Eva Wheeler is a woman of many passions and pursuits. In 2010, she left a career as a commercial litigation lawyer to return to graduate school and study Iberian Linguistics at UCSB. Now, as a 5th-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, she is following "a new plan for happily ever after" and hopes to complete her dissertation by Spring 2015.
Eva earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Professional Writing from Oakwood University, as well as a Juris Doctor law degree from New York University. She has lived all over the United States – including California, Texas, North Carolina, and Alabama – and has traveled all over the world to locales in Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. She also speaks six languages with various levels of fluency.
Oh, and did we mention that she can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 1 minute and 8 seconds? Read on to find out more about the fascinating life of Eva Wheeler.
Tell us a little about your research and how you came to choose the topic.
My dissertation research focuses on the physical and social meaning of terms used to describe race and skin color in the Dominican Republic. I chose this topic because I had experience with the Dominican Republic; I wanted to understand more about the way that race was perceived and described; and the answer to my questions was missing from the academic literature on the topic.
What has graduate student life been like for you?
Life as a graduate student has been fantastic! There have certainly been stressful moments (my M.A. exam and dissertation proposal defense come to mind), but I have really enjoyed the ride. I have matured as a scholar and a person, and I have had the opportunity to travel to places like Spain and the Basque Country, India, and the Dominican Republic. The time has flown by!
What do you wish you had known before you started grad school?
That’s a hard one. I would say that I wish I had known how to handle constructive criticism of my writing, research, etc. At the beginning, I couldn’t separate my writing from myself. Now, I edit my own writing with a much more critical eye, and the feedback I have received from classmates and professors has helped me to become a better writer.
What do you like most about grad school and what do you like least?
I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from rising to a challenge. When I meet a deadline that seemed impossible or finish a big project, I feel major endorphins. I am proud of making my dissertation project a reality. It started as an idea, and it has been so rewarding to see that idea become a project, and that project become a dissertation (well, almost … June 2015!).
I also love being encouraged to explore new ideas. I am less thrilled about occasionally becoming a recluse.
Who are your heroes and/or mentors and why?
This seems a bit cliché, but my mother is one of the most phenomenal people that I have ever met. This is true for many reasons, but I will just say that she is the one that taught me to dream big dreams. I have also had quite a few academic and professional mentors. Mentorship is a powerful thing. It is incredible to be surrounded by people who are genuinely invested in my success.
What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, collections, pastimes, favorite places to go, favorite things to do?
I love to travel and see new places. I also work out, watch interesting series on Netflix, eat things that are delicious, and work on my Rubik’s Cube technique. I’ve dabbled in photography, and I would like to be able to get out and do karaoke way more often than I do.
What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?
I hope to be teaching, researching interesting things, seeing interesting places, and loving what I do. I also hope to finish writing the novel I started while I was in the Dominican Republic, and I hope it becomes a best seller!
Do you have any advice for current grad students?
Work hard. Do good work. Listen to wise counsel, and don’t lose yourself in this process.