Welcome to Doctor Tales!

Welcome! Doctor Tales is a new blog to help doctoral students succeed during and beyond their academic journeys.


Welcome! Doctor Tales is a new blog to help doctoral students succeed during and beyond their academic journeys. We are Dr. Bessie DiDomenica (PhD) and Dr. Patricia Mason (DBA), two doctors who took the journey. We earned our doctoral degrees in 2015 and offer our strategies for other doctoral candidates to succeed.

Three years on, we are still write and encourage adult learners to pursue their educational dreams.

2018 updates: Dr. Patti’s research on electronic health records implementation (EHR) is a hot topic in the world of healthcare! She is in demand as an expert in EHR in rural health clinics. This year, Dr. Patti received her Reiki Certified Master/Teacher certificate. She will write more on the value of relaxation for anyone pursuing their academic dream.

Dr. Bessie is exploring a writing business for scholars and adult learners. She will facilitate a panel discussion on mobile food markets at an urban farming conference, and is working on several book projects. Dr. Bessie is very excited about her plans to create a foundation to help older and special needs cats and dogs.

Dr. Patti and Dr. Bessie are also writing a book for  adult learners and graduate students. We’ll post more updates as things develop.

We truly embrace our new roles as scholar-practitioners, and encourage others to take their education beyond the classroom.

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Rural Food Insecurity: Myths & Realities

There are 3,142 counties in the US, with 2,323 counties are rural areas. About 60 million people (19.3% of the US population) live on 97% of the land. Many people in rural communities are food insecure – they don’t have enough food to eat. There is a myth that  people in rural America have easy access to good food. What’s the most food insecure state? Mississippi, and Jefferson County, MS (pop. 7,297) has the highest food insecurity (38%) in the country in 2017: 2,870 people are hungry.

I started my column Tomorrow’s Food – Today’s Policies to stay engaged in food policy studies. My dissertation explored urban agriculture, but it’s time to look at food policy beyond the city: rural America. My Food Disparities in Rural Missouri  blog peaked my interest to keep exploring. This year, I gathered a team for a presentation for a food conference. We’ll talk about food policy, food education and nutritional health in rural America. What are the food challenge in rural America? How are they different from urban food problems? What solutions can best service rural communities?

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Smart Writing: Faith, Fear & Confidence

The world of academic writing is a strange one. In graduate school, you’re expected to “know” how to write. But your writing habits may be stuck in undergraduate mode when you wrote essays or research papers. College taught you the basics of  five standard essays that 1) tell a story (narrative), 2) analyze (expository), 3) compare and contrast (comparison), 4) convince the reader (persuasion) and 5) related events/conditions (cause and effect).

Your dissertation is a book: it’s five chapters of your research idea, explained and supported by data that justify your conclusions and recommendations. It’s one of the hardest books I’ve ever written, but there’s a weird logic to it all. But what is it? Is there a simple way to write your dissertation? What are the smart tips to ease your writing experience? 

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Obesity in America: 100 Million Strong

Americans are fat and getting fatter. A 2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study in JAMA revealed that nearly 100 million American adults are more obese than 10 years ago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defined obese or overweight as weight “higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height.” Overweight is a BMI (body fat based on height and weight) between 25 and 30, and obese is a BMI of 30 or more. Adult obesity is now at 39.6% – this increase is alarming to health experts. Why? More adults are more obese than ever before.

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Alt-Ac/Post-Ac: Sound Career Choice

In 2017, college student enrollment fell to 901,000 – down by about 69,000 students from 2018. Why? Adult students and veterans are finding jobs rather than going back to school. Today, there is stiff competition between for-profit and nonprofit schools. Why? More schools offer online degree programs. There is a “listening gap” between the public and what higher education (HE) thinks is important.

Why? Complaints about anti-intellectualism and both parents and students questioning the value of a college education. Clearly, HE is in transition. Yet, graduate students continue their elusive search for tenured-track jobs. Is a realistic career track? Is it time to look past the ivy walls? How bad is the academic job market?

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Farmer Suicide, STRESS and Mental Health

Last October, I introduced my blog series Tomorrow’s Food – Today’s Policies . I write about new solutions for our challenging food system. So the topic of farmer suicide was never on my mind – but I can’t ignore this disturbing trend. A 2016 study by the CDC revealed some alarming news about the American farmer: Suicides are on the rise. In the agriculture sector (farmers, ranchers, farm workers) more farmers commit suicide than other groups.

About 1% of America’s population are farmers but the suicide rate is 90.5 per 100,000. What does it mean? It means that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher than the general population. Farming life has its unique challenges (financial) and health issues (physical, mental). What’s causing the rising suicide rate among farmers? How can we stop this trend? Is farmer suicide a global problem?

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PhD Toolkit: Smart Is Not Enough

Our DoctorTalesBlog is all about finding success in graduate school. Dr. Patti and I offer advice and tools to help students survive the doctoral process. You’ll find that one of the biggest challenges is in learning new skills: critical thinking, academic writing, commitment, working smarter, persistence, and confidence. Even if you think you already have these skills, you don’t know what you don’t know. And you won’t know until you are tested.

Lots of smart people get into graduate school. But being smart isn’t everything. For example, in the ’90s, 57% of students finished within 10 years – but 30% left their program. But today’s doctoral attrition rate is 50%. What’s wrong with this picture? Why do students leave their program? What factors determine the success or failure of doctoral students today?

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Crushing Your Fear of Academic Writing

Writing takes practice and practice takes time. While I generally enjoy writing, I often feel that I don’t have enough time for all my writing projects. But I also wonder if it’s a problem of productivity rather than a problem with time… Last month, I started a new project to write more on a regular basis. It’s easy to get sidetracked from writing – it has to be the right time, location, topic, weather, the moon has to be aligned with Mars blah, blah, blah. But yes, these are just excuses not to write. I’m working on a new plan and found an article about the struggle of daily writing.

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