Launching New Doctoral Students: Embracing the Hero's Journey

Daphne DePorres, Roland E. Livingston


This case explores the value of a two-hour experiential activity that elicits the perceptions, and examines the anxiety and com-fort levels, of students entering a doctoral program, with a view toward students' successful completion of the program. The Hero's Journey, an archetypal myth articulated most popularly by Joseph Campbell, was used as the substrate for the experien-tial activity. A pre-test question asked: How excited are you to be getting started? On a Likert Scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not excited at all and 10 being quite excited, most people were in the range of 5 to 10. This suggests that they were looking forward to getting started. A second question asked: How anx-ious are you, as you get started? Using the same scale, most people were in the 1 to 5 range. This suggests there was a pal-pable amount of anxiety. Students were then shown a short vid-eo explaining the essence of the Hero's Journey. A series of questions guided participants through the early phases of the Hero's Journey and encouraged them to reflect upon what called them to doctoral study and what they felt must be shifted in their lives to make room for such an undertaking. This pro-cess helped normalize the notion that challenges might yet oc-cur, and that they could be dealt with effectively. A post-test revealed that the level of excitement about beginning the jour-ney had moved up from 5/10, on a Likert Scale, to 7/10.

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