10 TIPS FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS OF COLOR

It’s that time of year — admission letters.

My newsfeed has slowly started to fill with folks announcing that they were accepted into graduate school or at the decision making stage about which school to attend. “Can anyone tell me more about xxxx program?” or “Hey! Shout out! Just got into xxxx University’s graduate program! Give me all the advice!”

Most recently, a former professor of mine posted this article here with “10 Tips to Help You Win at Graduate School”. And, honestly, it’s good. It’s solid advice. Helpful information. And, definitely has some good points to consider.

But, as a person of color, that list falls short for me.

In fact, it’s because of lists like these — ones that, on the surface, feel fine but miss aspects of what it means to be a graduate student of color — that I ended up focusing my dissertation on the ways in which graduate programs fall short for supporting students of color. Along with 22 participants, we concluded that graduate programs must consider three key aspects to support an identity-conscious, interactional model of doctoral student socialization: racial identity, doctoral student development, and doctoral student socialization. In addition, we must pay attention to aspects of communities of color such as the impact of family influence; the role of culturally relevant curriculum in their formation; racialized stereotypes; social experiences; and community.

So, here it is. Here is my list of “10 Tips for Graduate Students of Color” as you begin your journey. It is missing nuances for other communities? Of COURSE it is. So, eagerly awaiting for you to contribute yours!

NETWORK WITH OTHER GRADUATE STUDENTS OF COLOR. The journey of graduate school is difficult and challenging for all students. And, plenty of existing and emerging research has shown that students of color experience hurdles that are informed and impacted by race. As a graduate student of color, it is important that you connect to communities that you believe can help support or bolster you on this journey. While not all have the privilege of choosing graduate programs that have many scholars of color or students of color (e.g., limited geographic mobility; funding issues; ability to go part-time; family responsibilities), it is important to identify spaces that can affirm who you are as a graduate student of color. Some of these groups are broad, for example a “Graduate Student of Color Group” and some focus more on ethnic affinity spaces “Asian American Doctoral Students in Education.” Connect with those groups early on.

FIND YOURSELF AND YOUR NARRATIVE IN THE CURRICULUM. In my dissertation, I interviewed 22 Asian American and Pacific Islander graduate students in education/educational leadership doctoral programs across the country. And, regardless of geographic location, the participants reported that they had never read about their community in positive ways in their K-12 curriculum nor in the graduate school curriculum. For many communities of color, we are often described as a) coming from a deficit perspective or b) totally invisible. That approach has been compounded for decades for us, and unfortunately, without real intention, it has the potential to continue through graduate school. Challenge your faculty to make sure that your ethnic and racial identity is discussed more than just from a deficit perspective. Or, also, that your community can no longer be invisible. And, that approach isn’t just good for you, right? All students benefit from a more complicated understanding of an issue or policies or experiences.

UNDERSTAND AND TROUBLE DOCTORAL STUDENT SOCIALIZATION. Socialization is the process by which we, as graduate students, learn the norms, attitudes, and behaviors of our field. Cool, right? Except, what if those norms, attitudes, and behaviors were created by people who don’t look like us, learn like us, behave like us, or are from communities that feel like us? Socialization often means learning very Eurocentric ways of being and knowing in the academy. I’m sure you can imagine that there are doctoral students and programs out there who give advice like, “Now, you don’t want to come off too ethnic” or “This is how we dress at conferences because this is what professional is.” Okay, I get that. AND, damn. Truth moment: What would be different if you, as a student of color, informed or impacted the way your historically White department behaved, looked, and thought? That right there is called bi-directional socialization. Are our programs really still going to stay stuck in the practices of the past 50 years? Or, do our departments and programs need to respond to a more diverse graduate student population? (hint: the latter). So, what kind of challenges do you place on a department that needs to respond to the changing demographics?

INTERROGATING RACIALIZED STEREOTYPES IN GRADUATE SCHOOL. Sure, there are many scholars of color who research and write about communities of color. But, you know that’s not all we can do, right? I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that some doctoral students have been approached with “Oh, so do you study the experiences of Black students? No? Oh, sorry. I mean, I just figured….” #sideye

Yes, there is a very real “not about us without us” moment here. And, scholars of color are multidimensional. Many of us do care deeply about race and other things. Or, yes, even the intersections of race and other things. But, I don’t assume that all white scholars study white people. So, let’s give scholars of color a chance to also study things that aren’t just about race.

We also know that being in graduate school doesn’t somehow erase our chances of microaggressions. So, it’s no surprise that graduate students of color experience their fair share of microaggressions related to race. For example, a number of Asian American doctoral students have been on the receiving end of the whole, “Oh, can you help me with my quantitative class? You’re good at math, right?” Did I mention that, each time, these folks were approached by total strangers?? Or, times when a graduate student of color has shown up late to a study group because of family emergency, apologized to the group, and then was told, “That’s okay. We know you run on P-O-C time.”

#NeedIGoOn?

SOCIAL CONNECTION. A number of graduate programs have moved to cohort-style models, knowing that moving through coursework together helps to create a common experience, allows for groups to come together to learn/write about similar material, and keeps the social and peer support and pressure to keep moving forward. Cohorts can be powerful retention tools in programs. The social dynamics can also cause stress, frustration and anxiety when it is clear there is exclusion. Sometimes this exclusion is very intentional (e.g., “I mean, the three of us just seem to click better. It’s nothing personal”). Sometimes it is unintentional (e.g., a cohort tradition of going to a bar every Friday which causes undue stress and exclusion for those who do not drink or cannot be in that environment).

THE ROLE OF FAMILY/HOME COMMUNITY Particularly in families or situations in which pursuing a graduate degree distances someone from their home community, it is important to have people in your life who understand this struggle. Without that, graduate students of color can often experience pressure to stop or give up. A Latina scholar once told me, “If it wasn’t for my cohort, I would have quit before the first year ended. I had made the mistake of telling my family that this was so hard. And, their response was, ‘Okay! So, good. Then you can stop. Because, the kids miss you and you are needed at home.’” This scholar-Mama was surrounded by other scholar-Mamas in her cohort who helped her process this guilt, challenge, and feel not so alone in this struggle (note: And, that scholar-Mama persisted, delivered an outstanding dissertation and her whole family attended her graduation last year!). Engage your family, to the extent that it is possible, in your graduate journey and lean on your chosen family to support you through this.

When I started my doctoral student journey, there were three key articles that helped me understand the importance of race and my own racialized experiences. And, in the doctoral course that I currently teach, these are required readings.

Buenavista, T. L., Jayakumar, U. M., & Misa‐Escalante, K. (2009). Contextualizing Asian American education through critical race theory: An example of US Pilipino college student experiences. New directions for institutional research2009(142), 69-81.

Gildersleeve, R. E., Croom, N. N., & Vasquez, P. L. (2011). “Am I going crazy?!”: A critical race analysis of doctoral education. Equity & Excellence in Education44(1), 93-114.

Espino, M. M., Muñoz, S. M., & Marquez Kiyama, J. (2010). Transitioning from doctoral study to the academy: Theorizing trenzas of identity for Latina sister scholars. Qualitative Inquiry16(10), 804-818.

To learn more about the interactional model of identity-conscious socialization, check out my work here: Talusan, L. A. (2016). The Formation of Scholars: Critical Narratives of Asian American and Pacific Islander Doctoral Students in Higher Education.

Peace and love,

Liza

PS: Did you notice there weren’t actually 10 tips? Yeah, I got to 7. So, tips “8,9, and 10” are “manage your emotional labor, let others do some work too, and know when it’s okay to stop…” (see what I did there? #selfcare #tip11)

OFFICIAL LAUNCH: LT COACHING AND CONSULTING, LLC

Photo from Pennsylvania Patch files

Photo from Pennsylvania Patch files

It’s here! July 1! And, while we have been soft launching LT Coaching and Consulting, LLC for a few months now, today marks the official day that we are in business. I’m happy to report that LT Coaching and Consulting, LLC has my full-time attention as I work with incredible individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, and partners to help #makethingsbetter in our communities.

If you’ve been following some of the updates over the past few months, you’ll know that my schedule is fully booked for Fall 2018 (which means, unless there are some exceptions, I’m only booking clients and speaking engagements for after January 1, 2019). While success looks pretty on the outside, getting to a place where I had collaborative trusting relationships has taken years and years. I’m proud to say that, until this launch, I have never advertised or done any marketing for the work that I do. Instead, all of the work has come from people who have trusted me to come into their homes, schools, communities and offices to do good work and who wanted to tell others about it. 

I am grateful.  Thank you for your trust.

For most of my career, I have always worked multiple jobs: mid-to-senior level administrative positions in which diversity, equity, and inclusion were integral to my role; classroom teaching; and consulting with schools and organizations who were looking to do better. Because of these three roles, I often had to limit what I could do and who I could “say yes” to partnering with in this work. I finally reached a tipping point and realized I was saying “no” far too often to people who truly wanted some help and guidance to deliver more identity-conscious and responsible leadership. I began to feel the push-and-pull of wanting to do good work and also needing to hold my responsibilities as priorities.

But, I kept ignoring the call. And that call kept getting louder. 

How did I make the decision to turn my attention full-time to coaching and consulting? Easy - I turned to a coach.  

Through coaching, I began to explore what we call “Gremlins” - those little buggers in your ear that keep telling you that you “aren’t good enough” or “not ready” or “taking too many risks.” With my coach, we spent each week exploring these fears, how these fears protected me for decades, and how these fears can be turned into motivators. Each week, we came up with goal oriented action plans, set achievable markers, and still continued to explore my fears about launching my own business. I worked hard to reframe some of my fears about owning my own business or, more specifically, not having a steady paycheck, and doubted whether anyone would call me. I had to face some ugly truths about insecurity and be reminded about what success in diversity work looks like (spoiler alert: it looks like our communities, schools, and work environments being healthy!). And, once I let go of all of the fears that kept me back, something needed to fill that space — abundance

And, here we are, July 1st. The official launch. 

And, I feel amazing.  

I feel proud. I feel confident. I feel ready. I feel grateful, courageous, and excited to take on this new adventure. I’m honored to reconnect with many past partners who have already booked me for this year, and I am eager to meet new partners, explore new organizations, and learn more about people all across this country.

Thank you, Kari, Joe, and Wendy, my amazing coaching partners, for getting me through some of these tough moments. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

Folks, I hope you have read some of the testimonials my partners and clients have left on my webpage about their experiences with coaching. Having a coach truly changed my life. And, I'm so fortunate to have been able to shift and change the lives of others. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, worked with me, and encouraged me to follow this path. Thank you for trusting me with your communities, your journey, your people, your families and friends. 

Let’s get started. Let’s #MakeThingsBetter

Peace and love,  

Liza

LEADING WITH IDENTITY IN MIND

This past week, my newsfeed was filled with video and commentary of an incident that occurred at Colorado State University. Two prospective students had come to CSU for an admission tour. They had traveled quite far to get there (driving over 7 hours), and arrived shortly after the tour had started. They joined the tour. 

I can only imagine this scenario -- two young people who are excited to begin their college search journey. Driving with excitement to get there. Probably now a bit worried that they are late. And, just wanting to blend in and not make a scene.

Except, that was what triggered a parent on the tour to call the police because these teenagers (who were coming to their dream college tour) had made her nervous because they were so quiet.

I'm not going to write about my reaction to that, though. That's my other blog...

I want to focus on the way in which leadership matters. 

Now, I don't know the President of CSU. But, I know all about communications and the need to put out an email or notification about an incident. I know what happens in that back room -- efforts to take just enough responsibility, but not too much. Efforts to be firm, but not so firm that it is meaningful. And, language that is progressive, but not so progressive as to spark conservative voices. I've been there. 

So, it's refreshing to read a note from a university President that takes the time to take a stand. 

This is precisely why I focus on identity-conscious leadership and coaching.

Though I don't know him, the words of this president seem genuine. He seems genuinely concerned by what happened to these two young men. And, he offers opportunities to make things right for the moment. 

THEN, he acknowledges and validates that nothing about this should be normal or acceptable. He doesn't just stop with "let's offer them a paid trip back." He takes a stand to say that this is part of a larger system of injustice. 

As I read his words, I am compelled to think, "He knows who he is." 

That's what I mean by identity-conscious leadership.

Too often, leaders have risen to a level of stature because of their achievements or accolades. But, none of that matters if the leader does not know themselves. And, particularly in a climate where issues of race and identity (among others) are so salient, leaders must understand their own identities in the context of these issues. 

I have spent too many years with too many leaders who have been successful at making big decisions, but who have failed to think through how those changes impact different identities and experiences. 

Check out the letter here

And, remember, Leadership Matters. How will you make sure that yours does, too? 

Coaching is a process that can certainly help you begin to uncover your blocks related to action and activism. We can go deep to figure out how your own identity informs your leadership, and what possibly keeps you from engaging. Let's give it a try. 

Sign up for a 20-minute introductory call to see if you are ready to engage in identity-conscious leadership!

Peace and gratitude, 

Liza

NOW ACCEPTING SCHOOL/ORGANIZATIONAL CLIENTS

Hello friends! 

Just taking this opportunity to announce that I have opened up my calendar for organizational clients, particularly focusing on schools and school leadership. I have had the privilege of seeing the power of coaching in transforming the lives of teachers and administrators. Faculty often come to coaching because they love their work but are feeling disengaged or feeling discouraged by the amount of work; the rapid rate of change in schools; or the growing expectations of families and administrators. I have worked with teachers to help them return to a values based lens -- one that drew them to the service of teaching! Faculty share that they feel heard, seen, and encouraged to approach their work in a way that honors their personal lives and their professional passions. 

For administrators, it is vital that we understand how to be culturally responsive and inclusive in our management. However, our formal training has not always prepared us for the role of engagement. Coaching helps administrators better understand how individuals work, act, and respond. And we, in turn, can engage with more positive energy, direction, and vision. 

Check out the coaching packages I will be offering as of July 1st. But, don't wait to sign up! Given that these processes intentionally dive deep into the culture of the school, I am limiting the number of organizations that will have access to this level of coaching. So, reserve your school's spot soon!

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 12.16.12 AM.png

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out so that we can engage in a collaborative dialogue about the coaching process, the impact on our communities, and the investment that we make in the health of our schools. 

 

With peace, 

Liza

FRIENDS WHO CELEBRATE YOU

Last night was Oscar's night. And, while I usually don't watch it, I was traveling and this seemed to be the best thing on television as I settled in after a long day. I was so happy to see such representation at the Oscars but thrilled to hear people use the platform to advocate for social issues and inclusion. 

Shortly after Jordan Peele won for "Get Out", this photo was circulated of his writing partner, Keegan Michael Key, celebrating Peele's win. 

download.jpeg

Right? Like all the feels! I thought, "Everyone should have a friend like Keegan Michael Key who is unabashedly proud, excited and celebratory of your success!" Do we all have this in our lives? Is there someone in your life who you know would jump off the couch, raise their hands high, and yell with excitement over your success? 

I hope so. 

Over the years, I have spent more time finding people to celebrate than to compete with in my life. While competition can be motivating, celebration can be transformative. What does it mean to be among people with the same level of energy -- the energy for life, the energy for opportunity, and the energy for passionate living? How does our energy attract that same/like energy?

As a woman, I have found these spaces to be few and far between. As a woman, I have been in more spaces in which women have competed for the few coveted "top" positions -- as if there was only room for one of us. 

But, over the years, I have found my group, my crew, and my people. I began to intentionally position myself among women who were unafraid of celebrating the success of other women. I found this in my doctoral student cohort (a place notorious for competition); in an incredible program called "Ladies Rock, Boston"; and in my coaching circles. And, as we begin to lift each other up, something incredible happens: we all rise. 

I absolutely attribute my experiences with coaching and through coaching for this outlook. I believe that "we can all win" if we are mindful and intentional about opportunities. 

How do you experience support? What limiting beliefs have kept you from feeling deeply connected to your own success and celebrating the success of others? 

Let's celebrate you!

Stepping into brilliance,

Liza