That’s it. Grades are in. I can proudly say that I took 13 graduate credits (double of full time) in my first semester and earned a 4.0 GPA.

This semester was a hard semester for me, but not because of the rigor of the classes. In fact, I found that the most challenging things about the PhD were managing the tedious workload and staying motivated. After coming from theoretical math and statistics, I’m not sure anything that I will face in hospitality will match the rigor that I have grown accustomed to. In all honesty, I think that I had a misconception of what a PhD would be. I wanted to be producing knowledge, interpreting the stories that numbers tell, developing models, and finding high-impact solutions to problems. Only now do I realize that I should have just gotten a job as a data scientist if that is what I wanted. While the things that I described are a crucial part of the PhD, the research process encompasses much more.


READING (*shivers*)

When I started the PhD, I knew I would have to read dry, academic articles, but I think that I underestimated to what degree it would take place. After the first month, I was burned out from reading. I honestly couldn’t motivate myself to sit down and read even one of the six articles per week that I was assigned. Depleted, I sought out some advice, eventually having the following exchange with Carrie, one of the third year PhD students:

Mana: “What advice would you give to me in my first year? What are the important things to focus on?” Carrie: “Reading, reading, reading”. Mana: WRONG ANSWER

But she was absolutely right… In retrospect, I now realize how necessary all the reading was for my growth and learning. After this semester, I can spend less than an hour quickly reading through an academic research publication, whereas at the beginning of the semester it would have taken me something like three or four. I also know what to look for in the articles and where to find it. On top of that, I know how to produce my own academic writing, which is quite the endeavor. I have to thank Dr. Lema for “forcing” me to read so many articles and Dr. Cass Shum for walking me through the process of creating a research article. While I am thanking my teachers, I would also like to thank my high school AP Literature teacher, Mrs. Peterson, for teaching me critical reading, a works cited page, and everything that goes in between. When I was in her class, I had very little interest in the material, but now I use what she taught me every. single. day.

I have learned that reading the literature is not just painful for me – it is painful for everyone. But it is a necessary evil and will help you to improve your research in every step of the process. To name a few specific ways reading elevated your research: it will make your literature review stronger, help you discover and understand methodologies, identify gaps in the literature and formulate new research questions, and teach you to critically evaluate your own work as well as others’. I have also learned that if I am interested in the topic, I can get myself to enjoy the reading just enough to get through it. I think that is the biggest key to conducting good research.



In case you couldn’t tell, I am always leveraging my network for advice. So before I started my PhD, I asked some of my friends and acquaintances what advice they would give to someone just starting out their PhD. Every single person that I asked highlighted the importance of choosing an advisor, going so far as to say that it will make or break your experience as a PhD student. That said, I want to also remark on how fortunate I am to have Dr. Singh as my advisor.

Despite initially feeling a little bit deceived by the PhD, I am very happy with where I am at and what I am doing. And if it weren’t for Dr. Singh, there is a big possibility that I wouldn’t be here. Dr. Singh is an extremely intelligent individual, has a background in mathematics and statistics, and is above all an extremely kind and patient person. While there is much to be said about what a fantastic person he is, I am convinced that he is the right advisor for me – he understands my goals, my situation, and my personality. In fact, our goals and personalities are very complimentary. After getting to know other graduate students both in the college and at UNLV, I understand how important it is that you not only choose the right advisor, but that you choose the right advisor for you. I think if I had some of the experiences that I have heard of my peers having, I would probably just drop out now. Additionally, I am as good of a match for him as he is for me. Since we speak the same language (statistics), I understand a lot of the different research topics that he is working on, meaning that I can contribute to the parts of projects that he is working on. In summary, I feel very fortunate for Dr. Singh.



They say that the people in your PhD cohort will likely be your friends for the rest of your life. From the very first day, I made an effort to build friendships with the other people in the PhD suite. To be frank, it didn’t really take much effort. The relationships within the office just kind of formed organically. And then those working relationships turned into friendships. At some point along the way, I stopped calling us the PhD cohort and started calling us the PhD fam. It kind of just stuck, and I am happy it did. I really do think of all of the wonderful people that occupy the PhD suite as an extension of my family. And I know that the feeling has been contagious. I had one member of the PhD fam tell me “You know, the office has been a much livelier and more upbeat place since you guys have started.” I don’t know if I have had any effect on that, but I would like to think that my efforts have played a role.

I really think that as a PhD family, we need to be constantly building each other up and supporting one another. After all, we are all suffering together. We need to help propel each other to greater heights, celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and pick each other up when we are feeling down. I think that a great peer support system will help us all flourish into amazing academics. I have a feeling that these people will be my friends and colleagues for the rest of my life and I can’t wait to see what we all achieve and where we end up.


I have found UNLV to be a place where opportunity is waiting for me at every corner. At first, I went to seek out these opportunities, but after a while it started to seem like UNLV was starting to come to me with opportunities, which is a really cool feeling. It reminded me of my gap year, where I would go from event to event, seeking opportunities, doing cool things, and meeting awesome people. Now, it is just in a different context.

Looking back, it is astonishing to me to think of how many things I managed to do apart from my studies over the course of just ONE semester. Some of the things that I did are:

Everything that I did outside of my classes were done to pursue my passions, and because of that I enjoyed every second of it. It was important for me to have all of these projects because breathed life into me when school sucked the motivation out of me. I also think that getting involved in something on campus was extremely beneficial because it allowed me to meet people, make friends, and build my professional network. I feel like I have built up some solid momentum this semester with the things that I have done, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes of it moving forward.


To finish off this post, I want to share sort of what my mentality has been up until this point and moving forward. To do so, I will share another short exchange with Inyoung and Sooyeon, two members of my PhD family:

Sooyeon: "Mana" sounds a lot like our Korean word that means "a lot", so we call you “Mana Happy” because you are always happy and full of energy all the time” Inyoung: Yeah, how is your PhD life so happy all the time? Mana: Because I don’t live a PhD life. I live an awesome, fun-filled life… and also do a PhD.

In summary, I have been doing my best to work hard in my PhD during the week and then focus on living my life to fullest, doing what makes me happy, and having fun on the weekends. I hope to continue to learn and grow as a person and as an academic, all while staying upbeat, motivated, passionate, and most of all, happy :)