An Open Letter to My Students

[The following is a Monday Morning Message I wrote for doctoral students within the School of Education & Human Development at CU-Denver for Monday, November 11, 2020.]

Do you find yourself counting the days until winter break? This is the time in the semester where the approaching final deadlines for proposals, literature reviews, research studies, and other doctoral projects may feel overwhelming and insurmountable. On top of the academic responsibilities of being a doctoral student, you also have responsibilities within careers and personal lives.

This is a good time to take a pause, recognize what you are doing well, and know that you are engaged in a transformative learning experience.

I am inspired by … your questions, your quest for learning, and the excitement you express when you talk about your research ideas, when you share how your studies are influencing your day-to-day work. I see you supporting your peers in collaborative discussions. I see you attending to the many responsibilities in your life.

Look at you! You’ve got this.

Yet, sometimes you tell me that you do not feel like you’re good enough; and I want you to know that you are. Sometimes you tell me you feel overwhelmed. I want you to know that this is a natural part of the academic journey.

Through my research, I have explored the development of self-efficacy —the belief people have in their own capabilities— through transformative professional learning. Your doctoral program is designed to be transformative. EdD students, for example, can expect to grow throughout the program as they courageously explore what it means to be a leader in educational equity. In all our programs, your transformative learning experience challenges you to assess your values and your worldview; subsequently you will be changed by the experience. Sometimes this can feel “scratchy.” Sometimes this shows up as feeling “not enough.” Yet what if you lean into this fear because this is a natural part of a transformative learning experience?

Our community needs leaders like you. In Rising Strong (2015) research professor Brene Brown writes, “We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment, and regret — people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values, and keep showing up” (p. xxviii).

You are those people — the leaders who inspire others with greater vision and hope for our community. I am honored to be on this journey with you.