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Bringing Joy to the Doctoral Journey
Dr. Ethel Perry graduated from Walden’s PhD in Psychology program in 2017. Today, as a faculty member, she is a guiding light for students during the doctoral process.
“I want to instill joy into the doctoral program,” she says. “I tell all my students ‘You’re going to enjoy this process. It’s going to be fun. We may have hair-pulling days, but more of our days will be filled with excitement.’ I aspire to give them the positive experience I had at Walden.”
Dr. Perry is spreading this joy on more than 40 dissertation committees including 35 as a chair, while hosting webinars and master classes on how to successfully navigate the journey to a doctorate. She was involved in a panel presentation “The Dissertation Journey: Realities, Challenges, and Rewards of the Dissertation Journey” and co-hosted an episode on the “Doctoral Mentoring Master Classes” podcast that addressed knowing, understanding, and mentoring online doctoral students for success.
Dr. Perry emphasizes the importance of social connectedness throughout the doctoral process. She makes it a point to remain accessible to her students and exude patience, especially when they’re in the introductory stages.
“I quickly found out that there are a lot of questions when students first start out,” she says. “My goodness, it’s a lot of questions but that’s okay. I’ll meet with them every week until they become the expert and feel the utmost confidence in what they’re doing.”
She also encourages her students to lean on each other. “First thing that comes to mind when I think about what I got out of my student experience at Walden is friendship,” says Dr. Perry. “Everyone was so connected. Even now, we still reach out. I enable my students to be receptive to one another as well as myself.
“Right now, I have individuals who are in the data collection phase or writing their proposals, and I urge them to reach out and help their peers in the cohort,” Dr. Perry adds. “Everyone emphasizes the lifelong commitment to learning at Walden, but we can’t forget those lifelong connections. Those get built here.”
Reaching Out a Hand
As one might expect, Dr. Perry has quite a bit of advice to offer doctoral students and instructors. However, it all boils down to her “three core principles”: Treating others the way she would want to be treated, demonstrating an ability to understand, and being willing to listen.
Dr. Perry’s teaching style is founded on compassion, and she prides herself on her flexibility and willingness to work with students, despite what they might be going through outside of the program. “I always tell them that the PhD will be here, it’s not going anywhere” says Dr. Perry.
“My background in mental health has grounded me in terms of being able to understand people and encourage them to take care of themselves first,” says Dr. Perry. “As an instructor, I realize that it’s okay to be human and personally identify with my students.”
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. She received a Faculty Excellence Award from Walden’s College of Psychology and Community Services and was recognized as an Outstanding Dissertation Chair by the School of Psychology.
In addition to her accomplishments in academia, Dr. Perry has a career in clinical and social services that spans two decades. She is also involved with various autoimmune groups and is working on a self-help book to improve the quality of life for individuals living with these disorders.
“I want everyone to find enjoyment in life,” says Perry. “That’s the main thing. No matter what you’re doing, going through, or living with. You have to enjoy life.”
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