Skip to main content
Search form
  • 00:09

    RAMON GRIFFIN: My name is Ramon Griffin.[PhD Candidate, K 12 Educational Admin.Dept., Graduate Research Asst.Office of Student Support Services and Recruitment,Michigan State Univ.] My area of expertiseis k-12 educational administration.I am a fourth-year PhD candidate at Michigan State University.[Why I Wanted to Do a PhD]I grew up in Ford Heights Illinois.I grew up in a tough neighborhood.

  • 00:29

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: I was very resilient I have four brothers and two sisters.We didn't have many of the thingsthat a lot of our counterparts had, and so that stymiedmuch of my progress very early.I was suspended from school numerous times.I had a rough go at it.But again, I was tremendously resilient

  • 00:50

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: under those circumstances.One program that was essential in my developmentas a young black male was Upward Bound.Had it not been for Upward Bound.I don't think I would be here doing this interview today.It prepared me for college, and it ultimatelyprepared me for life.

  • 01:12

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: I ended up going to Dillard University,right after graduating high school,in New Orleans, Louisiana I ended upjoining a fraternity called Alpha Phi AlphaFraternity, Incorporated, which was also one of the biggestaccomplishments of my life.And I think that it's also put me in the positionthat I'm in today.During those times, I can say that it

  • 01:35

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: was a process of becoming.Never thought about a PhD at that time.Was stricken by Hurricane Katrinaduring my educational journey at Dillard University, whichwas a very, very tough time for me personally,for me spiritually, and also for me psychologically.I would state that that was a point in my life

  • 01:58

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: that I decided that I was never going to live as a statistic.And what I meant by that, I neverwas going to allow myself to not have a purpose, plan,or action.Within my entire space, I've always triedto create networks of critical mentorship, of stability,

  • 02:19

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: and of care and strength.I was always asking why.So why are these circumstances the way that they are?Why are things in the world the way that they are?Why do we view people the way that we do?Why does skin color matter?Why is there a school right down the street,three miles away from my house, that is commended,

  • 02:41

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: and the school that I go to barely has books?I ask those questions constantly to myself.And it was a breaking point for me, as a leader in a school.And I said I have to do something about that.And I thought that research would give me the abilityto not only have a critical agenda,

  • 03:02

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: but it will also help me mobilize the familiesand communities that I care so deeply about.I think when we think about research, many times,we think about the limitations.And I do think that those limitations exist.But for my own life, for my own career research agenda,I want to make sure that I am that researcher that

  • 03:25

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: is making sure that things on the groundare doing what they're supposed to do.And what I mean by that is, I want my researchto be in the hands of individualsthat I'm writing about.The individuals that I know and love and careabout in some of those communities

  • 03:45

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: have never read Harvard Ed.They've never read AERJ.They don't know what those things are.And so we need to do a better job of making surethat research not only gets in the hands of practitioners,those are the supports, but it also

  • 04:06

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: gets into the hands of families and more community engagementwork.And I really think that the research that I'mdoing at Michigan State University, as I mademy transition from being a leader in a schoolto Michigan State University, I think that that work will

  • 04:29

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: be transformative.And I think that I'll be continuously impacted,as a black male, in understandingall of my sensitive intersectionalitiesand how those things lead me to make informative decisions.[My Research & Methodology]My research looks at cumulative trauma.

  • 04:52

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: I'm looking at the ways in which cumulative trauma, and theseare adverse experiences that kids have,whether it be around forms of abuse,physical or emotional abuses, community violence,domestic violence, terrorism, natural disasters,early childhood trauma, these are

  • 05:12

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: things that affect some populations before they everstep foot into a school.And so my research looks at how those experiencesaffect the academic achievement of black malesin No Excuses schools.Not only have I worked in No Excuses schoolsand been a leader in No Excuses schools, the literature states

  • 05:35

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: that those particular environments are veryregimented, scripted spaces.Everyone has a role to play.And so within those spaces, it behooves of individualsto comply.And so what happens in those spaces?My work looks at if there are any psychological or emotional

  • 05:55

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: costs to navigating that structure.And what does it do to those young men?Does it cause them to achieve more and be resilient,or do they succumb in those circumstances?The other strand of my research looks at this ideathat those young men then become adults.

  • 06:18

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: So those traumatic experiences that they've had,they don't leave them.Trauma is that and experience.It isn't something that's isolated.It's an experience.And so when those folks become adults, not all of themsuccumb like the literature states.Some of them become leaders.They become teachers.

  • 06:38

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: They become deans of students, like myself.And so what happens in that space whenyou have a disciplinarian that's beenexposed to cumulative trauma?He's dealing with traumatized children.How does that influence his disciplinary decision makingin that space, and what does that look like?The methods that I chose to use to try to figure out,

  • 06:59

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: because this is a very tough subject to talk about,particularly within an education contextbecause it's so interdisciplinary,I use that adverse childhood experiences tool.It's a quantitative tool that's mostly used quantitativelywith large, large populations.I used it more in a qualitative way.

  • 07:19

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: It's a tabulation of 10 questions around trauma.It was very tough getting individualsto complete the ACEs, the adverse childhoodexperiences tool.But they believed in the work that I was doing.I interviewed 16 participants, four black males and 12 leaders

  • 07:41

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: from all over the country, in their abilityto be vulnerable with me and that space,allowing me to ask them questionsabout their own personal traumas,and how that not only affected their academic achievement,but how ultimately they have matriculated through lifeand what they have defined as success ultimately.[The Skills I Brought to the PhD]

  • 08:05

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: So a few of the things that I think that I brought to a PhDprogram, when I was deciding on where to go,was a critical agenda, a critical perspective.Not one that was so critical that I couldn'tunderstand who I was, though.And so I think that, most times when we're critical of things,

  • 08:26

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: sometimes we aren't critical of the personthat's actually being critical.And so I found it purposeful for me to get in tune with whoI was, as a human being understandingwhat I experienced as a youth around trauma,as well as an adult.

  • 08:48

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: And so in order for me to do anything in this work,I really needed to focus on myself.And so first, I would say that bringing a critical perspectivearound these issues was one of the thingsthat I think that I brought to a PhD program.The other was the multi-disciplinary experiences

  • 09:11

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: that I've had before come into this space.Again, being able to look to a sociological lenswhen I'm looking at education, having workedwith numerous black and brown childrenwho were incarcerated in the same ways in which we thinkabout the school to prison pipelineand who those young people are, and how they fall

  • 09:33

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: by the wayside, and how individuals beginto coin them as "disposable," this wasn't somethingthat I was just writing about.I lived it.It was personal for me.But I needed to understand that, just because somethingis personal to you, when you're doing research,you still have to be objective.

  • 09:56

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: And so that was essential for me navigating a PhD program.And those are just some of the thingsthat I think that I brought.[Top Tips for PhD Students]PhD students, when you're coming into a program, who are you?Do you really know that?Why are you trying to study the populations

  • 10:18

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: that you're trying to study?Who is the research going to affect?What is your positionality in the work?How do you choose how much to give and when to give it?Be your authentic self.The research on authenticity makes tremendous points

  • 10:41

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: about productivity within departments,within various, different careers.Many people state that most folkswho are allowed to be themselves,and they're not pretending to be imposters,they are more productive and it is better for everybodyin the organization.

  • 11:01

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: So when you come to a PhD program, be yourself.This is a process of becoming.You will not leave out the same way that you've come in.It's impossible.You're around so many individualsthat are going to push your thinking constantly,and it's going to be tremendously uncomfortable.

  • 11:22

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: But you have to understand how you're positioning yourselfin this work.Who are you fighting for?What are you fighting for?Make that known.Don't be afraid of have you are in this space.Make it known.I think a few of the other thingsthat I would state as an ADRA program chair is to make surethat you have resources and mentors that see you,

  • 11:48

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: that will support your work, that will support your agenda,and who ultimately believe in the power and the premisesof what you believe in.Difference is fine.But ultimately, we want to make surethat you're surrounded with supportive structures thatare going to push you not just to get through a PhD program,

  • 12:12

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: but to matriculate into a programwhere you're using your research in positive and impactful ways.And so please make sure that you understand who you areauthentically and push forward.And when you do those things, I don'tthink that anything else, other than great, can come from that.

  • 12:35

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: This work is something that, I think,can do wonders for educators all around the world.What do we think about when we have 25 students walkinginto a classroom who may be divergent in race, class,ethnicity, culture, knowledges?What do we think?

  • 12:55

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: What do we believe?Do we actually think that every single child can learn?And if we do, how are we preparing them?What lens do we look through whenwe're trying to make sure that we're pouring into themaffection, we're pouring into them empathy,and we're teaching them the thingsthat they need in order to be viable citizensin this great country?

  • 13:18

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: And so if I can wrap this up, I wouldstate that anybody who plans to pursue a PhD program, again,one, know yourself.Two, understand that research alone cannot change everything.But you have the ability to make sure

  • 13:38

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: that your work gets into the hands of the individuals thatneed it.Don't hide behind your work.Put a face to it.Add your positionality.That's so crucial.Most of all, make sure that you havesupportive structures in place.Mentors who not only believe in the capacity of your work,

  • 13:59

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: but also the ways in which they can help use your work,and you can use their work, the collaborative toolsthat you're going to need, in order to effectively changedthe society.We can do it.And this is the great work that Ithink we all need to be considering in the future.And so again, this is Ramon Griffin at Michigan State

  • 14:21

    RAMON GRIFFIN [continued]: University, fourth-year PhD candidate,looking at cumulative trauma and academic achievementin black males, but also the waysin which deans of students and No Excuses contextsunderstand their traumatic experiences when they aremaking disciplinary decisions.


Ramon Griffin explains why he pursued a doctoral degree and introduces his research. Griffin offers advice to potential Ph.D. students.

Looks like you do not have access to this content.

The PhD Journey: Why I Chose to Do a Doctorate

Ramon Griffin explains why he pursued a doctoral degree and introduces his research. Griffin offers advice to potential Ph.D. students.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website