as I started an internship with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Fall 2009, I was one of nine diverse interns across the nation conducting evaluations at non-profits, government agencies, university research centers, and private organizations. I began to see the need for my online presence as we communicated via webinars on skype and conducted a group evaluation of the previous five years of the internship, which required finding and interviewing previous interns mainly via their online presence. I realized that if both the previous interns and the program had an online presence then the evaluation would have been better. I even saw the need for tweeting because the evaluation techniques I was using in my own project are very dynamic. Tweeting and following tweets helped to stay abreast of how other evaluators were using various evaluation techniques.

Next, I finally added a theme, photo and information to my wordpress blog when I was invited to speak at MIT in Summer 2010. However, it wasn’t Fall 2010 when my Morehouse brother, Richard Hilliard, volunteered and created an AWESOME webpage for me that I was energized to enter the world of blogging and tweeting on a regular basis. I look forward to having a place to share some of my thoughts and experiences through my life journey with others and hope it provide some benefit. If not, it’s still  a great place and way for me to record the life I have been blessed to live and love. If you’re looking for the website, Brother Richard and I are still working on it but expect to be done by next week – just in time for another post. . .