LGBTQ+ Health PhD

Hi there! :)

I'm Wendy Ritch - and what I love to do the most in this world is to teach college students. I'm also darn good at it! In order to be able to teach full-time, I started my PhD in Urban Systems, which is an interdisciplinary (urban health, environments, and policy) joint program at Rutgers-Newark and NJIT. I have completed everything except for my dissertation, which I'm working on now. In academic-speak, I am "ABD," all but dissertation, and it feels great to have come so far and to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I spent about 20 years working as faculty, staff, and an administrator in higher education, primarily in academic health sciences, and I'm concerned about health equity, population health, intersectionality, health policy, and LGBTQ+ health. For the final 14 of those years I was employed at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) until Gov. Chris Christie issued Executive Order 51, which required Rutgers to absorb UMDNJ, and which led to a subsequent reorganization that eliminated my job in March 2015.

I am 49 years young and I'm a first generation college student from a working-class family. That I graduated from Mount Holyoke College is a minor miracle; that I went on to earn Master's degrees from Harvard and UMass-Amherst is pretty amazing; and that I'm finally ABD in a PhD program at Rutgers and NJIT is quite extraordinary. I worked full time at UMDNJ while I pursued my PhD. Since I was laid off, I have applied for many hundreds of full-time jobs in higher education in/near NJ; I have been a finalist for a few of those positions but ultimately I've remained without full-time employment.

Embarrassingly, my parents help me financially or I would have lost my home over a year ago. I have withdrawn all of my contributions to my voluntary retirement accounts, and taken out loans against my mandatory retirement accounts, in order to stay afloat while I tutor, teach a LOT of college classes as a "part-time lecturer," and train health care and public health providers in LGBTQ+ health as a consultant. I am repaying $30K in debt that I've acquired since I lost my job but I never had to worry about quitting my PhD because I received a scholarship from my program that covered tuition.

However, I was just notified by my program director that she can only offer me enough scholarship support to cover ONE credit for each of the fall and spring semesters; I need to take SIX credits in each of the fall, spring, and summer terms or NINE credits in each of the fall and spring terms in order to complete my dissertation and graduate with my PhD in 2018. I didn't apply for other scholarships or fellowships, which I would have had to do last academic year for this academic year, because I did not anticipate a reduction in my scholarship. So, I now find myself ABD, and contracted to teach a whopping SIX courses across three different departments in the fall, but with no ability to pay my education bills for the 2[phone redacted] academic year because the salary for a "part-time lecturer" (adjunct) is pitiful and I need every penny that I earn just to keep my head above water.

This is a breakdown of what my education expenses will be for the 2[phone redacted] academic year:

$707/credit tuition x 18 credits = $12,726
-$707/credit tuition x 2 credits (scholarship) = -$1,414
$333/semester fees x 3 semesters = $999

Total tuition + fees = $12,311

The GoFundMe fees are 7.9% of each donation so that's another $973

Total tuition + fees + 7.9% = $13,284

I have set my fundraising goal at $13,284 but if by some miracle I exceed that amount then I will use the additional funds to travel to/from job interviews. I am currently conducting a national search for a tenure-track faculty position to start fall 2018, which is why I need to finish my PhD before next fall.

If you're still reading then thank you for your time and consideration. It's humbling to have to resort to crowd-funding for my dissertation but I have little time (the fall term starts 9/5) and no other options. Please give what you can and share the link to this campaign on your listservs, groups, and with everyone and anyone who may be even the tiniest bit interested in helping me out. I will keep folks updated on my progress during this final year of my PhD so you'll know that your donations are being used as intended.

My purpose in this life is to leave the world a better place than I found it. One of the ways that I do that is by changing the hearts, minds, and lives of young adults in college because college is what made the biggest difference in my own life. In order to make a living at it, I must finish my PhD and I need your help to do it. Thank you in advance for doing what you can to assist me.

For more info about me, please feel free to access these documents and sites:

LinkedIn Profile
CV (academic resume)
Teaching Evaluations
Teaching Philosophy
Research Interests
RitchVision Photography

Thank you again,

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Wendy A. Ritch 
Belmar, NJ
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