Congratulations on your decision to continue with your studies . As you start this journey let me remind you that by being here already, you have displayed great qualities and skills that have made you a great candidate for this program. In the words of Dr. Chris Osmond, “admissions did not make a mistake accepting you to this program”. Keep this is mind as you embrace this journey as a doctoral student.
As a doctoral student myself, I can share with you that you will find the journey exciting, energizing and challenging. Let me not scare you about the challenging parts, however, as leaders we must constantly embrace the paradox of the unknown. By being in this program I can tell already that you are a motivated student and that your own journey of life has brought you to this point with a purpose. You might know your purpose already, but if you don’t, don’t worry, you will.
During this program you will have the opportunity to explore critically your topic of interests as well as other topics that are essential for leaders in the realm of education. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to learn about your colleagues and faculty mentors own interest, which I hope you`ll find equally beneficial as you explore the complexities of the state of education in the United States and the world. In addition, you will find in this doctoral program a diverse group of committed individuals engaged in educational activities and research geared towards leadership, social justice and change.
My journey in education started when I arrived to the United States as a political refugee in the year 2000. Obviously, I faced all the challenges that most newly arrived immigrants face in the United States such as cultural and language barriers. However, what was more surprising to me was the lack of resources and information available to immigrant students at that time. In a way it seem as though the lack of preparation from the school system limited the potential of many students and instead integration and acculturation became big buzzwords at that time.
I quickly managed to learn English on my own and petitioned not to be enrolled in English as Second Language courses since it was clear to me that those students were staying behind. Their expectation was to take the easier courses without taking in consideration the courses that people needed to enroll in college. The majority of students did not know any better and trusted their counselor in their course selections. I discussed my concerns with the counselors and I quickly recognized that their expectation for those students was to persist in school for the males and for the females was not to get pregnant. At graduation time the prophecy became truth. From a class of 30 students from Latino background only two of us were accepted in college.
After graduation, I figured that I needed to be competent explaining my own language and culture and I decided to enroll in a program where I could explore deeper the barriers for students of Latino backgrounds. I graduated with a double major in International Relations and Modern Languages and decided that I needed more education in order to promote change in my community.
I completed a Master degree in Strategic Leadership, which allow me to reflect on my role as a leader and i came to the conclusion that leadership is available to anyone that aspires to promote change. In my case, my qualifications came handy with the work that I conducted working for non-for profit organizations, but I realized that at the grassroots level my voice was being heard softly. As a young professional I discovered that the issue was more complex than it seemed. It was an issue of power, politics and equity.
I decided to enroll at Appalachian State University in the Educational Specialist program concentrating in Adult and Development Education with the hope to explore the role of adults in the promotion of social change. I figured that if I could assist educating parents, their children could possibly have a better future. My theory incorporated the use of the cultural traits such as family as a motivator for change. Along the way, I also explored underrepresented students, transfer students, and non-traditional students. All of the different populations I explored had similar challenges as the Latino students. However, as the number of Latino students in my community increased, there seemed to be a disconnection between access, persistence and success of Latino students in post secondary institutions. With the goal of connecting theory and practice in mind, I enrolled in the Doctoral program at Appalachian State University.
Today I write to you as a second semester graduate student and first doctor in the making from my family. To be completely honest, I have only met three or four people with doctoral degrees of Latino heritage in my community. While, I am encouraged to make a difference in my community, I must confess that this journey has not been an easy one for me. There have been many moments where I have struggle with the expectations of the program and the reasons for continuing to do this. Giving up would be so much easier, wouldn`t it? However, I constantly find those intrinsic motivators that brought me here in the first place.
Not only is my motivation to make a difference, but also feel I have the responsibility as a citizen of this land. I have been blessed to have a supportive family and organization that provide me the encouragement and support when needed, but there are so many sacrifices that have to be made such as spending time with your family and friends. I share my thoughts with you not to scare you, but to learn from my struggles and to gain the confidence that you will need to move forward.
In this program you will find a diverse group of individuals that have your best interest at heart. They will push you to the limit until you give 100 percent and more. The curriculum created for this program is as eclectic as its faculty. You will have the opportunity to learn from diverse faculty members from different departments and with research agendas. This preparation is intended to provide you a comprehensive foundation as a future scholar and steward of the discipline of leadership.
One particular class that you will find helpful and challenging is the intensive writing class. In this course, you will get preparation on your literature review session for your dissertation. In addition, you will learn about different styles and genres available as well as techniques and strategies geared towards academic writing.
Writing is like a muscle; you must constantly practice to be better at it. With that in mind, I encourage you to practice at every opportunity that you have. I have been a shy writer until taking the writing course, not because I did not have anything to say, but because of my own insecurities. I often feel like my struggles with the English language will make it hard for the reader to understand what I am hoping to say. Well, I guess you are reading this page and hopefully you understand my message!
The writing course gave me the opportunity to reflect on my journey while being in an environment where it was fine to make mistakes. It was not about the ultimate goal, but definitely the journey. I exchanged the probabilities with possibilities, which has become my motto for this program.
In the spirit of possibilities, I decided to start a personal blog to document my journey, my struggles and my life. It has become another environment where I can freely explore my thoughts while allowing people to provide feedback. If you are not in the habit of journaling, I encourage you to put your thoughts in writing it will provide you with much needed practice and you will be surprised how much you will grow. In the future, I hope to be an active member of the academic community and hopefully publish a book.
I have enjoyed our conversation. I hope you can use my journey as a way to realize that despite all the barriers along the way, this journey it is also possible for you. Always remember “admissions did not make a mistake accepting you to this program”. I hope that my own journey of probabilities provided you with the possibilities to mold, shape and create your own journey as a steward of the discipline of leadership.
I look forward to hearing about your story! JuanEs