Graduate Programs

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Embarking on the journey of graduate school can be a transformative experience, especially for first-generation students of color. In a recent episode of Victors in Grad School, Dr. Christopher Lewis engages with Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia and Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu, coauthors of “Is Grad School For Me,” to delve into their personal narratives and invaluable advice for students considering graduate school. Their shared wisdom offers valuable insights into decision-making, overcoming imposter syndrome, the importance of community, and advocating for underrepresented students in academia.

Motivations for Pursuing Graduate School:

Dr. Chavez-Garcia and Dr. Martinez-Vu unpack their motivations for pursuing graduate education, shedding light on the unique paths that led them to academia. As first-generation students of color, their journeys were marked by a sense of duty and passion for uncovering untold histories. Despite facing challenges and traumatic events, such as surviving a life-threatening accident, their resilience and determination propelled them towards graduate school.

Navigating the Transition to Graduate School:

The transition from undergraduate to graduate school is a pivotal moment in a student’s academic career. Dr. Martinez-Vu’s experience of becoming a mother during her time in graduate school underscores the intersection of personal and academic challenges that students may face. Dr. Chavez-Garcia’s decision to pursue a PhD in 19th-century Mexican American history reflects the influence of mentors and the pursuit of academic passion.

Imposter Syndrome and Strategies for Empowerment:

Imposter syndrome, a common hurdle in academia, is discussed with insightful strategies for overcoming it. Dr. Martinez-Vu and Dr. Chavez-Garcia emphasize the importance of self-affirmation, building supportive communities, and embracing compassion as tools to combat feelings of inadequacy. Their emphasis on empowerment through femtorship, a holistic mentoring approach rooted in intersectional feminism, highlights the transformative power of supportive networks.

Advocacy for Underrepresented Students:

The hosts delve into the historical context of affirmative action and its impact on underrepresented students in academia. Dr. Chavez-Garcia advocates for alternative programs, such as McNair and Mellon May’s initiatives, to provide tailored support for marginalized communities. Dr. Martinez-Vu underscores the need for intentional preparation and the creation of inclusive spaces for students of color in graduate education.

Making Informed Decisions:

Choosing the right graduate school offer is a pivotal decision that requires thoughtful consideration. Dr. Martinez-Vu’s advice on identifying nonnegotiables, evaluating funding offers, and engaging with graduate students and professors offers a practical roadmap for decision-making. Dr. Chavez-Garcia highlights the importance of considering the institution’s culture and community support in the decision-making process.

In navigating the complexities of graduate school, the voices of Dr. Chavez-Garcia and Dr. Martinez-Vu serve as beacons of guidance and inspiration. Their commitment to empowering underrepresented students, creating inclusive spaces, and sharing their personal narratives exemplifies the transformative potential of academia. As first-generation students of color, their stories illuminate the power of resilience, community, and advocacy in shaping a path towards success in graduate education.


Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:01]:
Welcome to the victors in grad school, where we have conversations with students, alumni, and experts about what it takes to find success in graduate school.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:11]:
Welcome back to Victors in Grad School. I’m your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, director of graduate programs at University of Michigan, Flint. Really excited to have you back again this week. As always, every week, I love being able to sit down, talk to you, work with you as you are going through this journey that you’re on. And I say journey because it is a journey. Grad school is not a point in time. It is a process. It is a journey.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:37]:
And no matter if you are at the beginning of that journey and you’re just starting to have that inkling in your mind that you may want to jump down this pathway toward getting a graduate degree in some area, or if you’re in grad school and you’re working through the challenges and working through all of the fun aspects of going through graduate school or if that light is coming up at the end of the tunnel and you’re seeing that and you’re figuring out, okay, what’s next? And what do I need to do to be able to get to that next point in my career, in my life, as I transition out of grad school? Every week, I love being able to talk about these different issues because it takes time, it takes effort to find success in that journey. And that’s what this show is all about. Every week, I love being able to bring you different guests, different people with different experiences that can share with you the journeys that they went on, but also be able to give you some resources, provide you with some insights and some other perspectives to help you as you go through this journey yourself. And today, we got 2 great guests with us, doctor Miroslava Chavez Garcia and doctor Yvette Martinez are both with us today. We’re gonna talk about their own journey that they both went through in graduate school, but we’re also gonna talk about a a brand new resource that I’m gonna share with you today called the Grad School Fentering, And we’re gonna talk about that as well because it’s another great resource for you as you are going through this journey yourself. Miros, Yvette, thank you so much for being with us today.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:02:08]:
Thank you so much for having us.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:02:10]:
Yes. Thank you for having us.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:12]:
You know, one of the things that I love doing first and foremost is having the power to turn the clock back in time. Wouldn’t we all love to do that sometimes? But I would love to turn the clock back. And I’d love for both of you to take me back to that point, that point in your own graduate school journey where you said to yourself, you know what? I think I need to take that next step. What was that point for yourself? Why did you decide that you wanted to take that next step and go to graduate school?

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:02:42]:
I’m happy to get started. This is Yvette Martinez Vu speaking. And, you know, one of the reasons why we decided we wanted to come on the show is because doctor Miroslava Chavez Garcia and I recently coauthored a book called Is Grad School For Me, demystifying the application process for 1st gen BIPOC students. And in the introduction of that book, we both tell our grad school journeys and what we both have in common. And I’ll speak for myself that my experience was I felt like the decision to go to graduate school was actually made for me. In that, I was someone who was 1st gen in college. I’m Chicana. I came in as an English major.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:03:25]:
1st in my family, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was I was like, okay. English sounds interesting. I was a theater minor. I had been in productions acting for most of my youth. And folks kept telling me that you’re not gonna make a living out of acting. So what’s the next best thing? I discovered undergraduate research at the time I was at UCLA, and that was what was encouraged. I found out about this brand new program on campus called the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:03:54]:
I applied. I got in, and I was one of 5 inaugural individuals. We were part of the first cohort there. And I felt that pressure because the program is meant to help support underrepresented students in diversifying academia. I felt the pressure of, oh, now I have to apply to graduate school, and now I have to become a professor. That’s why I felt like I had no other option. I also felt like I had no other option given my circumstances as someone from a low income family raised by a single immigrant mom who she’s a mom of 6. I didn’t feel like I had space to go back home after college.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:04:31]:
Some of my peers were going home, getting part time, full time jobs. It was, you know, during the time of the 2008 recession where folks were struggling to figure out how to get a job right after their bachelor’s degree. And I thought to myself, it’s safer for me to go straight to graduate school, keep doing what I’m doing, what I’ve been told that I’m good at, and make a living even if it’s not much of a living to be able to still pay my bills. And that’s what landed me in graduate school, and that’s how I arrived. I can talk more about the graduate school experience, but that’s a whole other journey because I’m now someone who is outside of higher ed, still supporting folks in higher ed, but I didn’t end up landing that tenure track job that a lot of folks dream of. And it was because of an intentional set of pivots on my end. So I’m happy to pass the baton over to Mira so she could share more about her story.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:05:28]:
Great. Thanks, Yvette. I love hearing Yvette’s story all the time. I never get tired of it. It’s so inspirational to me. I think we share a lot of experiences and that that is certainly what drew us to a very productive and I would say, very rewarding relationship in terms of our professional and also somewhat of course, that leads into the personal area, but being able to put this project together as book together. And we also worked together professionally at UC Santa Barbara, in the McNair Scholars Program. But I want to say for me, I think equally so mine wasn’t like I wasn’t in a Mellon Mays program, because when I went to grad school was like a couple decades before he vetted and we didn’t have melon maze.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:06:06]:
There was no McNair to speak of those hadn’t yet thought of. We didn’t even know what first gen meant or within the context that we do now. So certainly, when I was in college, I was a 1st generation low income underrepresented student, Chicana, Latina, Mexican American from the barrio and never was at UCLA or stepped, you know, went to UCLA grad school from San Jose in Nevada, which I grew up. And so coming to UCLA, I was stunned, cluster shock, for sure. And so I think for me, the thought of grad school hadn’t at all been on my radar, and we barely even call it going to the university was something that kind of like, oh, I guess I’ll do this. And so when I got to undergrad, it really happened in my 4th to my 5th year when I took a summer program. There was a summer program available for minority students. And so I participate in that, and that gave me sort of a small taste for research and in history in particular.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:06:52]:
And I was really interested in recovering these histories that had not been told. And so just bringing back that sort of really important aspect of our history, Mexican American, Chicana, Chicano history, and ethnic history, and just in general that had been told. So that was kind of a little bit of my interest, my sort of moment there, I thought like, maybe this I had no idea what grad school was right when in there, keep saying like with blinders to some extent, certainly I had community and all kinds of support. That wouldn’t have been possible without me being able to go through the process. But I think that moment when I decided, let’s pursue grad school, I didn’t really think as I think same same similar to as Yvette has said, I didn’t really think I had other options. I thought like, do I go back home, I didn’t really have a home anymore, per se. I was raised by my aunt and uncle. My parents died in a car accident when I was 12 years old.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:07:37]:
So it was just my brother and I who survived the accident. We were the only siblings anyways in the family. And my grandmother also passed in the accident that we had. So it was pretty traumatic. And my aunt uncle did were wonderful people who raised us as to the best of their ability. And when we we stayed in the same town where I grew up, so we were there. But you know, when I after college, I thought I can’t go back there. I mean, I love them, they’d probably be welcome me.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:08:02]:
Maybe we had a very tiny home, they had 2 daughters, and they had their own lives to lead and also poor neighborhood and so forth. So I just thought, well, I needed you know, I have been in college by my on my own, and I felt very independent, and so that wasn’t really an option. I just thought, like, well, let me go. It’s sort of like if I knew then what I know now, I probably I’m not sure. I think I wouldn’t have done it. There’s different means, similar ends, but definitely, I was sort of took the plunge without quite knowing maybe that was a good thing.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:08:26]:
So both of you went through a process by which, as you said, both said, you didn’t really think about grad school until later on, and you were pushed into it in many different ways. And you both chose your own paths. You both chose your own educational paths, your schools that you wanted to attend. As you were considering graduate school, when you got to that point where you decided that you wanted to go to graduate school, I’m sure that there were a number of different opportunities in front of you that you could have gone and studied at or decided to become a part of, but you chose a specific path in a specific school. Talk to me about what was going through each of your minds as you were making that final decision? And what was the tipping point for each of you on the program and the school that you ultimately chose?

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:09:24]:
Once again, I feel like I had no other option. Let me say what happened in my case. At the time, I apply when I applied to graduate school, it was the beginning of my senior year in college. It was my 4th year. I had a year of a little less than a year of research experience under my belt, and I decided, okay. I’m gonna apply to a combination of master’s programs and PhD programs. 4 and 4. 8, for some reason, it was a random number that sounded good to me.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:09:52]:
It’s a nice even number. And I ended up getting into 2 masters programs and 1 PhD program. I did make the decision to pivot from English literature to theater and performance studies as a PhD. So that was a transition, and, therefore, I didn’t know anybody in that department at my campus at UCLA, but I applied there for the PhD, and that’s where I got in. And, ultimately, it was a decision of that had to do with finances, with location, and, really, that’s about it. If I could go back in time, there would have been a lot of other things that I would have considered. I would have especially played more of an emphasis on the importance of finding a really solid, supportive mentor, adviser, chair of my dissertation. I did not look into that.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:10:45]:
Instead, I thought I got a full funding package. I’m gonna be here for at least 4 years. I’m close to home. Of course, it’s a it’s a yes. When I I once again, just to say to reiterate, I did not realize that there were so many other things to consider when making a a decision aside from location and finances.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:11:06]:
Yeah. So for me, somewhat similar in that. Again, I was definitely didn’t know what I was doing at the time. I had a taste for research. I did have a supportive mentor, And the idea of working with him and doing a project on the 19th century is what what was fascinating and because there was very little research done in Mexican American history in the 19th century, especially on women, that was my interest to sort of go in there and tell it like it is right. This is what we were very ambitious when we’re grad students, but that’s good. But when so I only applied to 5 schools. Nobody told me to think of how many.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:11:38]:
I didn’t have a you know, again, had no direction. I just applied. And, of course, it was a top school. So I think it was, like, Yale. I can’t remember what else. Stanford, UC San Diego, and these other schools, and UCLA where I was already an undergrad. And that personal relationship I had with that mentor made that so that’s the only school I got into essentially. So it was he he was able to open the door for me to go in and also provide a 1 year of funding.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:11:58]:
And because of affirmative action programs at the time, I was able to get a 4 year package after that. After my first year, I was able to so that provided quite a bit of stability in terms of funding. So that made it possible for me to go into this. What seemed like an exciting one, and we have no idea. Right? I think should have had practice like shadowing professors to see what life is really like. Because it’s a it’s a different lifestyle. I wouldn’t say I could say challenging for some people. Definitely.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:12:22]:
I tell people give them little tips of what is involved. But for me, I also got that 1 year funding. I didn’t really consider other options of what to do. Of course, now I know that having research skills, you can do many things. I did look at law school, I looked at the catalog and looked at the courses, and they just seemed so boring. I thought, like, God, I don’t wanna do that. I just knew it. So I wanted to be able to read in research.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:12:41]:
The research part, I think, has always been my drive.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:12:44]:
Now every student that goes into graduate programs, whether it be master’s degrees, doctorate degrees, law school, whatever it is, there is a transition. There’s a transition from undergrad into grad school, just in general about how you’re educated, but there’s so many other transitions that you go through as well. Talk to me about the transitions that each of you had to go through to be able to make that switch from undergrad to grad student, and what you had to do to set yourself up for success at the beginning of the journey, and what you had to do throughout the journey to maintain that success for yourself.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:13:24]:
When I got in and I said yes, because I was switching departments and disciplines, I thought to myself, oh my goodness. They made a mistake. And now I have to play catch up. And I spent all summer trying to read all these foundational theater and performance studies texts, not knowing that a lot of it was critical theory. And I needed support in getting through those dense texts. And if I could go back in time, I would have relaxed. I would have slowed down. I would have enjoyed my last summer in a long time.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:13:59]:
I would have had off. So that’s one thing that I did that I thought was gonna help me prepare, but it I don’t know how much it actually helped. There were things that happened for me in my grad school journey that certainly helped me to make that pivot outside of the tenure track that I didn’t know were going to help me. And it was just me leaning into my intuition and what felt good for me. In my 1st year of graduate school, everybody told me focus on your studies, focus on your research, and I was presented with an opportunity to become a graduate mentor for undergraduates, for Mellon May Fellows, and also for students who were involved in undergraduate research at the at the Center For Undergraduate Research at UCLA. And something just told me, I really wanna do this. It sounds like a great opportunity. I said yes, and I absolutely fell in love with it.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:14:49]:
That’s when I realized, wow. I have a passion for service work, for mentoring, for guiding students. And this is something that not only do I enjoy, but it comes easy to me. So I kept that in the back of my head. Okay. In the future, I wanna make sure that I figure out a career where I can incorporate more of that service work. That was one thing. The second thing that I did was well, this wasn’t something that directly helped me to prepare for my career, but helped me prepare for life was I actually became a mom in graduate school.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:15:21]:
And in becoming a mom, not only was it the single hardest thing for me to go through physically, emotionally, psychologically, but it was also one of the most empowering things for me to go through because I learned how to advocate for my child. And in learning how to advocate for my child, I learned how to advocate for myself. And in tending to my child’s needs, I realized I had my own needs, and I became aware. Woah. Hold up. There so many nontraditional students on campus, so many different types of populations and folks who are not being served as best as they can, which led to me getting involved in advocacy work, student activist work, and really leaning into developing a community of support groups, including mother scholars, but also support groups of women of color scholars, of theater scholars, of just folks at different intersections of the work that I did. And in building these communities and support systems, that’s what kept me going. And it wasn’t until I got to the end of my graduate school time and started working full time, that’s how I met Milos, was by, becoming the assistant, later the associate director of the McNair Scholars Program, that I’ve realized these were key moments and instances that led to me discovering what I was good at, discovering what was helping me out, and it’s actually the type of guidance I offer to students.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:16:43]:
If they’re really struggling, I say you need to build your support system. You need to build your community. You need to figure out what you’re good at and lean into those things.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:16:51]:
Yeah. I would say for me that it was a little bit different in terms of, like, my focus. So I think my focus and, again, I think I was less conscious of what I was doing at the moment and what it meant for me to go to grad school as a Chicano, Latina immigrant at the time. For me, it was more focused around my intent was more focused around the intellectual work that I wanted to do and sort of the contributions I wanted to provide academically. Like, for me, it was repairing, filling, recovering these stories that filling the literature, addressing these histories that had not been told, and providing them for the community. Right? For to be able to be able to provide the community these mirrors that have been that have been absent for so long in textbooks and history books and everywhere media and so forth. So I saw myself contributing to that. And that was what drove me in grad school to keep doing that.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:17:38]:
Because I’ll tell you the Q1, the first semester, whatever you wanna call it, was terrible. Like, I felt like every week I went home and cried. I had a headache. I thought, like, what am I doing here? So every week I wanted to quit. You know, I just thought this is, like, in reference to what Yvette was saying, the imposter phenomenon was real. So I just kept saying, like, what am I doing here? And so definitely the Q1, and I didn’t do very well in one of my classes, I remember getting a b or a b minus, which essentially means you’re on very thin ice, right? Because there’s 2 grades, there’s 3 grades and a plus an a and an a minus. I think or no. Maybe it’s an a a minus and b plus.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:18:11]:
I think I gotta b plus in one class with this very well known historian. And so I was kinda crushed, and I thought instead of running away with the tail between my legs as they say or any kind of shame, I thought, like, I’ll show her or I’ll show them. So it really fueled my desire to represent, and I really gave it my all. So I guess it’s part of that imposter phenomenon when we think we have to work twice and 3 times as hard. But for me, it was very much trying to fulfill an academic trying to an academic space trying to give back to the community in terms of like, what it needed, what I thought it needed in terms of history. So So those that was sort of my call. And this idea of knowledge is power. That was something that my peers and I and my peers were so critical to get into grad school.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:18:52]:
To 2 people in particular, that’s how it kind of felt like we had a big number and then started dwindling and dwindling over the years. And there was 3 of us left standing, so to speak. And so we always had this commitment to our fields and to ourselves and to our to our community to keep doing this work. Or else at the end of the day, we wouldn’t have finished. What’s ultimately as well, it’s equally to your project, to your subjects that you want this academic work you’re doing. For me, that’s what it was, and also to my community. So those two things really kept me when everything else seemed so challenging and you were fighting against it.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:19:23]:
Now I appreciate both of you talking about your own journeys because I think that this leads really well into not only the book that you wrote, but also into grad school FEMTuring that I mentioned at the beginning. And I know that Grad School FEMTuring LLC was founded by you, Yvette, and it provides 1st gen students of color with support, skills, and tools to empower themselves to thrive in grad school and beyond. And I guess, could you take a couple of minutes here and elaborate a little bit more on the concept of mentoring and its distinctness from traditional mentoring.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:20:02]:
Yes. Of course. So one of the the reasons why this book even exists is because of the femtorship relationship that Milos and I both have. In the book, we wanted to make sure that we clarified what we meant by ment by femtorship as opposed to mentorship, and we explicitly state that femtorship is a type of mentoring that incorporates an intersectional feminist lens. And in doing so, it takes into account a holistic perspective or providing a holistic type of support that is inclusive of different aspects of an individual’s identity that may impact the kind of support that they need. This includes all the identity markers, race, ethnicity, class, gender, disability, etcetera. And so for us, it was important to make a nod to that and also to call attention to the fact that a lot of times this type of work is service work, and a lot of times it’s also gender type of work. And so for us, we wanted to make that distinction because traditional forms of mentorship aren’t always providing that holistic type of support.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:21:10]:
Yes. They’re still providing guidance. They might still be teaching. They might still be offering insights to the mentee, but it doesn’t necessarily call into mind that you know, the multiple different aspects of support that a student may need. So that’s why we wanted to make that distinction and also to make that nod in the book that not only was it inspired by our relationship with Milos being my own femtor, she was once my supervisor, and it was one of the first times I say this, and I can’t keep stating this enough. Meeting Miroslava was one of the first times of me experiencing someone who saw me as my full self, not just my professional self, and who provided support and who advocated on my on my behalf. In fact, when by the time she came in as my supervisor, I was on my way out. I was already planning my exit strategy, and she was trying to find ways to keep me in.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:22:06]:
I was like, I love you, but I’ve made my decision. And also thank you for showing me that there is another way of doing things. So, yes, it’s a nod to that, and it’s also a nod to the podcast, which is also by the same title, Grad School Fem Touring. A lot of the material we’ve shared is material that we have shared 1 on 1 in our own supporting students and also that I have shared publicly on the podcast so that everybody has access to this

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:22:32]:
information. Also adding to what Yvette just so beautifully stated, a lot of what we were most what we provide in the book, right, comes from our personal experiences. But also I would add that a lot of it comes based from research and research evidence based practices that is in the research that we have used in McNair, but also that we have used in our own work and certainly Yvette in our own work. I just, right, holistic approach that’s evidence based practice that we know that that works most effectively with the student populations that we’re dealing with, or the the, you know, the wraparound services or the sort of taking the whole the whole approach, not just providing mentorship, or providing a research experience. You need to provide them other tools. So that’s one of the things that we incorporate as well. So it’s not just like, here anecdotal experiences, and we’re gonna make this fit for everyone. No.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:23:17]:
We’re basing our our work on the research that’s out there.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:23:20]:
Now, Miro, you just talked about your personal experiences. You both kinda shared some of your own personal experiences in the journeys that both of you went on. How did your own personal experiences as first gen students of color shape the advice and the guidance that you’re providing in the book, but also, Yvette, in the podcast? Sure.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:23:43]:
I think as we’ve kind of been implicitly stating is that fundamental to where the book deeply shaped our own experiences have deeply shaped the book. I think that Yvette’s perspective and our experience or many years of doing this work have helped the book take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Right? To be able to structure the book the way it’s structured. It’s structured very intentionally around the different points that people need to consider for graduate school and how that process is laid out. So she did a wonderful job in doing that, and I sort of chimed in and how we’re needed. But because she has that direct experience to 1 on 1 and doing that kind of work where I’m more an academic space, and we do that. I do that in different ways through McNair. I think that you’ve had brought that very much so.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:24:22]:
So definitely our personal experiences, I mean, the need and the drive for the demand. I mean, Yvette said many times, as I’ve talked with her about how she had this book in mind for years, I’ve done lots of articles around professional development around writing around balancing work life around power and privilege. I’ve done all these articles I never thought of now that we’ve been talking about it, like, this is a coal you know, coalesce all these ideas or integrate all these ideas in this book has been. I did it without thinking, but I think that thinking about it intentionally, but Yvette certainly has. And I’m so grateful for that that this oh, here it is. You know, here’s what I’ve been doing little pieces, little piece work, but it’s integrated in a whole space. And hopefully, it might be a follow-up. We’ll see.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:25:03]:
I want to add to that because Miros mentioned that we came together to write this book and that the book is shaped by the podcast and by the support that we’ve been providing, the guidance that we’ve been providing to students. And for me, my experience in undergrad was one of feeling like the space was not only very confusing and difficult to navigate, but also very inaccessible. I didn’t know when I was an undergraduate that I was neurodivergent. It only became something for me to when my own child was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. This was 7 years ago. And as I did more research, I realized, oh, we’ve got a lot in common. There’s something here. I’ve always struggled with x, y, and z, and I’ve always found student norms to be very confusing.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:25:50]:
So every step of the way, when I was navigating college, when I was navigating graduate school, I had so many questions, not enough answers. I just wanted someone to show me the how. Just show me how. And so it you talk to anybody who has known me for over a decade, I was I was someone whom I created binders. I literally before we had Google Drive, I had my binders of handouts. And I would start to even when I worked at the undergraduate research center, I created binders so students could come and pull up the binders with the tabs, how to do this, how to send an email, how to because those are the concerns that I had, and I found in gathering these resources and sharing them, more people were benefiting from the things that I found to be struggles. And that’s actually how the podcast, came about. I was running out of bandwidth in supporting students.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:26:40]:
I had a lot of folks who were asking me to mentor them beyond the McNair Scholars Program. I only had enough hours in the day, and I thought, I keep repeating myself. I sound like a broken record. I need to do something about it. I had podcasting experience from starting a podcast with another collective. And so I created a podcast and started sharing it just with my mentees, mentees, and then the mentee shared it with the mother and another. And all of this unfolded into, again, what was once this frustration of wondering why is there no book that’s teaching me this to then developing these resources over time so that by the time we sat down to write it, we wrote it in 6 months.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:27:18]:
And I think each of you talked a little bit about imposter syndrome. And as you went through your own journeys, that you felt it in some ways. And I’ve heard that many times from individuals that go through graduate school that at least one point in their journey, they’re going to have that feeling of why am I here? Why was I selected? What am I doing? Am I qualified? Lots of questions like that. As you have been femtoring other students, what are some strategies that you found that you have been sharing with those students that they can employ to overcome those feelings of imposter syndrome throughout that journey that they’re going on?

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:28:03]:
So one of the distinctions that we made in the book is, initially, we were writing about the imposter syndrome, and then what popped up for us was that, actually, some folks are now naming it syndrome, as a nod to the fact that this is not a pathologizing thing. This is not an individual issue. It’s not an oversight on your end, but rather it’s a systemic issue. And when you think about it as a systemic issue and as a phenomenon, something that’s happening to multiple people, not just you, then you can start to think about, so what is it that’s going on that’s making you feel this way? There’s there there is even scholarship. I know there’s a scholar who coined the term imposterization, which is when systems and spaces are making you to feel like an imposter. But in this case, well, it’s it’s important to name it and to understand it and to know that it happens especially among high achieving individuals and even more so if you have identity markers at inter at multiple intersections of oppressed identities. And so that’s just something to keep in mind that it’s very common. It’s not just you.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:29:12]:
And if you are experiencing it, one of the things that I often remind folks, and I have to remind myself this all the time too, is to keep affirming myself and to surround myself with people that affirm me. Because sometimes we’re existing in spaces where we are the only one of whatever marker you’re in, and that may make you feel isolated or perhaps not affirmed. Another thing I remind people and myself is to embrace compassion and compassion for others and compassion for yourself by reminding yourself that this is actually a really common feeling, and it does not represent any kind of individual feeling. I think it’s important for folks to know their strengths, identify their strengths. So that way when you’re in any space and even if you’re the only one, you know what you bring to that table. And then lastly, sometimes you’re feeling the imposter phenomenon because you’re committed to constantly growing. And when you’re growing, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. And I’d rather be struggling with the imposter phenomenon than with the Dunning Kruger effect where I’m overestimating my abilities or perhaps not challenging myself enough.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:30:23]:
So those are just a couple things to keep in mind.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:30:26]:
Yeah. Those are really great, Yvette. If it helps me think about sort of talks about approaches that I think about in that way, but provide a broader sort of focus. I think exactly what Aveda said, I want us to build these communities of empowerment by finding like minded people, your peers, or could be mentors or femtors who’ve had similar experiences. I think it’s also important to share your experiences with others, share resources. This is why I think I’ve survived now thinking about it why maybe my whole 20 some plus career has been about. I know a part of it is battling imposter phenomenon, for sure. And so sharing these resources, just knowing that you’re not alone.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:30:59]:
Right? It’s just said, that you’re not the 1st person to experience. There are many books, essays, blogs, and podcasts now, many more resources I think to help you with that experience. Also, another thing you could do to write about your experiences, that’s something that you’re comfortable with, maybe you can journal or maybe even write write first person essays and write them on a blog or something like that. That’s always empowering. Other things I’ve done throughout my career is I organized workshops. I invite experienced guests to talk about different topics and so forth to help to demystify this experience and to show us that you’re not, you know, it’s not you, it’s the system. I would say not to do this in your 1st year in grad school, maybe your 3rd year, maybe beyond or perhaps find other grad students to organize this with you, get some, you know, advocate for some funding in your department, or tell them, you know, put pressure on them, do a survey and see what kinds of resources student need or want to help with this. So I think that that’s just some of the things that you could do.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:31:51]:
Unfortunately, many times it falls on us to this kind of work. But if we get strength in numbers, that’s something that perhaps can change practices in your department and then slowly change that culture.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:32:01]:
And, Miros, you said earlier when you were talking about your own journey that when you got into UCLA, you had the opportunity to be able to take advantage of affirmative action programs that helped you to be able to get in and to be supported in that journey. How has the end of affirmative action influenced your advice, but also, Yvette, your advice for underrepresented students seeking graduate education?

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:32:29]:
Yeah. I’ve thought about this a lot actually, you know, when the ruling came down last year, the end of last year, at the federal level. And I think a lot of us, well, sadly, were not too shocked or surprised. And actually affirmative action has been dismantled almost I was just doing that look as a historian and going through this sort of timeline. It was only 15 years when the first real assault came against, affirmative action. So affirmative action programs, early 19 sixties, the ideas for them, then they hit the federal level. And with these sort of looking at race and sex and ethnicity and other f factors for as a way to try to level the playing field, to try to create opportunities that had been not there for since day 1. Right? I I think that’s a way.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:33:06]:
But within 15 years, we see the Bakke case. Right? The the you’re probably familiar with it in Michigan, The Bakke case where it’s supreme court ruled that race could be used as a factor in admissions. They couldn’t use like, there could be no racial quotas. Like, certain numbers could be held. Certainly, that was a win for, you know, looking at race based affirmative action programs. But I think what it did is to open the door to these sorts of, oh, okay. Now we’re question this can be played out at the at the federal level. So what we had in California around each state took its own.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:33:33]:
In California, we had prop 209 in 1996, which essentially banned affirmative action. And even our regents the year before had already, like, ended affirmative action right before it happened at the state level. And so we see the dismantling of these sort of small window over the 19 sixties period. Right? This this moment we thought there would be all this liberalism, and it was the retrenchment was real and swift. I think in the south, we know it quite never too cold. So there was a very strong so unfortunately, within a couple of decades, the retrenchment started to occur. And so but I think in the process at the same time, we’ve been putting into place other ways to sort of make up for I’m not sure what the right word is, but it doesn’t quite when affirmative action ended in California in 2009, the numbers dropped significantly at, like, UC Berkeley and at UCLA for underrepresented students. We saw that happening.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:34:22]:
And so while we, you know, affirmative action was so important in creating those, there’s other ways that we can sort of that we work with. Right? And McNair is one example. Mellon May’s programs are other ways that we can get involved to help continue to show that these spaces are welcoming, that they embrace students, they support students, provide resources. I think we need to go beyond just feeling welcome. Of course, inclusion is important, but so is equity and so is a nod to diversity and all in the name of social justice. So the things we can do, I think that are important, again, going back to holistic review. Right? When we’re looking at affirmative action, maybe we can take risk into consideration, but maybe we can look at the high school that they attended. What does that have to say about who they are and how that’s impacted them? Right? Perhaps providing grants and fellowships for low income students is another way we can 1st generation support programs.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:35:05]:
I think in California, we have this huge first generation initiative at the UC and I think at the Cal State. That’s part of it too, I think, in trying to make up for that, the inability to help students who need it the most. So, again, looking at all of these factors, I think other schools also look at the relationship. The University of Southern California looks at the history of student of a community to the university as a factor, if that’s something that’s important for them to look at. So we need to work twice or three times as hard to make these spaces welcoming for students.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:35:33]:
And I just wanna add something just really quickly. In light of everything that Mira has just shared, it’s even more critical and important for students themselves to really take control and be more intentional about the process of preparing for graduate school, which includes building community, tapping into their networks, getting that support. Because in addition to hopefully more graduate programs implementing a holistic review of their admissions process. It is important to have people who have your back, who will vouch for you, who will support you, who will provide guidance. That’s what’s gonna help you. When there are you know, when these other resources might not be available, these other policies might not be available, what you do have is, again, your network, your community, and keep leaning into what is available.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:36:21]:
Yeah. Essentially, when the federal government refuses to support you in your academic in your I should say your educational journey, it says like, well, no. It’s everyone’s the same. There’s no difference here. It’s like, it’s such a low you know, we know what that is. That there’s a level playing field. We all come to the table with the same resources and so forth. The only people who would benefit from affirmative action have somehow like, oh, no.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:36:39]:
They don’t even talk about it or like that wasn’t what it was for them. It was something else. Right? We know that that narrative or it’s like having this amnesia about what took place. Don’t get me started on this. But this is why another impetus why we wrote this book. Right? That we were like, okay. We can’t rely on the government. We can’t rely on our state leaders.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:36:54]:
We need to like, again, I don’t wanna say, like, we’re doing it alone because we’re Yvette and I are not doing it. It’s a community. Right? But we wanna put in our little grain of sand to contribute towards empowering a community. Right? This motto that how we open our book, lifting as we climb. I mean, that is still is so inspirational and thinking like, yes, This is what we wanted to.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:37:12]:
Now each of you talked about the fact that when you applied to graduate school, some of your decisions were made for you, but you applied to numerous schools. And at times, you may have one offer. You could have 5 offers. You could have many offers. It really just depends on you as a student, but also as a depending on where you applied and lots of other factors. What are some practical steps that students can take after accepting a graduate school offer to ensure that smooth transition? But then even before that acceptance, what are some things that they can do to whittle through the minutiae, to try to figure out for themselves what is gonna be that right choice for themselves?

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:38:00]:
I’ll start with what to do before you say yes. So let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you’ve applied and you are under this ideal scenario where you have multiple competing competitive offers. And you’ve been admitted to all your top choice schools and you can’t decide. What do you do? There’s a lot that you can do. First off, congratulations. Celebrate yourself because you’ve reached a huge milestone. 2nd, this is a good time to really figure out what your nonnegotiables are and find out if these different offers and options meet those nonnegotiables. Maybe your nonnegotiable is you don’t wanna be at a commuter school.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:38:44]:
Maybe your nonnegotiable is you don’t wanna go somewhere where you don’t have full funding. Maybe your nonnegotiable is you don’t wanna be a certain distance away from home. Whatever those nonnegotiables are, make sure to keep that in mind. 2, talk to people. There’s not enough information, no amount of information on any outdated website that’s gonna give you a good sense of what it’s like to go there. You need to talk to real humans. You need to talk to graduate students, professors to get a sense of what is it actually like here because no single department is the same. Every department has different a different culture, different faculty, different resources, etcetera.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:39:25]:
So please talk to the graduate students to find out what’s it gonna be like to work with the person you have in mind to work with, talk to professors to find out what is their advising and mentoring style. Get that information from real people. And then I don’t wanna discount the importance, especially for low income students, of really taking a close look at their funding offers. That’s why in the book, we provide sample funding packages, like actual scenarios. It might look like this with a multiyear funding and might look like that for a postbac offer for a master’s degree, and making sure that you create a budget. And if you don’t know how, ask someone for support in creating a budget to determine whether or not you can actually survive off of that funding. Sometimes you might get a lower offer, but that offer is in Ohio, And cost of living there is not bad. Whereas, you get a much higher offer, but it’s in New York City.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:40:22]:
Have you looked at rent in New York City? So these are a couple of things. There’s many, many other things that we say for you to keep in mind. We mentioned that in the book, but definitely nonnegotiables, talk to people, and figure out your budget. Those are some good places to start.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:40:36]:
Yeah. I would just add, yeah, there’s many things to consider certainly when thinking about grad school. Yvette is really good at helping us think about what to do before even deciding. So even, like, thinking about is grad school for me. Right? She is really good. I would just thought, like, yes. Like, that was my answer. Of course, there’s other things to consider.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:40:53]:
I think it’s also, as Yvette saying, it’s true to talk to people, the graduate student experience is so different than the undergraduate, right, the undergraduate, we see different, we’re in different spaces, we don’t see what goes on behind the wall or behind the door. And in grad school, we do to some extent, but it’s really a lot of grad students as well, don’t necessarily want to hang out and chill out on campus, right? They want to find a community outside. So that’s really important. What What kind of institution are you looking at? Is it an HSI, Hispanic serving institution or minority serving? Is it a PWI predominantly white institution? Is that important to you? That’s really, you know, a good question to ask yourself. Look at grad student resources and support groups. These affinity groups are really, really important. Many schools have them. So and, we just wanna lead to something that Yvette said earlier about her own experience is something that we write about the book, and that is about taking time to rest before you’re going into this intense experience in instead of trying to get a jump on.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:41:45]:
I don’t think I did that. I remember reading literature, stuff I’d never read, like Emily Bronte. I was like, what’s that? I grew up in the water. We didn’t read this, and we weren’t readers in my home. Not till later did that how so I started reading that stuff. It was good. It just kept me, like, sort of in the mix, but I think the idea of resting. But in the book, we provide lots of tips of what to think about and how to approach questions to ask.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:42:03]:
It’s really important. We would encourage your listeners if they’re planning grad school, if they have a preview day or an open house to attend as much as possible, ask questions. They’re there to woo you, so take advantage of that. And those preview days are very helpful. Well, what both of you

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:42:17]:
have been sharing has been amazing. I know we’re getting close to the end of our time. I wanted to be able to take a moment to have you share a little bit more about where can people find the book, the podcast, and more to be able to connect with the resources that you’ve been mentioning and also tap in to some of the femtoring that you’re talking about and that you’re offering to people as well.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:42:39]:
You can find the book by going to is grad school for me dot com. It’s available at most retailers right now, and you can get a freebie on the site, that exact site, if you wanna get the book and get the free workbook that we provide. We’re also thinking of creating a study guide for programs and for instructors that could help them as they guide their scholars. So more to come soon. Get on my email list if you want to learn more about that study guide, which, of course, we’re gonna provide free of charge as a resource. And then for the podcast, you can go to grad school That’s like mentor, but f e m torgradschoolfemtoring. And, yeah, you can reach me directly on Instagram or LinkedIn if you are on social media, and I’ll have Mira share how we can have you reach her too.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:43:30]:
I wanted to put another plug in for the website, grad school We’ve also uploaded some of other podcasts that we’ve done. That’s a takeaway from this podcast. This is start here first. But you can go there and look at other podcasts that focus around the same kinds of topics, and those podcasts are wonderful. I’ll listen to them as well. So there’s a wealth of knowledge out there. Sometimes just finding the time when he can listen to all of them.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:43:52]:
But for me, the easiest way to get in contact us through email, So it’s my faculty website, email, excuse me, I I don’t do social media very much. I find that I don’t have as much time to do my other work. And so my other work is what pays the bills. So I do my other work. And also through the UCSB History Department website, I’m there. I try to update that page and we have a book all splashed out there. But I also mentioned different areas of research that I work on, and I’m always happy.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:44:20]:
And because I’ve done so much workshops and advice around applying to fellowship. I remember somebody emailed me from, I wanna say, Oklahoma, because I had put up some a session on applying to the Ford Foundation of Fellowships, which no longer are gonna be available sadly. But somebody emailed me out of the blue and I said, sure, I’ll look at your stuff. You know, it’s part of the calling. And I feel as long as I have the time, I can do that.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:44:41]:
Well, Yvette, Miroslava, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate both of you sharing your own journeys today, sharing this amazing resource for others to be able to connect in with, and I wish you both the best.

Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia [00:44:56]:
Thank you so much, Christopher. We’re so happy that you have us here and give us a a moment to sort of use your platform to, would you say, amplify our voices and the voices of others. So thank you.

Dr. Yvette Martinez-Vu [00:45:05]:
Yes. Thank you so much. We really enjoyed the conversation.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:27:30]:
The University of Michigan Flint has a full array of masters and doctorate programs if you are interested in continuing your education. Whether you’re looking for in person or online learning options, the University of Michigan Flint has programs that will meet your needs. For more information on any of our graduate programs, visit to find out more. Thanks again for spending time with me as you prepare to be a victor in grad school. I look forward to speaking with you again soon as we embark together on your graduate school journey. If you have any questions or want to reach out, email me at [email protected].