Laura Gariepy: flexible program aimed at student success

Ph.D. candidate also benefiting from support of classmates

Laura Gariepy, Ph.D. in Education candidate in our research, assessment and evaluation track
Laura Gariepy, Ph.D. in Education candidate in our research, assessment and
evaluation track

Laura Gariepy finds the VCU School of Education’s Ph.D. in Education program to be the perfect fit for a busy parent working full-time who wants to advance her career.

Prior to pursuing her doctoral degree, Gariepy was working full-time as assistant head for instructional services with the VCU library system, and she wanted to work toward advancing her career in academic librarianship. After taking a few classes, she enrolled in our research, assessment and evaluation track with a focus on academic libraries.

Around that time, her life got a little busier as well. The week she was accepted in the program, she and her husband learned they were expecting their first child. She soon accepted more responsibility in her job. Fortunately, Gariepy says the faculty were understanding.

“The faculty in the School of Education have very high standards, but the reality is that life can sometimes get in the way,” she said. “Not only do faculty facilitate an environment of collaboration among the students, they’re so positive and collegial – without compromising their high standards – that you can’t help but enjoy the experience.”

Gariepy’s most enjoyable class has been her dissertation seminar, which helps develop and refine the skills for preparing a dissertation. In the seminar, she received helpful advice on dissertation structure – as well as beneficial motivation – which has helped her make significant progress on her dissertation proposal.

She has also benefited from the variety of concentrations among her seminar classmates. “They came from many different tracks, so everyone could advise and support each other in different ways,” she said. Many of her classmates worked full-time or had families, which helped to build a strong support system among the group.

Gariepy is currently on track to earn her doctoral degree in 2019. She recently assumed a new role as VCU’s associate university librarian for research and learning. It’s the third time she’s assumed more responsibility since beginning her program – and further evidence of the program’s supportive nature and flexibility. She wants to continue working in libraries after earning her Ph.D.

Gariepy’s advice to prospective and current students is to seek help when you need it.

“Don’t be afraid to talk with faculty – and your advisor – about what you need to be successful. The faculty are very accommodating, and the School of Education is focused on your success,” she said. She also urges students to seek advice from graduates who’ve already been through their program.