8 Useful Graduation Gifts for the (Almost) Ph.D. in Your Life

celebrate- hoorayIt’s spring semester ya’ll, and for me, that means graduation season is almost upon us. If you’re like me, “Omg,” “fml,” “I’m so behind,” etc. will be screams heard ’round the world (and certainly from me) as we draw closer and closer to defense dates and final submission deadlines for the graduate school.

As I think back on my life, I honestly cannot believe I’ve made it this far. I’m a Black woman who spent all of my Black girlhood with working-class parents, at public schools where 100% of students received free and reduced lunch lunches, and in neighborhoods where gang violence and murder were the norms. And yet, somehow (we know how but for the sake of dramatics rock with me), here I am, several years and a slightly safer neighborhood later, writing my dissertation.

I’m currently analyzing, recoding, and collapsing codes so I also want to stab my eyeballs out. But every few minutes, I pause and begin to think about graduation because the idea that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel alone is what is sustaining me. Tonight, one of my former grads and friend, Nacho, agreed to look over some of my writing. Nacho, like so many other people, has been instrumental in my continuing forward on this dissertation. And as Nacho agreed to help, I started to think about ways that others could use their talent and gifts as a graduation gift– things that would be useful and helpful for the Ph.D. candidate in your life like they’d be useful in mine. This led me to compile a list of eight things I’d love–with the number eight as my go to because eight years is the average time to degree completion for a Ph.D. student.

SO, here goes– 8 useful gifts for the Ph.D. (or Ed.D. or M.A. etc.) in your life:

  1. Professional editing: If you are great at writing (hey Nacho), consider gifting your time and talent. If not, pay for X amount of hours or pages for editing for a friend who is pressing toward graduation. Gift it early, prior to final deadlines,  so that students can use it before graduation. Trust me, it would help a lot.
  2. Gift Cards: Every Ph.D. student finishing up is going to want to sit and do NOTHING for a few weeks after they’re done. You can help them with this by sending them grocery store, restaurant, airline, etc. gift cards that they can redeem to help them relax a little more.
  3. Spa Certificates: Grad school is sckressful. The amount of tension we carry in our bodies from the stress of the process is always noticeable. A trip to the spa to help recalibrate could make a world of difference.
  4. Dissertation Binding/ Booking: When I finish, I’ll be taking a well earned break from looking at my dissertation. However, it’d be cool to be able to hold a well-bound physical copy of this thing called hell dissertation I survived. Gifting services for binding a copy (or two) could be extra special for the grad in your life. Note: Some institutions have printing services available. Check with the institution your friend attends for more information.
  5. giphy- you look mighty fine and dapperRegalia: Okay, so I pulled out the big gun here. UGA’s regalia is so darn expensive that I’m going to have to take on a fourth job to purchase it. Grab some friends and go in together to gift the grad in your life the NICE, top of the line, regalia (which, at my school, is almost $1,000, but still not as much as the most expensive regalia available). This would def take a load off and make graduation prep less stressful. Also– everytime they wear it, they’ll think of you. (If everyone from #CiteASista gave me 1.00 I could afford mine, just saying.)
  6. Diploma Frame: Despite how much schools get you on the way in with fees (GRE/ Applications/ etc.) and throughout your time enrolled with all sorts of miscellaneous fees (special $400/semester institution fee at UGA, I see you!), it doesn’t let up on the way out. Not only is the regalia ridiculous, but so are the diploma frames. Degree frames allow your gift to be on display, surrounding the paper that represents an achievement (…and the blood, sweat, tears, and sleep deprived days and nights) that your friend worked super hard for.
  7. giphy- martin workout sceneGym/ Fitness/ Personal Trainer Memberships: Okay folks– this is NOT the time to tell someone “you’re getting fat.” *Staring at you Black family members.* However, the average graduate student gains much more than the Freshman 15  we’ve all come to associate with college. In my case? I’m staring at a 45-pound weight gain since I started my degree. The good news? The weight can come off. The bad news? It’s probably going to cost me more financially than the degree itself (eugh!). So, a gym or fitness membership, to a grad you know well enough not to offend, would make an amazing gift. Or maybe I’m speaking for myself– buy ME some personal training. Added bonus? Meal prep to get them through the end of the semester. #GiftGoals.
  8. Graduation Outfit Shopping: Okay, so some of these are way too practical. Perhaps you’re the fun friend/ aunt/ uncle/ etc. Then the number eight is for you. Take your grad shopping. For most of us, defense and graduation are big days. For me–my Ph.D. graduation day matters more than any potential wedding day I might have. This is it– the moment I’ve worked so tremendously hard for. So like most Black folks, an exorbitant amount of thought will go into getting this outfit ready. If you want to get the fun gift, go with your grad shopping and purchase part of the graduation outfit. Perhaps you could even volunteer (with a limit) to purchase an outfit for their graduation pictures. Either way, Black folks love to get dressed up and there’s no better moment to help your grad strut their stuff than this.Edi

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*Bonus*: Sanity. If you can find a way to gift it back, we’ll take it. H/T Chelsea Doub for the suggestion.

So that’s that. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments with your suggestions.


Editors note: Edited to add a bonus message.

Not you too, sis?: Taking Advantage of Fellow #BlackGirlMagic

As a co-founder of #CiteASista and one of five founding members of #SisterPhD I am no stranger to spending a lot of my time working towards (and on) supporting Black women.

My research is about Black women.

My life’s work is on centering and supporting Black women.

I work, every day, so fewer Black women have to suffer the ways that I have…

W.O.R.K.

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It’s in everything that I say about myself. And while so many of us have no idea who we are outside of work (and that’s another post entirely) for those of us who love the grind, need the hustle, and appreciate everything that comes with it, work is an integral part of who we are… But In watching last week’s Grey’s Anatomy episode and looking at just how much the Dr. Miranda Bailey’s and Maggie Pierce’s work, I realized I and many of my girlfriends do the same… Sometimes to a fault… And I’ve found it difficult to have real conversations about what it means when we take advantage of each other. Afterall, it’s easy to tell a classmate or coworker you dislike to stop messing around or that you’re #ReclaimingYourTime, it may not be the same for a friend, though and especially another Black woman as we try to coalesce and support each other in the name of sisterhood.

 But what about times we need to?

The other day,  a friend and I vented to one another about our frustrations with co-writing, working, and doing projects with other Black women because it was starting to feel like people were taking advantage of our labor and work. I was crushed when a friend and sister of mine thought it okay to “let me work my magic” on a joint project as if the skills I’d be employing at that moment weren’t things I had to learn. I texted her back, “additional labor, sis” as a means of pointing this out. And while this particular friend was receptive and I was able to push her to see she could do more of the heavy lifting WITH me, some friends simply are not as amenable.

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So what do we do when we feel like fellow Black women are asking us to join forces on school and work projects only for them to slack off every time? What does it mean to trade being bamboozled and used for your knowledge by non-Black women, for Black women who do the same and offer little in return? eh… QTNA, amirite? Let me admit right now that I don’t have all the answers to these questions and certainly not any definitive ones. When I tweeted to ask about how you tell friends you feel you’re being taken advantaged of, most people said something along the lines of address it directly. But not everyone, friend or not, can take this kind of feedback.

I will spend my last breath, dollar, and give the clothing off my back for my fellow Black women. Period. Full stop. End of story.

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But I also want us to be able to hold each other accountable and to have difficult conversations so that we can become better, stronger, and more prosperous friends for having done so. And while I won’t pretend to have all the answers, I want to be a part of the solutions. I want my friends to call me in, love on me hard, and help me be better even if I am initially combative or resistive to it because while my brain may not want to hear it, my heart will know I need to feel it.

So, here are three ways we can start to protect our Black Girl Magic together:

1. Name It/ Point it Out

Although we often have a sixth sense and can say pretty much anything without talking to each other in meetings when ridiculousness is at play, this is not always the case within our own friendships. Sometimes we have to name and make plain the fact that we are feeling taken advantage of to our sisters– this means creating space for one another to talk it out in meaningful ways. Taking a moment to name it can prevent any issues with holding one another accountable for things we do not realize we’re doing and enable us to move forward in manners productive for everyone involved.

2. Set Boundaries

Sometimes, sistas need to know what you can and can’t do. I despise group work because I always end up doing most of the work. These days, I simply do not have the time to control every single detail imaginable for a smaller project. By setting boundaries, we can make clear our expectations for engagement before we get to a point of having to have the difficult conversation, and be sure the collaboration we’re envisioning is one that can take place, to begin with.

3. Set a plan for Reevaluation

If you’ve done one and two but still find yourself struggling, you may need to reevaluate what you have in place. Letting those close to us/ we work closest with know that there have been shifts in our priorities and that we need to adjust can help lessen the tension and ultimately the load. By reevaluating our priorities, we can choose to move forward or stop the things we are doing. Not every project has to have us (control freaks/ overachievers) at the helm. Sometimes we have to let go of control and trust that others will see things through. Besides, if it all falls apart because of someone else, that’s on THEM– not you.

Protect your energies, time, and space at all cost– even if this means having to sit another sister down. It’s okay to say no and hold one another accountable– it’s not okay to make someone feel as though people are taking advantage of them.

What do you all think? What ideas and plans do you have for holding yourself and your sista friends accountable? What strategies might you suggest I employ? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!