Photo by Ian McMorran
It is clear that academia as an institution was designed with the white hetero-normative man in mind. It is indisputable that female, LGBTQ, and non-white students are at a disadvantage in successfully completing their undergraduate education. I am grateful that most universities today are actively working to transform this reality. As a multi-racial Chicana woman I have encountered obstacles to pursuing education and being taken seriously as an educator and academic. Overcoming these hurdles has led me to become the ambassador and ally that I am today.
One thing that helped me excel in my undergraduate experience was having a professor and mentor who shared my Mexican heritage and gender. Her presence at my university was a daily reminder that success and excellence were possible for someone like me, therefore I understand why having diverse faculty across departments is essential. I am that reminder for my students in their academic and artistic pursuits. It is my turn to be that example for my students. I have an internal drive and passion to excel in my field and profession, but I feel extra pressure to break Mexican and female stereotypes in the process. Today, as an instructor at a primarily white male institution, I know that I need to approach teaching with a strong and powerful presence, and over prepare my lecture or lesson plan so that I am respected by my students and avoid making simple mistakes that might be attributed to my race or gender. This is the reality of being a Chicana woman in academia in the United States today, and I know that my students of marginalized identities face similar pressures. In facing these realities and challenging them, I have become a determined, resilient and well-rounded educator and lifelong learner.
I had the honor and privilege of working as a coordinator for the Bachelor to Graduate Degree program at the University of Colorado Boulder where I mentored first generation low-income students and developed programming for their educational and professional developmental. My job was to give them the encouragement and information they needed to succeed academically and become competitive applicants for post-baccalaureate programs and entry-level jobs. Working with these students showed me concretely that many students arrive at the university with little to no context on what to expect or how to succeed. As an instructor I am driven to offer students what they need to be high achievers in my courses regardless of their previous exposure to the academic world. I will never assume that the playing field is level when students arrive in my classroom. I will continually work to level the playing field for my students while valuing the diverse views they bring to the learning environment.
Academic institutions are home to a wide array of learners from diverse backgrounds and it is to the benefit of all students and educators that learning institutions be structurally conducive to varied learners from diverse cultural, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Where bachelor degrees are becoming nearly compulsory, I am eager to be part of the change in an academic institution that prioritizes diversity, accessibility and inclusivity. As a dance educator with certificates in Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender Studies I am well equipped to address the educational needs of a diverse student body, including cultivating a safe learning environment for gender non-conforming and transgender students as well as students of color. Further, I am practiced in teaching to different types of learners. My job as an instructor of a body-based discipline requires reaching kinesthetic, musical, visual, auditory, spatial, interpersonal and logical learners. Teaching dance technique, theory, writing, criticism, and choreography requires this multi-dimensional teaching approach.
My dream in this lifetime is to help remove barriers to education for non-white women and gender non-conforming, lower class, and differently abled students. I am eager to be part of this charge while engaging every part of the university. I want to be part of the systemic shift that will educate students, colleagues, and community members about inclusive excellence at the university level. I acknowledge the inequities inherent in higher education for marginalized populations and am excited to help create a diverse community that honors, respects and celebrates marginalized students’ cultures and perspectives, and learn from students how I can best support their journey to academic success. It is my honor as an educator to be part of this process.