Pushing the Ph.D.

Dr. Ariadne Gonzalez received her Ph.D. over the summer while teaching courses for the Department of Psychology and Communication. Gonzalez first graduated from TAMIU with a Bachelor of Arts in communication.  She then received her master’s, also in communication, from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Now, just this summer, she earned her Ph.D. in organizational communication from Texas A&M-College Station.Gonzalez has been teaching at TAMIU for a few years. She teaches many communications electives. Over the summer, she taught Conflict in Communication and supervised the Summer Session III internship course.

Gonzalez has been specializing in organizational communication, but she had a focus on studying issues of difference. As she likes to put it, she’s “interested in the implications of dirty work.” By that, she means the physical, social and moral aspects.  Living in Laredo, her experience involves issues of immigrant life, border crossing, work-life and how they relate to workers’ occupational identities.

Using those topics, she produced her dissertation on border life.

“My dissertation specifically dealt with how Mexican immigrant and transnational domestic workers construct and negotiate their occupational identity on the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo border.  This population of women is interesting, because they either live in Laredo or travel to and from Laredo most of the week.  I wanted to understand their border crossing experiences and their overall travel experiences to and from work, and how this was connected to their occupational identity, since a person’s occupational life plays a significant role in who they are, in and out of work.  I did ethnographic research, where I engaged in field work and in-depth interviewing.  It was difficult, but much needed work since this is a sector of workers that is difficult to reach.”

In her research, she noticed that domestic workers embody a work-related identity.  For them, it was producing a sense of meaningfulness in their work.  That meaningfulness allows motivation for the workers. It helps them push through the emotional and occupational burdens.  She took a detailed notice of how women had an interesting role.

“Women re-frame their occupational position to one that attains hope; they find a meaning of work that moves beyond the metaphorical dirt and constructs an occupational identity of attainability and success.  Creating meaning out of their occupation is important, because when their job tasks are especially difficult, unfair, and laborious, they look to the substance and tangible value it provides.”

Putting together her dissertation took a lot of work and time. However, she never questioned the topic she wanted to research. She says that was the easy part. It was like knowing the degree one wants to pursue from freshman year. The research aspect included data collection and, of course, writing the paper.

“My data collection methods were interesting,” Gonzalez said. “Since most domestic workers utilize the city bus system, I would also ride the bus along with them, walk with them to and from work, to and from the bridge, and sit with them while they waited for their bus. This took a long time, but I had the opportunity to engage with them in ways I never thought possible. I transcribed all of my field notes and most of my interviews, which took a lot of time as well.”

With her newly attained Ph.D, Gonzalez still plans to continue as an assistant professor at TAMIU. She will be working on several manuscripts throughout the next couple of months. Her goal is to have them accepted  for publication in communication journals. In spite of all the work it took her to complete her dissertation, she is still very excited to continue her research in immigration and identity. She does have a few projects in mind.

For prospective graduate students, Gonzalez has some advice: “The best advice I can give a student is to read and engage themselves in research.  Whatever field you are interested in requires you to enter into a scholarly conversation, and you can only do that if you know the literature.  We have an amazing research database that our library provides–use it. It’s also important to get to know your professors and the research they do. Talk to us. We’re always eager to discuss our research, and there is much to learn from that as well.”


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