For Alisa Doan, returning to the K-State campus to visit with people who played a major role in her life when she was a student and sharing experiences with current students are a couple of the ways she gives back to the University.
Receiving her undergraduate degree in food science from the University of Tennessee, Alisa came to K-State to pursue a master’s in food science. She selected K-State because of the excellent reputation of the Food Science program and the Sensory Analysis Center, the faculty members who are respected in their discipline for their exceptional research and the abundant academic opportunities. She never dreamed that after her master’s she would go on to pursue a doctorate.
The journey that led her to pursue a doctorate degree involved working as a graduate teaching and research assistant and gaining scholarship opportunities.
“I had an interest in sensory and K-State has a great food sensory program,” said Doan. “Never did I think I would stay for my doctorate. I thought I would get my master’s under my belt and get a little bit of experience and then go off for my next chapter. “
While pursuing her master’s degree, Alisa worked as a graduate teaching assistant and graduate research assistants which involved shared responsibilities in the Sensory Analysis Lab. She gained experiences both in teaching and research.
“As a master’s student we had different assignments during the semesters,” said Doan. “When you weren’t teaching, you had a research assignment. There was a time I had a teaching and research assignment and there was time I was just a teaching assistant or a research assistant. “
After the completion of her master’s degree, Alisa accepted a six month internship at General Mills, gaining more experience in her field
“During the interim year of my master’s and doctorate, I completed a six month internship at General Mills. I loved what I was doing, but knew it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do,” said Doan. “It was during that internship that I decided I was going to go on for my doctorate. “
Doan noted that some of the key opportunities and experiences that shape graduate students and prepare them for their future careers go beyond the academic classroom and research lab.
“I was able to travel internationally for 1-2 weeks and became immersed in the country’s culture,” said Doan. “I attended conferences to meet people from the industry and academic world to begin my professional network.”
In addition to the travel experiences that influences graduate student’s successes during graduate school and in their professional career are the people that they come to know as their faculty mentor or professors.
“The professors that made the biggest impact on me were those that had real world experiences they were able to share,” said Doan. “My major professor, Edgar Chambers, had many experience prior to becoming a professor.”
The support system graduate students receive in academia stem from their relationships with faculty and committee members.
“There are many outstanding professors that help build and create the person that I am today,” said Doan. “Whether it was classes that I took with them or some interaction and learning about how to become a professional woman in a world of male dominance. “
Alisa, like many graduate students, wouldn’t have been able to attend graduate studies at K-State to further her education without the support of scholarships.
“I was able to use all my scholarships for my education,” said Doan. “Without financial support, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend school. Scholarships are a great way for students to be recognized for the work they do and the contributions they make to further education.”
Funding, for many graduate students, is the deciding factor on whether they will accept admittance to Kansas State University. Scholarships, grants and loans are how graduate students pay for the additional years of education.
“To have people contributing to graduate students through scholarships helps you realize that other people, whom you may not know, believe and support you,” said Doan.
Even after years of being away from the classroom or lab, Alisa stays connected with many of her professors at professional meetings and return visits to Kansas State University.
“It was a major part of my life for so long, I don’t want to forget that time and forget the individuals who helped me,” said Doan. “I come back to visit, to see what has changed and to be involved. It is a way for me to say thank you.”
After graduating K-State four and half years ago, Alisa accepted a position at Kellogg’s as a Product and Consumer Understanding Scientist. In this capacity she interacts with the product development team, renovates products in the market, innovates future products and launches new products in the market.
Alisa is the first person in her family to earn a PhD. After four and half years at Kellogg’s she was awarded the 2014 Research Quality and Technology (RQT) Navigator of the Year award , an annual award given to one person from a workforce of 600 in the RQT department for embracing, living and sharing the true meaning of diversity and inclusion.
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