Christine Vossler is a recent PhD graduate of the UT sociology department, having defended her dissertation on narrative dimensions of sexual harassment this summer. She currently works full-time as an administrator in the Haslam College of Business and stays busy lecturing for the department in criminology as an adjunct lecturer in criminology while also raising her young daughter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vossler resumed her doctoral studies after several years away. Her path to finishing the PhD while juggling the additional responsibilities of full-time work and family life is an inspirational story of perseverance, drive, and excellent time management.
Vossler attributes her return to the department in part to a period of self-reflection during the isolation of the early days of the pandemic. Looking deep within, she found a well of strength, motivation, and self-confidence that spurred her desire to finish her degree. Knowing the journey would not be easy, she committed her downtime to reading and writing, being sure to take advantage of the times of day when she felt the sharpest mentally. A relentless focus on developing knowledge and expertise in her field was also crucial in maintaining motivation.
When asked what advice she would give to students in similar situations, particularly women juggling responsibilities of grad school, work, and family, Vossler noted that attention to personal energy levels is very important. Though she certainly advises working every day, she believes that short bursts of work can be productive. She also suggests taking breaks or switching to other tasks, such as housework, when motivation and energy are lower. Overall, putting in consistent hours during the day allowed Vossler to enjoy evenings with her family, and free time felt like a reward rather than a guilty distraction from dissertation work.
Vossler believes that her experience in sociology has been an extremely positive force in her everyday life. By her estimation, she is a more sympathetic and socially engaged person because of her studies, and she is interested in continuing to explore the impact of narratives and the institutions that create and promote them on the lives of others.
“Most of all,” she quips, “becoming a sociologist has made me keenly aware that I don’t know a lot more than I do know.”
By Alexandra Szmutko