Student Spotlight

Zellers pictureAimee Zellers, the Michele R. and Patrick Atkins Endowed Chair for Ethics Across the Curriculum and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Carlow University

What usually comes after two years of healthcare ethics coursework and a successful comprehensive exam? Ask any student enrolled in the program and they will tell you that years of rigorous research and writing await you at that juncture. Well, if that wasn't enough, Aimee Zellers thought she should go and apply for a faculty position while working on her dissertation. And, she now holds The Michele R. and Patrick Atkins Endowed Chair for Ethics Across the Curriculum and is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Carlow University.
Instead of writing an article on Aimee, I asked her five honest questions that enable her to share with other students the realities that come along with the turf. May you will find wisdom and hope for the journey in what she has shared.......

What you will be doing in your new job?

My responsibilities include: teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; lead curricular design initiatives to incorporate ethics across both undergraduate and graduate courses of study; develop a university agenda to create awareness of and address contemporary ethical issues through seminars, conferences, workshops, community engagement, or other activities; and, of course, contribute to my field through publications and conference presentations. Essentially, I get to do two of my favorite things: teach and be a creative leader.

How you feel about getting an opportunity like this even before you complete your PhD?

I have a wide range of emotions! I am ecstatic and humbled at the same time. I realize that there are many candidates who could more than adequately fill this role, yet Carlow University saw something in me and chose to give an emerging scholar this ripe opportunity.

I feel as though my hard work is starting to be validated by other professionals, and I feel a sense of accomplishment. Along with a sense of accomplishment comes an increased drive to work even harder and positively contribute to my new community. I truly believe that if you work hard and put yourself in a place to be successful, then opportunities will come. Opportunities do not simply fall in your lap; you have to do the leg-work and always maintain a good position so when opportunities do arise you can take full advantage of them. Yes, you will get rejected more often than not, but if you never put yourself out there then you stand no chance at all. Do not fear rejection; use those instances as opportunities to improve. Along those same lines, I cannot simply rest on my laurels. Earning this position at Carlow is an accomplishment; however it is only the first step. I must be sure to do all the little things that got me to this point and continue to develop as a professional.

I have a few butterflies because this position is more demanding than a typical professorship. I am expected to come in as a leader. I embrace this opportunity full-heartedly without reservation, yet I also understand the weight of it. Hence, as it would be expected I am both excited and a little nervous.

How is your work coming on your dissertation proposal?

My dissertation proposal is coming along nicely. I took two months off this summer from all jobs to focus on it. A word of advice to those starting their dissertation proposals: make a good amount of headway on your proposal before you go to work full-time. Working full-time and making time for your proposal can be incredibly challenging. I really struggled to find this balance during my first year out of course work. If you have a good foundation and the majority of your research is completed it is possible to manage both, but my recommendation is to have a very solid base completed before considering full-time work. If you do have to work full-time, and many of us must to survive, you will have to make sacrifices but in the end it is worth it.

What is your dissertation proposal about?

My dissertation examines the role of ethics in health technology assessment (HTA), particularly in emerging genetic technologies. I'm attempting to address how we can better integrate ethics into HTA processes while also moving it up, or doing it earlier, in the process. Focusing on genetic technologies allows me to provide an example of ethics in HTA while at the same time identifying and addressing some very real ethical issues healthcare providers and consumers will face in the coming years.

You will be juggling a new job, getting married in Nov., and working on your dissertation, are you sleeping at night?

The short answer: at first no, but now yes.

At first I was very excited, the butterflies were going full-force, I was high on life, then reality set in. I have a dissertation to knock out (in a timely manner), a wedding to plan, and now a new job; in addition, since my new job is an hour and forty-five minutes from where I live my fiancé and I must find a more centralized location to live... we will be moving in the very near future as well (YIKES!). I did not get much sleep at first and there were many restless nights filled with excitement and nerves. These are all very important aspects of professional and personal life which makes them challenging to juggle. (If you look at stress scales that indicate key life stressors, I'm off the charts right now HAHA!)

My solution: add one more thing to the list. I have enrolled to participate in a half marathon in October. Now, this may sound crazy, even insane to some, but let me explain. Before graduate school I was a competitive athlete, and in that past I have always found that when I address all aspects of life I have the most success and happiness. This includes not only the emotional (getting married) and psychological (new job) areas of life, but also the physical aspects too. I figured that in order to increase my overall happiness in life, I should address the physical aspects, which have been neglected for the past few years. As a result of working out each day, I now sleep soundly and am given the added confidence of feeling (physically) good, both of which can go a long way in coping with life's insane timing. In short, I have managed or coped thus far by finding a healthy outlet for stress and having a very supportive fiancé. My fiancé, Todd has been more than understanding and is perhaps my greatest asset through all of this. He encourages and supports me in all areas I choose to pursue, from half marathons to new jobs; he is the steady constant I can always rely on for honest feedback and support. When I think of all the things going on in my life, I am comforted by the fact that I am not going through them alone, I have an amazing partner at my side. make us proud!