Navigating Academia as a [Latina/Chicana/Minority]!!


I wrote this post 4 years ago and never shared it. I am sharing it today because I have come a long way since then. I am now a doctoral candidate, and have several publications. I have applied to tenure-track jobs and have even been invited to go to an on campus interview. I decided to share it so that others that come across my blog see that it is possible to move past those lonely points in graduate school. This is my last year in the doctoral program. I am ABD and plan on walking next May! Si se puede!!!


I was sitting in class (nervous about participating) and what happens every year in at least one of my graduate courses happened today! I said something, or at least felt like I said something stupid. Then it automatically feels like the whole room is spinning around me and the person speaking in response to my comment is moving in slow motion with a huge sticky note on her forehead that reads, “I am smarter than you will ever be and have ever been!” Of course this person is always Anglo and seems to be from a different upbringing. Yes, I am exaggerating!! The truth is that this was actually a reality when I was in high school and even as an undergrad at the same institution I am now.

There’s a part of me that will always be the attention-seeking, yet shy, Chicana from the barrio of Santa Ana, CA, kind of like Ugly Betty from Queens. I watched the show from the day it started and am currently rewatching the sitcom. It completely resonated with me because it reminded me of the experience I had as an undergrad in higher education. I started community college with such high hopes. I arrived almost two hours early on my first day because I really wanted to do well in the remedial math, reading, and writing courses I was placed in. Almost 20 years later I still feel like I don’t know as much as some of my doctoral peers. I hear their interpretations and think to myself, “Why can’t I interpret the reading as eloquently as they did?” or I compare my life story to theirs after hearing about how one of my classmates grandfather got his PhD from a Parisian university. I am pretty sure that about that same time my grandfather was immigrating to the U.S. as a bracero worker.

I’ll stop here with my self-reflection…..As I have mentioned before, this site is meant to help me understand various aspects of what it means to know more than one language, and that includes my personal story. In addition, writing can be very cathartic and after today’s episode, in class and on Ugly Betty, I felt the need to rant a bit….to better understand why, at times, I feel so alone in my doctoral program and why, at times, it feels like maybe I don’t belong.

**Don’t leave me, “Si se puede” comments, please. I was just ranting for therapy…for me.