Sunday, June 16, 2013

“Que Bien”: Why My Father Would Say This Dissertation is Not a Big Deal

Whenever my siblings and I brought home A's and awards my late father usually had only 2 words of acknowledgment: "que bien." Translation:"that's good, but not really a big deal." I used to be puzzled and frustrated about this lackluster response because I would watch my friends get so much enthusiasm, praise and sometimes money for their achievements. Well that was not going to happen in our household. Aside from us not having any extra money for that, my father and my mother had high expectations for us and when we met them, they let us know our achievements were their own reward. It took me a while to learn that they were teaching us self-efficacy. As Ron Alsop shared in his book Trophy Kids Grow Up, these days it seems like kids are getting trophies for just showing up, which was definitely not enough in the Bautista home.

When I was in high school I remember seeing someone’s name with a Ph.D. at the end and I asked one of my teachers what that meant.  She said something about that being a set of letters someone gets when they have reached the highest level of education in an area of study. The way she said it also told me that this person was also well regarded and respected. I decided then that I wanted to be all of those things some day, so getting a doctorate became a definite goal to be achieved. There was nothing about that notion that seemed implausible for me. I think my parents instilled in me that kind of high expectation.  I should be able to do what I want as long as I work hard and follow the necessary steps. 

So here I am in the final step of earning those letters.  Set high expectations for yourself and meet them.  No big deal, right?  Well…I wish it was that easy.  No matter how strong your foundation is sometimes there are other forces that try to interfere with your dreams:
  • the strange looks from those who seem to be surprised that a Latina is working on getting a doctorate, as if somehow the idea of Latinas and Ph.D.s don’t seem to match
  • the bleak statistics that in 2006-2007 only 3.8 % of Latinas have earned doctorates compared to 61.9% of White women (source: )
  • and finally, your own “stuff” and self-doubt that creeps in when you see others who seem to achieve this goal effortlessly (and quickly)
So for Father's Day, I honor my father’s memory by remembering the wonderful ways that he influenced me and my siblings. Although he left us too soon, he left behind 7 confident, capable and high achieving individuals who are positively contributing to society in a variety of ways and will continue to do so.

I will also keep reminding myself that this dissertation is NOT A BIG DEAL. It’s just another step towards earning my doctorate that requires hard work and dedication. I often imagine my dad smiling down from the heavens at my graduation saying, “que bien.” He would expect nothing less from one of his Bautista girls.

Te quiero y te extraño Papi...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dissertation Motivation from the Mouths of Babes: By Guest Bloggers Ariana and Joaquin

Joaquin, Sofia and Ariana at the Park - Photo by Antonio Pertuz,
I sometimes have to tell my two small children Ariana, age 9 and Joaquin, age 5 that Mami can’t play with them because she is working on her dissertation. The first question my daughter asked was, “what is a discommunication?” I think at first she was just trying to get the word “dissertation” right, but now we joke around about this “discommunication” which seems to fit better than “dissertation,” especially on some days when I feel cut off from regular communications.

Saying no to my children can be so difficult because I then feel selfish or like I’m missing out. But then I think about how much our family lives will improve when I do earn my doctorate. I also remember that it’s better to be a role model for my children and show them that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard for them and persevere. The biggest lesson of all for me and for them is that there will be moments you have to make difficult choices and sacrifice one thing for another.

So this blog entry is dedicated to my two children Ariana and Joaquin. I invited them to be my guest bloggers. Ariana, the eldest had her first taste of qualitative research when she interviewed her brother to get his answers to the questions I posed to her. Below they share their perspectives on missing out on play time with their Mami, finishing what you started and achieving your dreams.

What does it feel like when Mami says no, she can’t play because she is working on her dissertation?
ARIANA: When my mom tells us that she can’t do something for us, it makes me feel a little upset, but I know that she needs to get her work done in order to graduate. And also, we both get a little something out of our mom’s dissertation too. Sometimes our mom pays us to help her with her work when I help her sort her papers and make labels with the labelmaker. Since I am older than Joaquin, I get to do things that would earn me more money like write down the names of authors on a sheet of paper! 
JOAQUIN: I feel sad because Mami has to work and we want her to play with us. 

Why is it important that you finish something that you start?
ARIANA: It is always important to finish something that you start so that you can get it out of the way. When you have to do something that you don’t want to do, then you should just do it early instead of waiting until the last minute because at the last minute you are rushing to do something that you don’t even want to do. 
JOAQUIN: It is important because when you finish something you feel good about it and proud of yourself. 

How do you think it would feel to achieve a lifelong dream?
ARIANA: I think it would feel awesome to achieve a lifelong dream. My dream is to be a Lego designer. I know this might seem silly, but I LOVE Legos. I would definitely love any Lego set that anyone shows me. Plus, Legos are also educational. They have to do with science and math. Anyway I would love for this dream to come true. 

Will you call Mami “Dr. Mami” when she is finished?
ARIANA: This will be the shortest response. I’m just warning you. Sometimes I will, but “Dr. Mami’’ will take longer to say than just regular “Mami.” It’s easier and faster to say. 

Are you looking forward to going to Mami’s graduation? 
ARIANA: Yes, because in the car on the way to the graduation we can listen to like 2 hours of Radio Disney and Radio Disney plays all the good kids music. Also, I can’t wait to see my mom graduate! It would be fun to be part of an audience to watch my mom. We would yell, “Go Mami!” so that she can hear us from the audience. 
JOAQUIN: Yes, because I want to be happy and if I go there I would be happy. Mami would be happy too.