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Meet Nicolette Bell: Recent ALS Ph.D. Graduate

Dr. Nikki BellALS Ph.D. graduate Nicolette Bell is an extraordinary person. Not only was she awarded a $1,000 research grant to complete her work entitled “Motivation to Run: Using Fishbein & Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned Action to Predict Participation in 5K Races,” but she also completed her Ph.D. degree in record time—and that wasn’t easy!

Here is how Nikki described the challenges she faced in completing her degree . . .

“Amazingly, while I worked full time and went to Ph.D. classes in the evenings, ‘life’ kept happening to me! I had two wonderful daughters (Charlotte in July 2010 and Marilyn in February 2013), ran a marathon (Pittsburgh 2012), bought a house, and made a huge career change (from insurance to criminal justice). Also during that time, I lost my grandmother and dealt with a few personal issues within my family. The biggest challenge was asking the ones I loved for their patience and support while I tackled each obstacle—it was tough to see them making sacrifices for me.”

Need some advice from a Ph.D. graduate who overcame big obstacles to complete her degree in record time? Here is what Nikki wants you to know: “Similar to my marathon training plan, I learned that if I kept working at the assignments and papers with smaller goals in mind, I was methodically moving towards the bigger goal of my dissertation. I had a great support group in my professors, family, and friends, and the best competition I could ask for—Dr. Amber Stephenson. The cohort model of the ALS Ph.D. program is invaluable for finding a partner/competitor/best friend for the road to the doctorate.

“I also can’t say enough about the professors in the program—they really took the time to get to know us as a cohort, learn our strengths, and use that knowledge to challenge us and make us better. So, my advice would be to use the cohort model to find a person or persons with similar motivations and goals, create relationships with professors early in the program so they know how to advise and challenge you at the dissertation stage, use your support group during the rough patches (and don’t forget to reciprocate the support when they need you!), and have fun with it!”

Department of Sociology

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