This is mostly for Bahamian’s Educated in Natural and Geospatial Sciences, but I hope you can all find truth in these words. I am sharing because this year has produced immense challenges and I have therefore begun to look back in earnest at what has driven me. In reviewing the driving forces, I also recognize the hurdles, the nay sayers. I want to tell you now. No one knows your story, so they are not allowed to write the ending.
While studying in the USA the first time, I dropped a calculus class. I told my advisor, I could not continue in the class because “[the professor’s] teaching style and my learning style were incompatible”. This was my way of sharing the responsibility for my learning. I was in my master’s degree having recently completed my Bachelor’s degree in a year and a half with a 3.987 GPA. I understood how I learn and what makes success possible for me.
Later that year at a STEM event where I had driven the undergraduates to the hotel location, the calculus professor invited me to have a drink. He encouraged me to get something “leaded” though I politely refused but accepted a soda. He shortly after informed me of how long he had been teaching, how unqualified I was to judge him, how powerful a lawyer his wife was, and how he would get another doctorate before I get my first degree. He had interacted with me for a few hours a week for less than a month before I dropped his class.
This year 2016, I was informed by a leader at our university that I was not perceived as successful, by a group of leaders I did not know, who had never met with me. A professor whose classes I had received B’s in, in a department where I had served on various committees and in leadership roles for graduate students, where I had recruited graduate students into the university and supported success for those around me in myriad ways. But success in each graduate program has very specific measures. Those measures do not translate well across cultures.
I want my BEiNGS to recognize that while we study abroad, we must do our best to achieve the measures of success that allow us to reach our goals. I want you to know that those measures do not sum you up.
These two professors were older white men who have had the opportunity to live most of their adult lives in the soft bosom of academia.
They could not measure success in being the first of their family to complete a bachelor’s degree, to survive in a strange culture, to follow your path with mindful-kindness. I do not know if these men have been lost at sea, shot at, poisoned, beat up, hit by cars, electrocuted, detained by immigration, treated like a freshman undergraduate while carrying three degrees because of their nationality. I do not know their stories, like they do not know I have navigated all these things successfully. Why would they?
Today I find myself challenged, but I know I will continue to be successful, because I measure success in ways that are meaningful to me. I hope each of you can find meaningful success, because that is the only success that matters.
Ancilleno Davis, PhD. Candidate
Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology- Miami University, Oxford Ohio