Ben Dantzer was a finalist in the 2021 Three Minute Thesis competition, with his presentation, "Closing the Mentorship Gap through Youth-Initiated Mentoring."
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I decided to pursue my Ph.D. when I was eighteen years old. I attended a small college as an undergraduate student, which created the opportunity for me to really interact with my professors and classmates. I fell in love with getting my pre-class "double-double" from Timmies and sitting down to explore ideas, people, and theories that I had never heard of before. Although my love for learning (and coffee) remains, as I've grown older pursuing a graduate degree has taken on an entirely new purpose and meaning. Put simply, working towards a Ph.D. has become an opportunity for me to develop new skills in order to (hopefully) make an impact in the lives of others.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
As a research-intensive university, I decided to study at UBC because I knew that I would be challenged to produce high-quality scholarly work and expand my skill-set as an academic. The beautiful campus and close proximity to the mountains, ocean, and beach also didn't hurt!
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
My program is located in UBC's Faculty of Education, which is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. The opportunity to learn alongside world-renowned experts and faculty members greatly enhanced my desire to apply for my current program at UBC.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The best surprise I experienced while living in Vancouver was the realization that it doesn't actually rain all the time! The other funny surprise was learning that Vancouverites use their umbrellas in the snow. This was hilarious to see as someone who grew up in Ontario, Canada, where we get a ton of snow (and endure it without umbrellas, like true Canadians).
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
In my opinion, three aspects of my life have prepared me for graduate school. The first experience was playing competitive sports during my childhood. This might sound strange (we often separate athletics from academics), but playing sports as a young man taught me the importance of teamwork and discipline – two key skills required to succeed in graduate school. The second experience was being introduced to interesting books as a child, such as Harry Potter and anything written by Neil Gaiman and Conn Iggulden. My early experiences with books helped me develop both my literacy skills and an interest in exploring new ideas and places – two skills that continue to help me navigate graduate school at UBC. The third experience that helped me prepare for graduate school was taking an undergraduate course that required me to write an essay each week. Writing an essay each week helped me hone my writing skills and develop a love for the writing process. In sum, I think there are many ways to begin preparing for graduate school. If you're genuinely interested in your field, I think you'll find that navigating graduate school and finding success (however you may define it) will come naturally. Good luck!
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I have three pieces of advice for new graduate students. First and foremost, I would encourage all new graduate students to find an off-campus activity that they enjoy to do with others. UBC can be quite academically challenging at times, so finding time to disconnect from campus and connect with others is important. Second, if your program requires you to write a thesis, I would encourage new graduate students to begin thinking about their research question or areas of interest as early as possible. If you can decide on your area of interest early on, you can begin building your expertise while completing your required coursework (e.g., writing papers and giving in-class presentations). This will significantly increase your ability to write and defend your thesis. Finally, I encourage new graduate students to have fun while attending UBC. Learn to enjoy the process of reading, writing, and discussing ideas, rather than focusing on when you will graduate or what career path you will take. Slow down and enjoy the process!