Student Profiles - Kelly Sylvester
Year Graduated: 2013
Studied: Master’s degree in sports management education and English education
Hometown: Garden City, Michigan
How will your degrees help you?
My path has definitely been unconventional and I would expect it will continue to be. I did however approach these programs very pragmatically. Sports management had a lot of coursework that would help compensate for the collegiate experiences I lacked due to a relapse of a severe injury. I also needed a Ph.D. or a master's of fine arts degree to become a professor. Scholastically, I'm passionate about education philosophy, reform, theory, linguistics and poetry and the English program at Millersville had all of those components. My hope was to find my academic niche through completing the program. These programs have opened my sights to the much larger picture and I am beginning to question if my destination may be a little different than I originally envisioned.
How did these two subject areas connect together for you?
Initially, I wouldn't have thought they did-although I intended to connect them with a small university faculty and coach position. I look at the common themes arising within my courses and I am both amazed and overwhelmed by the various points of convergence. In my poetry and linguistic research, I was always drawn to giving a voice to the voiceless. Whether it is through policy, ignorance, habit, financial crisis, etc., the impact of marginalization in our society, our schools and our sports is severe. Both of these programs shine a light on the issue and now I am asking myself, "How I may I best serve this purpose?"
Why did you choose to study at Millersville University?
Programs, location and finances. As I said, I was very pragmatic about my approach and what I wanted to accomplish. The course catalogue and requirements for both programs offered everything I wanted. Ironically, the downside was there were more courses being offered that were of interest to me than what fits into the program requirements! I happened to live in Millersville, so this was as ideal of a "commute" as I could ever hope to have. The school itself is affordable and the opportunity to secure a graduate assistantship makes it even more so. I had promised myself I would find a program that would subsidize my studies and I did. These were some of the calculated choices I made in regards to applying to and attending Millersville. What clearly exceeded my expectations and was reinforced continuously after I started attending class were the high caliber of professors in my programs, the amazing speakers the school brings in and the remarkable individuals I have met and gotten to work with through these programs. MU offers so much!
Tell us about your graduate assistantship.
I am the visual and performing arts graduate assistant in the dean's office for the school of humanities and social sciences. My big project is developing and managing plans for the inaugural season of the new Visual and Performing Arts Center. My day-to-day activities include planning and coordinating outreach, grant writing, scheduling and similar duties. I use a lot of skills from my theatre art and administration background for this position; however, I am getting a lot of value out of the discussions we're holding on how to build our curriculum around the plans we're creating for the visual and performing art opening season.
How did you keep on top of all of your course work? What was the key to your success?
Graduate school is so demanding that being a recovering perfectionist helps. Some people may find this odd, but I maintained a meticulous four-month-long color-coded calendar, which included lesson plans for soccer, milestones for research, etc. I kept focused on what I need to accomplish and I always tried to work ahead as much as possible. If I had created a soccer plan an hour before the practice, I wouldn't feel as though I had properly prepared, or that I was giving my best to the team. I feel the same way with my coursework. I don't believe in doing anything half-hearted and/or at the last minute. My key to success in graduate school, while maintaining my life, which includes traveling, volunteering, family, work, etc., outside of graduate school boiled down to being adept at prioritization, time management and being disciplined in my studies.
Have you always been interested in sports? What is beneficial about being part of a team?
Always! I started playing soccer at four years old; softball at five years old - those were always my main sports. I dabbled in bowling, golf, tennis, basketball, flag football, cheerleading and finally in high school I discovered and loved volleyball and cross-country. I'm so thankful for my cross-country years because it helps me design and develop my present-day running programs! I have also been honored to be a running buddy for a special girl through "Girls On The Run." The magical synergy created by a group of "strangers," who may only have one thing in common and are coming together to complete that one goal of championship, can create lifelong friendships, unlike any other. I know my teammates were/are my biggest critics and my biggest cheerleader/advocates. There isn't anything like it.
Do you think more students should think about attending graduate school?
If it aligns with their goals and is financially viable, yes. Someone considering whether or not to embark on graduate study must have a serious commitment to the field they intend to study and a driving passion to further the field or deepen the conversation. Graduate learning is not a passive regurgitation of facts, studies and theories. Most students will discover an intense focus within their field of study and being called upon to sharply analyze the articles and research being presented on a topic. I recently read an op-ed piece by Clarence page discussing how critical thinking is not being taught in most of our public schools and undergraduate programs. Students must have or quickly develop critical thinking skills and the ability to take abstract concepts and apply them to the real world and vice versa. Graduate students should always be thinking, "How can I further the discussion?" Additionally, some students will benefit most from going straight into graduate study whereas others may really benefit from gaining professional experience before pursuing an advanced degree. There isn't a set formula for this decision. When I am a professor/coach, I will discuss with my students and/or athletes their specific situation and provide every resource I can to help them find which path and timeline is most appropriate for them.
What sets Millersville University apart from other universities?
I'm not the connoisseur of universities; but one thing that leaps out in my mind is the energy and freshness of the community. I would say as a whole the faculty and staff at Millersville are absolutely fabulous and dedicated. The commitment to diversity and outreach at Millersville is wonderful as well. Also, I do feel compelled to mention the library system and its staff. As I've mentioned, I'm an adept researcher; but I had never encountered such a user-friendly research database at the other schools I attended. It is great when the hours spent in research are not desperately trying to find the articles you want, and instead are routed to scaling back and selecting the best research from the stack it only took minutes to compile.
How has Millersville helped you to succeed?
Ultimately, my success lies in the years to come. However, the skills I've developed as a result of this program include a higher level of understanding of management and leadership, both theory and skills. I could readily recall my experiences as a human resources professional to relate real-world experiences to concepts we learned in many of my graduate courses, which for me, helped deepen the lessons and discussions. I strongly believe I won't even know the extent of how much Millersville helped me until my future starts unfolding; however, having professors, such as Dr. Mowrey and Dr. Wushanley, encouraging me to "keep going!" is the biggest contribution in the present moment. As an aspiring professor, I have a long academic road ahead of me; it isn't something I can pursue casually or in spare time. Having a strong supportive network backing my goal helps me stay strong on my path.