Wednesday, June 10, 2009

grad school + personal statement = humbling experience

i spent the afternoon pulling together a resume (gasp!), filling out an online application (seriously? we did everything paper and pencil way back when), and writing a personal statement. for giggles i pulled out the one i had written in 2000 for the women's studies MA at george washington university. it's fun to see how writing styles and dreams evolve over the years.

below is what i've crafted thus far for the personal statement. must confess it was hard not to use "moi" or "delighted" or "oodles." i'm sure i'm missing critical pieces, but am enjoying how it is coming together. if you have suggestions or feedback, please pass along!
Ever since I got a hold of my mother’s Dear Abby books, I’ve been fascinated by the notion of serving others and helping them take steps forward. In college I studied Psychology, graduated cum laude, and had grand plans of becoming a therapist. During my senior year I was exposed to Women’s Studies and my world changed. Instead I pursued my Master’s in Women’s Studies with a focus of entrepreneurial leadership and have been serving women for almost a decade through my various organizations.

Growing up in Oklahoma, my exposure to opportunities for women was limited. During college my eyes were opened and I’ve enjoyed the non-traditional path ever since. Rather than going straight to graduate school, I backpacked around Europe for three months and then moved to Colorado to work at a ski resort for ten months. In 1996, I was presented with an opportunity to move to Washington, D.C. and pursued a Certificate in Paralegal Studies at Georgetown University. Law had always interested me and I performed strongly on the analytical section of the GREs so I decided to explore this path. Working in a law firm, counting the years until retirement, and hoping to change the world one trademark at a time was draining my spirit.

I took action at the age of 26: left the law firm, went back to Georgetown University to help run the Paralegal program, and took yoga teacher training. My ability to serve, help others take action, and nurture their spirits along the way had come full circle. I was enamored with the prospect of starting a yoga community, so I opened my living room to strangers and now have three studios in the D.C. area that serve over 1200 students each week, mainly women.

By teaching yoga, training teachers, leading workshops and retreats, mentoring, and overseeing four organizations, I am lucky to live my passion each and every day. However, there is a piece of me that has returned to the prospect of getting an MSW multiple times over the past ten years and I am now more eager than ever.

In 2006, I launched Tranquil Space Foundation to help deliver yoga, creativity, and leadership tools to women and girls. We have started with the program Tranquil Teens: Stretch Yourself which we take to girls 9th-12th grade and also give micro-grants to like-minded organizations supporting women and girls. When I saw the offering of a Certificate in Non-Profit Management as an option in this program, I was smitten and immediately called to see if you were still accepting applications.

The MSW program will provide the tools to truly make a difference. My goal is to leave a legacy that inspires and empowers others. Through the creation of Tranquil Space, TranquiliT, Hip Tranquil Ventures, and Tranquil Space Foundation, I strive to weave in social consciousness throughout. From charity donations to planting trees to adopting animals to volunteering to using eco-friendly fabrics and reusable materials, this notion is at the core of all I hope to do. As a facilitator of classes, workshops, trainings, and retreats, I desire to offer more and in the most meaningful way possible. For example, learning how to work with group dynamics, adjust expectations, provide support, and establish boundaries will allow me to be the best facilitator, manager, and visionary I can be. In addition, the opportunity to grow Tranquil Space Foundation to a national (even global) level will be enlightened through the skills strengthened in this program.

One offering that I’ve recently added to my portfolio is mentoring. I work with many women who feel stuck in a particular aspect of their lives – mainly professionally and creatively. Being able to offer more in-depth work through mentoring can only benefit my clients even more. Another area where I see the MSW assisting with my mission of leaving a legacy is through my writing. I’m currently finishing my second book, and enjoy writing a well-read blog plus articles for various publications. This degree will allow me to go deeper in my desire to inspire and serve the reader.

From 2001 to 2004 I was building Tranquil Space, teaching up to 18 classes (full-time for a yoga teacher), and attending graduate school. I missed only a handful of classes during my tenure, received high marks, and finished in three years despite the estimated four years for part-time. Fitting this program into my schedule will not be a problem and will be an honor. I cannot wait to dive into the material this fall.

There is a mantra in yoga that I adore and state at the end of every class I teach: lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. It translates to, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” Since learning this mantra, it has become a manifesto of sort for my life. My hope is that though the material learned in the MSW program I will be able to make a larger contribution to others. Thank you for your consideration.

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Amanda said...

Kimberly, I'd suggest starting where you end - with the mantra. It sets you apart right off the bat as "the yoga applicant," and hooks our interest with a visual of you leading a yoga class (and underscores how much of a leader you already are in the area of helping not every applicant already runs an organization that helps so many people!).

Then go into the key steps you took to get where you are today, showing us how you were always motivated by a desire to help you've been doing it with yoga, and are ready to take it to the next level through social you were on this path all along.

My .02!

Jessica C said...

I totally and completely agree with Amanda. And as a former English teacher, I would have to say other than that your essay is amazing! :)

Madeline said...


I am so impressed with your latest venture and applaud you for constantly improving upon your already fabulous self. I think your essay is well written (of course!) however, I think what is missing - is a snapshot into who you really are.

What I mean is, your essay is a well written version of a resume and it tells me what you've done but doesn't give me a sense of your amazing personality, your personal touches that you put into everything you do, and the way you inspire others with who you are.

I think a neat way you could do that would be start off the piece with a kind of mini-yoga class transcript -- like Amanda suggested, using the quote (lokah...) but then expanding upon it with a mini-class in YOUR VOICE.

Then take the reader back in time to show how you go to teaching and owning a studio.

Then you could do another mini-class type excerpt where you take the reader through the TranquilTeens curriculum to really show off what you've created!

You could also weave in a doga type thing too.

I guess my vision is almost like a play where there are "scenes" which would be the mini-yoga classes or other things that show the reader how you SHINE. Then there would be monologues where you are telling them how you got to that next step.

Does this make sense? If not, call me and we can discuss it or email about it!

I am so proud of you!!


Sarah said...

Kimberly, I think your personal statement is great! The only area I would look over again is the writing section, perhaps by adding a sentence or two more about how having an MSW will help your writing. This way you won't have someone play devil's advocate and ask why you aren't seeking an MA in English. Otherwise, fantastic!

Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons said...

My thoughts after having been on the graduate (PhD and MS) admissions committee for 3 years. Overall, it captures you very nicely. I have two main thoughts(and specific areas where you can address them). First, I'd suggest more specifics related to content the program offers and how you will benefit. For example, what specific skills will you gain from the MSW program that will help you grow TSF? Also, what do you see the relationship between the MSW and mentoring? Do you want to "counsel" people? Or do you want to incorporate some therapeutic skills into your work? Relate the specifics to courses you'll take/content you'll learn. How specifically will the MSW allow you to go deeper in your desire to inspire and serve your readers? (And I'd say "my readers" not "the reader.") Do you mean dig deeper within yourself? Dig deeper with content? Both? Something different? And again, I'd relate this back to specific things you'll gain from the coursework.

Second, I really appreciate that you addressed the issue of time. I'd address it even further, however, because you're doing even more now than you were when you were getting your WS degree. Further, anyone can read your blog and see the many times you've written about your schedule. Are you willing to take time away from/delegate some of your responsibilities if necessary? What's in place for you to do that? On top of the homework, these programs tend to be really intense emotionally/psychologically. I'd try to acknowledge this in your essay and talk about what's in place for you to make space as needed to meet both the time and energy demands of the program.

Lots of thoughts to take or leave as you see fit.

Cat's Wiskers said...

Hi Kimberly!

Great essay. You are amazingly productive.
My issue is I am so Neptune and Piscean that by dreams don't come to fruition. I'm 52 now, so it's not likely to change much.

My suggestion to you would be to take another quick peek at the courses offered. If the emphasis (other than the requisite non-profit classes) is on personal development which any good SW program should be to some degree, (physician heal thyself) I would be slightly more personal. Explain some personal difficulty you have overcome, or mention your practice of self-awareness etc. If the emphasis is anti-oppression SW acknowledge your perceived 'privilege' and as you have done. your WS program.
You may want to word how the MSW can help your business is that you want to create systems within your business that promote long term the ability to be of the most help to clients etc and create social change. Or, personal change for women etc. Good luck! Lisa McGregor from facebook (it's not necessary to publish this)

Cat's Wiskers said...

Yikes! Sorry for all the typos and such.

e7 said...

I think this is great. But I agree with Dr. simmons first point and I think I might add "adore" to the list of words you try not to use in your personal statement. Good Luck. You are inspirational.

Allison said...

Excellent essay, Kimberly! I wish you all the best on your new journey toward an MSW. Namaste. :)