Interview with Kierra Peterson, doctoral student


Kierra Peterson



Download Audio (46.0 MB)

Download Interview Transcript, PDF File (177 KB)

Download Interview Transcript, TXT File (43 KB)

Download Interview Transcript, DOCX File (50 KB)


Media is loading


Oral history interview with Illinois State University doctoral student Kierra Peterson. The interview was conducted by Milner Library intern Paige Malloy on June 29, 2023.

The interview delves into Peterson's background, highlighting her upbringing in Chicago and her early education experiences, including attending a private elementary school and a selective enrollment high school. Peterson reflects on her formative years, emphasizing the influence of her family's focus on education and her own passion for helping others, which led her to pursue psychology. She also describes how her high school job at a Jewel-Osco grocery store netted her a college scholarship.

Peterson recounts her decision to attend Alabama State University for her undergraduate studies, driven by the opportunity for a full ride scholarship and the familiarity of having classmates from her hometown. She discusses her extensive college application process and the factors that led her to choose Alabama State out of the 30 institutions she applied to. Following her bachelor's degree in psychology, Peterson pursued a graduate degree at Clayton State University in Georgia, initially intending to become a counselor. However, her experiences during her master's program and practicum led her to pivot towards a career as a psychologist, recognizing the broader scope and opportunities within the field.

Upon embarking on her doctoral journey, Peterson elected to come to ISU, citing factors such as proximity to family, financial considerations, and the flexibility of the program. She discusses her first impressions of the university, noting its size and the adjustment from smaller schools she had previously attended. Peterson also shares her experiences as a graduate assistant in the Department of Psychology and Teaching with Primary Sources at Milner Library. She emphasizes the importance of time management and finding a balance between academic responsibilities and assistantship duties.

Throughout the interview, Peterson expresses appreciation for her relationships with professors in the Psychology Department, particularly her advisor, Dr. Brea Banks. Additionally, she briefly discusses her involvement with the Graduate Council, noting its role in advocating for student interests and facilitating connections within the university community.

Peterson vividly describes her Alternative Breaks trips to Costa Rica and Oklahoma, highlighting the cultural immersion and personal growth she experienced. Peterson emphasizes the value of living with host families, engaging in community service projects such as building stoves and assisting with pineapple farming, and participating in cultural activities like horseback riding and basket weaving. She expresses her enthusiasm for future Alternative Break opportunities and her desire to participate as a regular student rather than in a leadership role.

At the end, the conversation shifts to a comparison of her experiences at a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) versus a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), highlighting the differences in cultural dynamics and experiences of microaggressions. Peterson emphasizes the importance of representation and support for marginalized communities on campus and expresses both pride in her accomplishments and aspirations for further personal and institutional growth. She hopes to continue advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Illinois State University and to see tangible changes in policies and representation in positions of power.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; K-12 education and job at Jewel-Osco: 00:00-04:13
  • College application process: 04:13-06:59
  • Passion for psychology: 06:59-08:47
  • Master’s degree; changing career aspirations: 08:47-12:58
  • Applying to doctoral programs; coming to ISU: 12:58-19:39
  • Graduate assistantships: 19:39-24:51
  • Psychology Department faculty; Graduate Council: 24:51-27:42
  • Alternative Breaks trips: 27:42-33:19; 42:24-44:42
  • Study and leisure time: 33:19-35:21
  • Reflecting on ISU as a Predominantly White Institution (PWI): 35:21-42:24
  • Hopes for the future; conclusion: 44:42-47:23

Interview with Kierra Peterson, doctoral student