It was a Sunday evening, 10:30 p.m., and I’d spent the entire weekend glued to my chair working on a paper that was due in a little over an hour. My husband and kids anxiously awaited the sound of the words, "I’m done." For it meant I could transform back into wife and step-mom again. This scene describes one of the many days in my current life as a student, working on a doctoral degree in community college leadership. On this journey, I’ve developed lifelong social connections, had several lightbulb moments, and experienced a widened world view facilitated by moments of dialogue, study, and critical reflection. As the proud descendent of slaves and sharecroppers, on this journey, I also struggled with imposter syndrome, questioning my belonging since none of my elders had walked this far on the path of higher education. I also wanted to give up many times as the demands of work, family, and health sent my life into a tailspin. College can be all-consuming, with endless cycles of assignments, readings, discussion posts, and lectures needing to exist in symphony with the other roles in my life, which include being a higher education leader.
As an Executive Dean, I oversee the creation of systems and structures of academic support that students at Waubonsee Community College experience. Being a “student administrator” provides tremendous insight into the thoughts, feelings, and needs of our community of learners. I am fortunate to have experienced technological glitches when submitting a paper, the frustration of not understanding an assignment and the anxiety of having too many tasks to complete and not enough time to get it all done. All of these experiences provide firsthand understanding of what it’s like for our students and this superpower has helped me become a better champion for solutions to remove barriers to student success. Because I am a student, I also understand the importance of having systems that demonstrate care, compassion, affirmation, and encouragement for our students during their high and low points. I often think to myself, “If I have imposter syndrome after completing a bachelor’s and master’s degree, I can only imagine what it is like for those stepping foot on a college campus for the first time.” So, I would encourage every higher education leader to periodically take a class because you will be transported to the world of those you seek to serve. This humbling experience can only serve to ensure our systems work for everyone who has to walk through them.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear - I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear - I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestor gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise I rise I rise.
Dr. Maya Angelou