Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, KCP Fellow
Heather Mooney, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Sociology, King-Chavez-Parks Fellow
What do you enjoy most about living/going to school in Detroit?
Detroit is unparalleled. I enjoy the wabi sabi style to the art, music, culture, history and diversity. I love being in the thick of things. As an applied sociologist, finding ways to apply research to life in the community is required and Detroit offers endless forms of engagement and application.
What has been the most meaningful experience or area of growth as a graduate student?
Attending academic conferences with my colleagues has been my most meaningful area of growth. The ability to network, exchange ideas and methods, present and learn is an amazing experience and imperative to cultivating success as a scholar in the discipline. These social and professional networks have made a huge difference in enriching my personal and scholastic life.
What is your current field of study/research? What’s been your most interesting insight, significant accomplishment or research breakthrough?
I study sociology, specializing in inequality and qualitative methods. Currently I’m working on my dissertation exploring former at-risk youths’ experiences of the privatized “troubled teen” industry, impacts on social stratification and mobility, and uncovering the meaning and identities formed by these “rehabilitated” adults.
One of my greatest accomplishments was getting certified as an International Inside Out Prison Exchange Program Instructor in 2016. Shortly after my certification, in collaboration with incarcerated individuals, I won a Sociologists for Women in Society Social Action Award. This award included a grant to host a Restorative Justice Summit in a men’s correctional facility, educating State of Michigan staff and advocates. Working with the Michigan Inside Out Theory Group has been one of the most dynamic, insightful and humbling learning experiences of my career.
How do you envision your career after your degree?
After my Ph.D. degree I envision myself working as a professor at a university focused on teaching, research and service making an experiential difference in my students’ lives and in the community. As a KCP fellow, my goals align with the aim to work in higher education as an applied sociologist finding meaningful ways to benefit higher education and society concurrently.
How has the fellowship supported or enhanced your scholarship at WSU or experience as a graduate student?
The King-Chavez-Parks (KCP) fellowship has provided excellent networking opportunities, such as the AGEP (Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate) conference each fall at MSU. The AGEP conference was one of the friendliest, most engaging events I have ever attended. I’ve been introduced to mentors and professionals through events such as the King-Chavez-Parks Distinguished Visiting Professors Forum on Career Development. Listening to KCP alumni’s stories was motivating and very helpful in showing that everyone blazes their own unique and successful career paths.
What advice would you have for current or future Ph.D. students at Wayne State?
My best advice for Ph.D. students at Wayne State is to think of your graduate work as a self-study, regardless of what you’re actually studying. Use every moment, the pain, the joy, all the struggles and successes just like data. Don’t be afraid to talk it out, walk it out, write it out - keep failing better. Meditate. Exercise. Sleep. Network. Make friends not just with your colleagues but with librarians, administrative assistants, IT staff and the janitors in your department and around campus. Seek out all possible resources. Do it and keep showing up!
Interview by Christine Nyawaga