Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?
I chose graduate school at IUPUI for a few reasons: it is located where I already live so it’s convenient; I had been working on campus for many years before joining the American Studies PhD program so IUPUI already felt like home to me; and, most importantly, the program I joined is exactly what I was looking for in a PhD program. Prior to my return to school, I was working full-time on campus in student admissions and advising, but I wanted to make a professional pivot and do something with my career that was more socially and civically engaged. The American Studies PhD program has been a great fit for me because of its flexible curriculum. Through a combination of classes, internships, and graduate assistantships, I have been able to build the skills, knowledge, and professional network I need to put myself on a new career trajectory.
What has been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?
It’s hard for me to choose just one academic accomplishment to call my favorite. I have a husband and three little kids, which adds a layer of complexity to the PhD for me, and so successfully navigating the logistical challenges of managing family and academic commitments each week, semester, and year feels like something to celebrate. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to be in the program and have loved nearly every aspect of it. In particular, I have really enjoyed my classes, building relationships with my peers in my program, building a network of new colleagues, getting to know residents in the community where I am doing fieldwork, and contributing to important conversations about equity and inclusion. Pursuing a PhD is a big undertaking in and of itself, and it has been very rewarding.
What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?
Someone I interviewed in my fieldwork described Indianapolis as a “Goldilocks City,” saying it is generally neither too big nor too small, and I agree with that. It seems like just the right size of a city where finding a good balance between personal goals and professional pursuits feels possible. While not being so big that the city feels overwhelming, overpriced, and overcrowded for me, Indianapolis is also not so small where it feels like there are not enough things to do and not enough professional opportunities. Personally, I love the downtown area where it feels like there is always something going on. Professionally, I appreciate that public, civic, nonprofit, and business leaders are relatively accessible, which has deepened and enriched my qualitative research.
Please provide some details about your work/research as a graduate student and/or any activities you are involved in.
My dissertation research is a qualitative study of economic development in Indianapolis. Typically, economic development’s impacts are measured in quantitative terms, using datapoints like number of new businesses created, number of jobs created, and increases in incomes, but such systems of measures do not capture people’s opinions and lived experiences. As a result, I am doing a qualitative study where I am interviewing city- and neighborhood-level practitioners in and around the realm of economic development as well as near northwest side residents to understand people’s perceptions of economic development. I am looking for areas of alignment and misalignment in how people think about and discuss economic development and the benefits they want it to bring to the city and its neighborhoods. This research may be able to enlighten conversations about the ways in which structures and practices of economic development can be more equitable and inclusive.