234: Everyday Equity: Everyday Ways To Make A Change

234: Everyday Equity: Everyday Ways To Make A Change


In this collaborative podcast episode on everyday equity, I share a recording of a recent LinkedIn live I was part of where Pooja Kothari, founder of Boundless Awareness, interviewed me. I share my personal experiences and strategies related to increasing equity in my work and personal life. We also both stress the necessity of self-education in the journey of anti-oppression and the importance of believing and respecting others’ experiences.


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Everyday Equity_ Everyday Ways to Make a Change with Dr_ Yvette Martinez_Vu



Hi everyone, it's Dra. Yvette here. Today I have a special treat for you. I am sharing and doing something that I've never done before. This is my first cross collaborative podcast episode. I am collaborating with my friend and colleague Pooja Kothari. She's an Indian American queer First gen founder of boundless awareness, LLC, where she provides customized trainings and workshops, all committed to the work of anti bias and anti oppression.

And she actually has a LinkedIn live series where she interviews different professionals and experts on topics related to anti oppression, um, anti bias. diversity, equity, inclusion, you name it. So she interviewed me and had me on her series to talk about everyday equity. So [00:01:00] everyday ways that I promote equity in my work, in my life, that's what I'm going to be, um, showing or sharing with you all here.

If you are on LinkedIn, you can access the recording and view the video. Um, it's, I had a lot of fun chatting with her, but for those of y'all who preferred audio only, I thought I would repost it here so that you don't miss it. And I am also going to be sharing an episode where I interview Pooja myself, and that's happening next week.

So please tune in, click subscribe so that you don't miss the episode. This week is my interview or her interviewing me next week is me interviewing her. You're gonna You're going to learn a lot actually from both conversations. You're definitely not going to want to miss next week's episode either because I talked to her all about how to manage micro aggressions and she has some juicy comebacks.

You're gonna, you're [00:02:00] gonna walk out with some, with some handy tips. So check it out. Enjoy today's episode. Tune in for next week as well. I'll talk to you all soon.

/. Hi, good morning. Good afternoon, everyone, at whatever time zone you are tuning in. Welcome to everyday equity, everyday ways to make a change. I'm your host Pooja Kothari with Boundless Awareness. I am an anti oppression trainer and today our very esteemed special guest is Dr. Yvette Martinez Vu. Dr.

Yvette provides first gen. Students of color with support, skills, and tools to empower themselves to thrive in grad school and beyond. Uh, Dr. Yvette is a first gen disabled Chicana grad school and productivity coach, author, and speaker. Welcome Yvette, um, I'd love to turn it over to you to introduce yourself to our audience.

Yeah, so you already did a stellar job of introducing me. [00:03:00] I love it when folks introduce me by not just naming. My, the roles that I play professionally, but also the identities that I hold and they're dear to me because they definitely, um, impact the work that I do. So, like you said, I am first gen self-identify as Chicana.

I'm also neurodivergent. I'm also, I live, I'm someone who lives with. I'm a mom of three. I'm a mom of two. I am a former higher ed professional, and I recently started calling myself a grad school and productivity coach. I was saying that I'm an academic coach, but I realized most people come to me for support related to grad school or related to learning sustainable productivity strategies.

Um, so I thought, well, you know what, let's let's make that title a little more accurate. So that there's that, um. But yeah, I'm excited to be here today and to have this conversation with you. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks so much. Can [00:04:00] you explain a little for our audience what you mean by sustainable productivity?

Yeah. So the work that I cover, um, has three branches. So with, um, my company, grad school femtoring LLC, we support first gen BIPOCs in demystifying higher education. So that's a lot of support around grad school admissions and navigating grad. And then there's the second branch, which is the personal development, personal growth piece.

And then the third branch is what I call sustainable productivity. Some people call it well being oriented productivity. For me, what it means is if some of us are not independently wealthy and are not financially independent, and have to work to make ends meet to keep a roof on top of our heads, how can we learn strategies to work that align with who we are, with our body, mind, and soul?

Spirit so that the work that we do, instead of harming us, it's actually promoting our wellbeing. And it might sound strange [00:05:00] to some, but yes, I firmly believe that because that is my lifeline. That is how I work, uh, and that is how I'm able to sustain myself. Without necessarily, you know, while living with disabilities, for instance, right, right?

I got it. So it's a way for all of us to do what we want to be doing or we have to reach our goals. Yeah, without burning out. Exactly. Burning the candle on both ends. Yes. Yeah. Great. Well, the purpose of this LinkedIn Live is to tell our audience how we all can engage in anti oppression work or DEI work in our daily lives.

A lot of us think, you know, anti oppression work or DEI work is a once a year or even a computer module that we Have to go through. Um, but all of our guests this year are people who actually integrated into not only their daily personal lives, but also their work. And so my first question for you [00:06:00] is how does anti oppression work fit into your career?

Do you even have to think about tying it into your work or into your career? Does it come naturally? How do you think about it? I do think about it, although I have some resistance with even using terms like calling myself a DEI practitioner because I know that the terms diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, even accessibility as another one that's been added to these initiatives have been like Co opted and corporatized and capitalized in many ways.

So like my, my initial exposure to, um, quote unquote DEI work or equity work or anti impression work was really just like being forced to take that module, that online module working full time. And I, that, that felt so impersonal and that felt like checking a box and that didn't feel, [00:07:00] uh, That didn't feel like something that I was personally invested in.

What am I personally invested in? I feel like, um, I'm invested in my core values and my core values, which are also the values of, uh, grad school femtoring are compassion. Access and social justice. So social justice at the core of it for me is anti oppression work. It's work to try to minimize harm in as many ways as we can.

And of course, no person is perfect. We are all going to make mistakes, but I do think it's something that I appreciate. I think about, but I do it in my everyday practice, because in my everyday practice, I'm always thinking, well, who am I serving? I serve, you know, first gen BIPOCs. Just because they're first gen BIPOCs and just because I'm a first gen woman of color doesn't mean that we share the same identities.

So even in my work, I run into folks who have very different experiences where I'm the one [00:08:00] that may hold more privileges or vice versa. And so I try to make sure that I'm like very mindful of how can I best serve them? How can I center them? And how can I learn from them? Because they're not just learning from me.

So, um, yeah, it's, it's, it's very kind of multifaceted, and it's not a one size fits all approach by any means. And I'm someone who doesn't believe in binaries. And so for me, I'm always curious. And I even mentioned it when I work with folks, they fill out a an initial form. It's like an intake form. And one of the lines that I added was, are there any identities or circumstances that you feel comfortable enough sharing with me that might impact our work together?

And through that, I've learned things that maybe they might not have shared about their identities, about saying, Hey, I'm, you know, I'm [00:09:00] in a, an unstable household, or I am, um, a trans man, or I am non binary and I use all pronouns and it depends on the day and how I'm feeling that day with my pronouns. Or I am queer, or I am, uh, you know, I, I'm autistic and have ADHD, or I, whatever, I'm a single parent, or I, like, I can just keep going.

There's like, So many things that then when I read that, I think to myself, okay, I need to be mindful of this. And if I don't know a lot about this and I need to keep doing my homework. Yeah. There's two things that you said that really stick out of when we think of like, gosh, how do we even get started on anti oppression work?

And you said, I'm mindful of who is coming into my orbit and I am centering them. Yes. And so often people are like, I don't know where to start. Like, this seems overwhelming. I can't change the world. We often go to the [00:10:00] extreme, like, well, I'm just one person. But, uh, indeed we are one person. And there's so much that we can do, like, asking.

Centering, understanding that other people's lived experiences aren't ours. Yeah. Uh, and these are really simple ways to incorporate anti oppression principles into, if you're a manager, if you're employing in a thousand person corporation, I mean, there are all of these very simple. Uh, ways to, to include, um, to include people.

Yeah. How we talk about them. And yeah. Could you talk a little bit, um, about what grad school femtoring offers? And, um, like what it's like to work with you. Yeah. So my, what it's like to work with me, that's, that's interesting because I mean, I wish I could have someone come on here and say it instead of me [00:11:00] saying it, cause they'll give you, you know, the, the, the, the real insights, but, um, uh, my services are centered around one on one and group coaching, um, speaking and, um, With the one on one coaching, there's like two types of coaching that I do.

So it's the grad school admissions support, and there's the productivity support, uh, piece of it. And then I also have a, an academy, which is an eight week group coaching program for first gen BIPOCs to learn the foundations of personal development and of, uh, sustainable productivity. I'm actually running that program right now.

So I started another, another cohort of that program last month. And, um, the, I mean, kind of going back to what I said earlier, I, I, I stand very firmly rooted in my values and for me, that means that when I facilitate workshops, they're usually [00:12:00] recorded and I follow up with a link to the recording that includes transcripts and captions, uh, to me, that, that means, um, You know, on the compassion side, I really try to get to know people.

So when I facilitate, not just when I work with people in their intake forums, but even when I facilitate workshops, I want to know who is my audience, what are their identities? Do they have questions they want to ask me in advance that I can then tailor into my workshops because I don't want to give a cookie cutter workshop.

I don't want it to be like, everybody gets the same thing. No, I want to give you. examples that I think might fit to you, um, based on me knowing, Oh, this is an audience of students. Oh, this is an audience of working professionals, or this is an audience of primarily BIPOC folks. This is an audience that might be mixed, uh, that might be, you know, mixed in, in a bunch of different, um, ways.

So, um, what's it like working with me? I would say. [00:13:00] It's a very tailored, holistic approach to, um, learning strategies, tools, skills, to ultimately help you reach your goals. I want everybody to reach their goals, whatever goals they are, personal, professional, I want you to lead a life that feels good for you.

Why do people need guidance who are applying or going through grad school? Oh, my goodness. I know. It's like, where do you start? But for those who don't know, can you give us some insight as to like, what is it like? You know, not everybody needs it. much guidance because some folks have access to, to that knowledge, what we call the hidden curriculum, which is, you know, all the things that you're expected to know, but you might not know about what it's like to apply to graduate school or what it's like, um, to navigate, [00:14:00] um, higher ed spaces.

Some folks Uh, you know, they have, like my kids, for instance, they have a parent who's highly educated or who's formally educated, I should say, I always call myself out when I say highly educated. I'm like, no, formally educated because I know, you know, my, my parents, for instance, are just as brilliant as I am.

They just didn't have the privilege of pursuing higher education. So yeah, my kids. They've got a parent with advanced degrees, they are not going to struggle as much with navigating the hidden curriculum because they're going to hear it from me. Um, and so why do people need the support because there's so many folks who are first generation, there are so many folks who sometimes even aren't first generation, but maybe they're in the middle they're like at the 1.

5 where their parents have advanced degrees, but from other countries. Or maybe they're second gen, but their parents are actually in completely different fields and cannot support them in [00:15:00] navigating these spaces that are in different industries or different disciplines. So for me, that was my experience in college and in grad school, always struggling to figure out how to navigate the next step and the next step and the next step.

And that's why. I decided to write a book about it. I'm going to, I'm going to mention it right now. This is, I have a book coming out this year. It's called. Is grad school for me demystifying the application process for first gen BIPOC students? It comes out April 16th this year. It's available for pre order.

I've had this idea for this book in my head for over 10 years because I always was so so frustrated. Like why isn't anyone writing about these things? Why isn't anyone giving people the support and the 411, like the real talk of what it's like to navigate grad school? Why isn't someone telling these students like, you know what, that industry you're [00:16:00] interested in, the career you're interested in, doesn't require grad school at all.

I'll be the first to tell someone don't waste your time, energy, money, if you don't need to go to grad school because it's not. Unnecessary next step for everybody. Yeah. Yeah. I love how you say it's a hidden curriculum because how I, and that's part of, you know, when we talk in our balance awareness workshops, when we talk about privilege, we always say like, how did you get your first internship?

Who wrote your recommendation letters? And, and it's, if you have that orbit around you and that privilege of access or, um, access to opportunity, then you absorb that hidden curriculum through all of those people in your network. Yes. And if, if you're not around people like that who are going through this process or have been through this process that you want to go through, how else are you going to know?

Right, right. Yeah. Um, okay. So when we talk [00:17:00] about, uh, your work and anti oppression work and really being mindful of who comes in to your programs in the academy and centering their experiences, I want to ask you, how do you keep learning? How do you make sure that you're kind of like on top of your own bias?

Um, uh, we all can have like this intention of wanting to do great, but, uh, and be inclusive and mindful and centering others. But sometimes your impact isn't matching our intent. How do you make sure you can align those as much as possible? We're not perfect, but as much as possible, what, what do you engage in?

What do you read? What do you, what do you do? You know, one of the things for me that allows me to keep learning is, is using an identity marker as that thing that allows me to maintain the habit of learning. So for instance, when some people say they're runners, you have this assumption of, okay, like I'm a runner, so I'm going to run, runners run.

So for me, one of my, [00:18:00] uh, identities that I've used for many, many years is, oh, I'm a scholar. And before that, when I was a child, I would just say I'm a nerd. Yeah. Hashtag Nerds Unite. Yes, yes, yes. Nerd alert. Two nerds right here. And so because of that, because I embraced that identity, I do have a love of learning.

And so for me, um, learning is, is, It can happen in any way and, uh, one of the things that's been especially helpful, um, in my learning journey is finding out what my learning style is. So are you an auditory learner? Are you a, um, visual learner? Are you a kinesthetic? Are you a read write learner? Because for many, many years, I didn't know I was an auditory learner.

And so the world of audiobooks, the world of text to speech, uh, adaptive technology, The world of podcasting has transformed my life and my ability to keep [00:19:00] learning. So there are, those are a couple of examples of how I keep learning. I keep learning through the audio books, through the podcasts, through the people, not just me listening to other podcasts, but me being a podcaster and bringing on guests who have very different life experiences and knowledge bases than I do.

So I learned from them. I am, I amplify their work. I also think about it as like. Who's part of my circle and my friend group because my friends are very, very different. Um, not all my friends have the same shared identities. I have some friends who are spoonie friends who have chronic illnesses, but they might not be parents.

I have friends who are parents who, you know, may not have other markers of my identities that I have. My husband is Vietnamese American. Like, I just, like, I have very different connections to very different folks from different cultures, from different races. And I, I'm very open to learning and to being called out and [00:20:00] called in.

Um, active listening is another thing that allows you to learn a lot is not just listening to respond, but Listening to understand, um, and also being being open to expanding your comfort zone or to putting yourself in some spaces that make you even just a little uncomfortable because I'm I'm an introvert.

I like to stay in my in my comfort zone a lot, but I know that I gain a lot when I do expand out of my comfort zone. So that might mean asking that tough question. That's It's awkward or uncomfortable for you because it's, it's, uh, putting you in the position where you're acknowledging your privilege. So for me, like I'm, I'm straight, I'm cisgendered, uh, and so when I, I approach kind of spaces or folks who aren't straight, who aren't cisgendered, and I'm, I'm forced to [00:21:00] like acknowledge my privilege and to be like, Hey.

What are your pronouns? Is it okay for me to ask what your pronouns are? I'm not gonna lie, it does sometimes feel a little bit uncomfortable. It's getting better over time, but I'm not gonna lie that the first time I asked someone that question I was like, Oh, I taken it back. Like I've never had to question my pronouns.

Um, so yeah, those are just a couple of ways. This is really like embracing the learning process, figuring out what's the best way for you to learn surrounding yourself with lots of different kinds of folks. Um, and even being willing to put yourself in. uncomfortable situations, even if it's just slightly uncomfortable because slowly but surely your your comfort zone is going to keep expanding the more you get out of it.

Yeah. Yeah. Any advice for people who are nervous about being called out or being called into [00:22:00] Learn more, uh, people who are really anxious about situations like that. Um, any advice on how to just get in there for that type of learning? Because that tends to be like the stuff you never forget. You know what?

We're all going to make mistakes. And we're all going to have no one's perfect. We're all going to have cringe worthy moments. I'm not going to lie. I still have some moments where I look back and I'm like, I can't believe I said that or did that just from a time where I didn't know better. And, um, so for that, it's just like, that's where the internalized self compassion or, or self, that's where the self compassion comes in.

And yeah, to add, to remind yourself, like, it's okay to make mistakes. I might mess up, but Hey, if I learned from it, that's. That's that's great. Um, also, I would say choose your battles because you can't always be on edge. You can't always be trying to be like, [00:23:00] you know, the, the, like doing this work all the time because it's very, very heavy work, like actual anti impression work.

It's very, very heavy. I'm a highly sensitive person. So for me, it really weighs on me. And so I have to, um, like pick and choose my battles. And I have to remind myself that I'm not going to be perfect every day, but even if I'm just like, open to it. Um, it's going to get better over time. So self compassion and giving yourself permission to make mistakes and learning from your failures.

All that I think is gonna hopefully compound over time to hopefully make you a better human being. Yeah. You know what I like to remind myself is that, um, No one is thinking about you as much as you think they are thinking about you. Like, my wife calls it um, [00:24:00] narcissistic paranoia. I think she, I don't know if she made that up or something.

But like, you're so worried about what, like that, like you're not that important. Like, no one's really thinking about you that much. And, uh, so make your mistakes. Move on and don't put added attention because like no one else's yeah, uh, they really aren't and, and we kind of intellectually know that. But, um, gosh, shame can play a huge role.

And that's what we're trying to dismantle because anti oppression work and shame, like, really shame and guilt are kind of useless. And what we just want to focus on is improving. Yes. Um, okay. For people in our audience, uh, who want to get started on, um, uh, their anti oppression journey or their, um, uh, or improving [00:25:00] in any way, what is one piece of advice that you'd like to leave our audience with, either as it pertains to anti oppression work or, um, um, um, Uh, or any of your academy or, you know, the grad school femtoring, what is, what is one tidbit that Arne is probably doesn't know that you could leave them with one last piece of advice is what you're asking.

Yeah. Oh my goodness. I know I, I had thought about this question, but, um, and I was gonna say what I just said about like, don't, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Like embrace the, not embrace it, but like learn from your failures. And to go slowly, um, but I'm trying to think, I feel like there was something else that, that I was.

I mean, even just tying it back to, to baby steps, like we can't expect everybody to [00:26:00] change overnight. Oh, I was going to say this. It came back. So brain fog. There's one thing that comes up with me that I can sometimes be self conscious of and shame myself for is living with brain fog. And so what was the thing that I was thinking about earlier was.

I was thinking about how we all have very different life experiences. We all navigate the world so differently, even down to like the senses, like, you know, what we hear, what we see, what we feel is vastly different from the person next to us. So if someone tells you something, if someone discloses anything, if someone shares anything with you, I would say, No matter what, even if it's a different experience than you, even if your intention was different from what they experienced, believe them.

So, I would say, like one piece of advice is, this is two, two fold, two pieces of advice is one, start small. [00:27:00] Don't be afraid of making mistakes, like learn from your failures. But then on the other side is you have no idea how different your lived experience is from the person on the other side of the screen, the person sitting next to you.

So if they're telling you something and confidence, please believe them, please believe them. Believe your colleagues, believe your students, believe your mentors, believe your mentees, your femtees, believe. Everybody that's in your surroundings because I would rather believe someone, um, and hopefully make their life a little bit better and me believing and supporting them than not believing them and then upholding oppression, white supremacy and all the other isms.

Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. Learn from your own mistakes and believe people when they share experiences that aren't your own. Yes. Um, and what do you do when you have, um, a new student come into your [00:28:00] academy? Reveal identities that you don't know about. Um, or haven't, maybe haven't had, uh, too much exposure to, let's say.

Um, how do you learn about it? Do you ask that student to kind of try to educate you? Do you go to other avenues? Like, what should we do if we meet somebody that you're like, Oh, I've never thought about, you know, or had exposure to this type of culture or accent or way of thinking or disability, whatever it might be.

Yeah. So I usually, you know, if there are any questions that I can ask about how I'm going to engage with them and how I can be mindful and respectful, I will ask those questions. But when it comes down to the actual education piece, I say, don't. Don't have other people educate you put it on yourself. It is your responsibility to educate yourself.

So in the situation where, for instance, I, you know, I said, I have my intake form and someone kind of, you know, made have come out to [00:29:00] me as saying, Oh, I'm like, um, I'm two spirited or I am non binary and I use all pronouns. I'm like, okay. I need to then I'm not going to be like, can you explain that to me?

No, I'm like, no to self when we're done with that call. I, if there's anything that I'm like, I probably need to freshen up on this. I will go and do my research. Um, because it's not the responsibility to. They're, they're not, they're not responsible of my learnings. It's, it's my responsibility. And so that's why I think we really need to take responsibility of the learning and we need to incorporate it even as part of our, our core values.

Because if it's not attached to your identities or your values. Uh, to be aware, to be informed, to even prioritize this, it's not going to happen. No DE, no number of DEI initiatives, workshops, trainings are gonna get people to be invested in this in the longterm. This is a long haul thing. That's the [00:30:00] other thing I wanted to mention.

It's like, this is a lifelong long haul. There is no end. There's no, you're done with the training. You're good. Sorry, I hate to. I know. You never graduate. You don't graduate. There is no, like, commencement ceremony. Um, and I love it. You can give people a certificate and make them feel better, but it's like, no, you're gonna be needing an endless number of certificates.

Right. Yeah. Yeah. Refill your printer paper. Um, and because we're not living in the age of Encyclopedia Britannica, like, Literally, everything is online. All you got to do is like maybe a five word Google search, and I did have encyclopedia. Yeah, I know. I know you did. I mean, I didn't know, but I figured, um, like we both grew up with that, which is a wonderful, it was a wonderful base of knowledge.

Um, I want to show people, uh, your website, your Instagram, your LinkedIn, how they can get in touch with you. If people are interested in, um, In, uh, [00:31:00] in getting in touch with your academy. How do they reach out to you? Yeah, so the best place to find me is my website, gradschoolfemtouring. com. Uh, so hopefully we can put it somewhere where you can access it.

If you want to So if you want to stay in touch, hear more about my offerings, my services, you can sign up for my newsletter. So that's the same gradschoolfemtoring. com slash newsletter. And then of course, I'm also on social media. I'm most active on Instagram and here on LinkedIn. So Instagram is gradschoolfemtoring and LinkedIn, you can find me with my name, Yvette Martinez Vu.

Awesome. And we have a little ticker tape going on the bottom with your book is grad school for me. Could you lift it up for us again? It's de mystifying grad school for me. So it's de mystifying the application process for first gen BIPOC students. Amazing. Amazing. Where is it available? It is available on all [00:32:00] places where you can buy books.

Uh, it's, uh, you can find it at UC Press, University of California Press website. You can find it at Target. You can find it, uh, Indie Books. You can find it on Bookshop, all the places where you can find books. Excellent. Go get it. If you have any questions, leave a comment, um, under our LinkedIn live. And, um, I'm going to put all of this also on our post.

Yvette, thank you so much. You're amazing. Thank you for the work that you're doing. I'm so happy to talk to you. Likewise. It's been so, so beautiful. And I'm such an honor to be in this shared space with you. I'll talk to you soon. Okay. Bye.

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