Ms. Jodi Boutté: On The Road to Completion

Jodi Boutté is currently obtaining her PhD in Engineering Science with a concentration in Human Factors in Healthcare at Louisiana State University A&M in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Boutté is originally from New Iberia, Louisiana. She is expected to complete her PhD program in December 2018. Boutté has been a member of [YU?] for 2.5 years.

Boutté obtained her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in human movement in 2000. She completed her master’s in Engineering Science in 2013 from Louisiana State University A&M. Not only is Boutté a student, but she is also a mother to her beautiful daughter, Jordyn. When asked how she balances school and family, she stated: “I create a balance between school and family by sacrificing my time for a few hours two to three days a week, and some on the weekends to tend to my dissertation.”

Boutte’s initial plan was medical school, but before she decided on her next educational move, she wanted to take a mental break after undergrad to create a concrete plan. This resulted in her taking two to three years off before making her jump. Instead of going to medical school, Jodi decided obtaining her Masters and PhD in Engineering with a healthcare focus was the path for her. After conducting research, she discovered that there was funding available for minority students in the Engineering field, therefore, she was determined to take advantage of it all. She originally started out as a Masters candidate, but after completing a year in her program, she decided to enroll in a dual degree program (M.S. and PhD) with the encouragement and support of her academic advisor, as well as her amazing support system.

Throughout her academic journey, Boutté says balancing time, lack of mentorship and funding have been her top three obstacles. Lack of mentorship and funding are the most challenging. Boutté says she struggled with finding mentorship because of the lack of diversity in her department. In regards to funding, in graduate school students are constantly searching for funding on their own which can cause a lot of stress and uncertainty.

For students and young individuals with aspirations of pursing a doctorate degree, Boutté’s says “Plan for it and go after it.” She said there are unlimited benefits to obtaining a PhD; so don’t be discouraged during the process. Your university of choice and advisors will have an impact on your career, just be sure to choose wisely. She says remember to take time to consider all roads before making that ultimate decision because it is a big commitment. “Pursuing a career in a STEM field, as a minority, you won’t see a lot of people that look like you, that can relate to you and you may feel a bit uncomfortable at first; but don’t let that stop you or discourage you from chasing after your dreams.”

 Being the only black female in her doctorate program and the majority of her classes, Boutté says she is familiar with standing out due to her ethnicity. However, she never allowed the coursework to intimidate her.

Boutté says make sure you surround yourself with individuals that will encourage and support you. Also, be sure to have friends you can study with. Boutté says she always surrounds herself with friends who are in STEM field careers. It keeps her encouraged. Boutté says she and her friends consistently schedule days to get together, hang out and unwind from the rigorous studies.

As for students who are currently obtaining their PhD and find their dissertation to be intimidating, Boutté says take your studies slow and steady. The dissertation aspect is closer than you think, but consistency is the key to winning the race. Continue to work on writing, analysis and research every day. Be sure to have a completion plan and meet with mentors and advisors. One technique Boutté has found to be extremely helpful for her is the Pomodoro Technique.

“Basically, instead of cramming for several hours, which can be very discouraging, I use this method. So three times a week, I do several cycles of 30 uninterrupted minutes of focused writing (no cell phone, no social media, no internet surfing). There are several different strategies, but the following is the sequence that typically works for me:

 Start with creating a ‘To-Do’ List prior to your concentrated writing period. (Use a timer)
30 minutes writing/researching, then 5-7 minute break,
30 minutes writing/researching, then 5-7 minute break,
30 minutes writing/researching, then 5-7 minute break,
30 minutes writing/researching, then longer break (typically I do 20-25 minutes).
Then, you can start all over for additional tasks or leave it at that for the day.
This isn’t too overwhelming, and I still feel accomplished by the end of the week!”

If you would like to speak to Ms. Jodi Boutté about her PhD journey personally, feel free to contact her via the [YU?] network.

Written by Rika Calvin

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