Commencement 2024: Through Adversity Comes Strength — Dr. Rajan’s PhD Journey
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Commencement 2024: Through Adversity Comes Strength — Dr. Rajan’s PhD Journey

Research was something Jenny Rajan, AuD ‘09, CCC-A, FAAA had in the back of her mind. But as an assistant professor in the University’s Osborne College of Audiology (OCA), a clinical preceptor at the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) and faculty advisor for the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA), pursuing a PhD appeared to be a daunting task for someone whose plate was already pretty full.

Jenny Ragan in commencement regalia headshotBut after speaking with Mitchell Scheiman, OD, PhD ‘16, FAAO, FCOVD, dean of Research and director of the Biomedicines program at Salus, as well as current PhD students, Dr. Rajan was encouraged to learn the program was structured to help her stay on track with the flexibility to work full time as well as help run a household that includes husband Wynn and two daughters, Sophia and Alexa.

It was indeed a tall task. But Dr. Rajan dug in, took on the challenge, and will graduate with her PhD during the University’s 128th commencement ceremony May 23, 2024, at the Kimmel Cultural Campus in Philadelphia.

She described her journey to her PhD as riding a roller coaster, with its ups and downs, twists and turns. She experienced moments of success and fulfillment as well as lower points, in which she said she needed more clarity on which direction to take.

“I was fortunate to be surrounded by people at work and home who created a supportive environment for me to be successful,” said Dr. Rajan, who has been a clinical audiologist for 22 years and in academia for more than nine years. “That was a huge motivation for me to stay focused on my teaching and patient care responsibilities while working on my research and dissertation.”

Her research topic focused on hearing health promotion in youth and she became interested in exploring preventative healthcare and the role of a pediatric audiologist. 

But how did she find enough hours in the day to take on the additional challenge of earning a PhD while continuing to teach full time and be an integral part of her family unit? It was simply good old hard work, determination and the mental toughness to multitask at a high level.

“I would do a lot of my dissertation writing into the late hours of the night, get up earlier than usual and work through the weekends,” said Dr. Rajan, who started work on her PhD during the pandemic, which forced her to redesign her study so it could be conducted remotely. “It was quite a balancing act between family, work and school work.”

Jenny Rajan and family in DCFor those considering taking on the same type of challenge, Dr Rajan has some advice. First, maintaining self-discipline is key. Whether it was reading research articles, writing, or analyzing data, she had to intentionally carve out time in an already-busy schedule to be productive. 

Secondly, one needs to practice self-care. “It may sound cliché, but I discovered that it’s too easy to fall into the trap of not getting enough sleep, skipping exercise and opting for unhealthy eating habits when you are constantly prioritizing other obligations over your health and well-being,” said Dr. Rajan.

And, lastly, she recommends surrounding oneself with people who want to see you succeed. Having a support system is important and it will help you make it to the finish line. 

Dr. Rajan anticipates that having her PhD will allow her to expand her opportunities in academia, allowing her to become a better educator and engaging in research that will improve healthcare for her patients and the community at large. Dr. Rajan is thrilled to have accomplished her goal of securing her PhD and looks forward to walking across the stage at commencement to receive her diploma. 

“It feels surreal and incredible to  achieve something that initially seemed impossible.,” said Dr. Rajan.