In school, I’ve thought myself as the painter who happened to also do math and never the other way around. It’s a very dissociative way of attending your math classes to be honest. Even though I’m in a dual degree program at Brown University and R.I. School of Design, and I’m rightfully an Applied Math major, I always had this sense of imposter syndrome. I don’t even think I’m that bad at math – I was just culturally at the periphery. I didn’t realize it until I participated in the BE program, but I had altogether just dismissed the idea of grad school because … how could a painter get a PhD in math? And of course that’s the crux of it all, what’s wrong with a painter who pursues math? It wasn’t until I fell into one of those long conversations about my goals and aspirations where Mary Ann just looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “If you wanted to, you can go to grad school. You’re smart and capable.” I almost feel silly for having never given it full consideration before.
I’m still thinking and deciding what I want to do of course .. but when I talked about this revelation to an advisor at Brown, he looked at me and smiled. He said, “Do you know why I got my PhD? It was the institutional currency of our time. If you’re going to go to grad school because you feel as though your time learning has not ended, then you’re going for the right reasons.” The BE program wasn’t just a community and a scientific family I became a part of, it helped me to really understand things I didn’t even know I wanted before. It’s helped to define a lot of my goals going into my fifth and final year of school.