Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Step 1

When I was an undergraduate, I had the plan(below) set of how my life was going to play itself out once I had my degree.
Idalia’s plan:
Get undergraduate degree in Latin American and Latino Studies
Get Master’s in Educational Policy
Get Ph.D. in Chicano Studies

**I wanted to find out what were the hurdles/barriers that were preventing Latino students from reaching and succeeding in higher education. I wanted to identify the policies that may be contributing to the success rate of Latinos being so low and change them (this was my plan before I graduated from school).

Doing these interviews and being “forced” to identify a dream, create a flow chart and interview role models that are living your life has brought me back to my reality. I think I have had an idealized idea of what it means to have a Ph.D. in Chicano Studies. When I took a class, within my major, I discovered Chicano Studies and I felt as if I had found a piece of my identity. Something that was definitely not discussed in any history class I had taken up until that point. I also felt as sense of duty and need to share this history with others. Each of my interviewees shed some light on my path by allowing their life to shine.
Conversing with them helped me to see four constant themes:

Take the STEP and the path will appear

You CAN do this!

Your MESSAGE matters

Strength will be KEY.

ASK for help

Join me on my journey of discovery through interviewing.

First up, was Gloria Cuadraz a professor of Ethnic Studies in Arizona. I chose her because her honesty and the familial ties that she shared in the documentary Shattering the Silences moved me. A part of her has always stayed with me and I knew that she would be one of my mentors to contact.

Honestly, I did not think she was going to respond to my email but she did. I was overcome by joy and panic at the same time. I started thinking about what I wanted to ask her and how to phrase it in a manner that seemed intelligent and profound. Through the prepping phase of this assignment, I discovered that I have a slight tenancy to make everything perfect and it was making me stress out. A friend finally said what many people do not say and that was you are so lucky to be doing this stop trying to be perfect and enjoy the process. Needless to say, that I got it together and was able to finally interview her and I felt relaxed and confident that I had prepared enough.

Professor Cuadraz shared with me a bit of her past, present and her hopes for the future. Some of the things that stood out to me about her fascinating path to where she is right now are:
That she went to community college-I went to community college and have felt a bit of shame in that but she did too.
She secretly applied to a four-year institution (U.C. Santa Cruz) and did not tell her parents until her acceptance letter came.
During her 1st semester of graduate school, she had a personal loss but felt a sense of purpose and continued with school. This situation forced her to ask for help, which was an uncommon thing but a necessary step for her to be able to deal with her loss.
Some of the other questions were:

Did you know you were going to college?
I knew I wanted to go
Are you living your dream?
Yes, because knowledge is at the center of my dream. No, there have been many moments where I could have walked away.
Did you have a mentor?
Yes, she named about four but by the time our conversation was over, I think we were more at six

We discussed many things regarding academia that forced me to see it for what it really was:
Male privilege, racialization, gender bias, salary differentials, administrators, inequities
Why do it?
For the “jewels” as she calls them:
The relationships, seeing students advance and the cultivation of the next generation.

I have constantly felt that in my culture and more immediate in my family the feeling that all the professional success and personal fulfillment is good and all but when are you going to get married? Somehow marriage trumps it all and is what I was placed in this planet to do. After a while that can be a bit much.

Dr. Cuadraz was able to share her experience with me and validate my feeling of frustration as it pertains to family expectations-thanks!

How do you relieve stress?
Creatively. She is a watercolorist and enjoys using pastels too. She cannot paint as often as she would like but finds it very enjoyable.

What is the one thing you know now that you wish someone had told you?
>It is okay to lose someone-getting accustomed to having people come in and out of your life.
>You have to be a lot stronger even though it may not feel natural. There is a constant need to fight.

Some of the things that surprised me were:
She did not have a plan but there where people around her that saw her potential and helped her get from one-step to the other. She echoed the sentiment that I have felt but never said…as women; we have an avalanche of expectations of ourselves. When she said that it made me think so much about how unfair I constantly am to myself.
Dr. Cuadraz was very honest and forthcoming with all of the questions I asked her. Thank you.

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