Monday, July 22, 2013

Ordinary Workday, Extraordinary Encounter

Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Sofia Bautista Pertuz at Fordham University
Last week I had an extraordinary encounter on an ordinary workday. As I was walking from my office to the restroom, one of my colleagues stopped me to ask if I knew that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in the building where I work. In disbelief I ran to the location and asked if I could meet her. It was one of the most marvelous few minutes of my life. Not since meeting Mother Teresa as a teenager, have I met someone who has so profoundly inspired so many people by her leadership. This was an exciting opportunity to tell her in person how much I loved her book, My Beloved World.  One of my favorite lines right at the beginning in her preface highlights what a humble leader Justice Sotomayor is when she explains the measure of vulnerability that comes with her choice to share intimately about her personal life: “There are hazards to openness, but they seem minor compared with the possibility that some readers may find comfort, perhaps even inspiration, from a close examination of how an ordinary person, with strengths and weaknesses like anyone else, has managed an extraordinary journey.”

So what does this have to do with my dissertation and Latinas completing doctoral degrees? Not much, except that not so long ago, I was upset with myself for taking precious time away from dissertation reading to read her book. The guilt was tremendous, but I needed some inspiration and I found it in her memoir, which really turns out to be a leadership book if you read carefully and find the golden nuggets of life lessons in her personal and professional journey.  This shows that sometimes it's okay to take a break and read something else that inspires you beyond the articles you read for your own writing. Her life lessons and commentary about academia especially, were just as useful, gave me as much motivation and was time well spent.

So yes, I did tell her that I was working on my dissertation and that I was a doctoral student in addition to being a higher education administrator.  She was very encouraging and supportive.  However, now that I told her that I was going to finish and earn my doctorate, this means I have to do exactly that.  If I don’t, then I would feel like I was lying to her and you do not lie to a Supreme Court Justice, or any judge for that matter.  Wouldn’t that be like perjury?  I know that we were not in the court of law, but I'm going to just pretend that if I don't finish, then I would be guilty of perjury and no one wants to be accused of that, especially not me. 
Therefore, I will continue my journey with hard work as Justice Sotomayor put in to get where she is and with the support of my network and community that I appreciate so much.  That was a big key to her success that she constantly stressed in her book – the people who helped her along the way to get where is she is right now.  I hope the Facebook group I started recently helps to create this much needed network for all Latinas in this journey to consider, complete, or celebrate doctoral degrees:

I am a proud (and working on being a wise) Latina!