240: Sneak Peek of Is Grad School For Me?

240: Sneak Peek of Is Grad School For Me?


In this episode, I offer a sneak peek into my co-authored book “Is Grad School for Me?: Demystifying the Application Process for First Gen BIPOC Students.” I read the first few pages of the book, giving listeners an in-depth overview of the co-author’s grad admissions stories, the chapter topics, and what kind of advice you can expect to receive when reading the book.

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239: Sneak Peek of Is Grad School For Me?


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome to the top rated and award nominated Grad School Femtoring Podcast, the place for first gen BIPOCs to learn about all things grad school, personal development, and sustainable productivity. This is Doctora Yvette Martinez Vu, and I will be serving as your femtor, providing you with tips and tricks and everything else you need to know to successfully navigate grad school and beyond.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: For over 13 years, I've been empowering first gen students of color along their academic and professional journeys, and I'm really excited to support you too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This episode is brought to you by listeners like you. As many of you know, I started this podcast four years ago to provide a space to empower first gen BIPOCs as they pursue higher ed. Over time, I've also been able [00:01:00] to uplift voices of those systemically excluded from the ivory tower. Now that the show has grown, however, the podcast requires financial support to sustain itself.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: If you are a loyal listener, you can provide a monthly or one time donation at the links provided in my show notes. And if you are a mission driven company or organization interested in sponsoring an episode, please contact me at gradschoolfemtoring at gmail. com so that you can learn more about my sponsorship packages.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: If you found this podcast valuable in any way, shape, or form, I really hope you'll consider investing in the show. Every little bit helps. Now, back to the episode.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring podcast. This is your host, Doctora. Yvette, today is a very special day. I am recording this episode on February 20th, 2024. [00:02:00] Today is the day that I received my author copies in the mail, and they are copies of my co-authored book is Grad School for Me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Demystifying the application process for First Gen Bipoc students. I thought that I would give you all a preview of the book today by reading the first few pages of the introduction. I have the first nine to 10 pages here with me, and I thought it would be nice for you. To get a sense of who we are as co-authors, why we wrote this book and what you can expect if you choose to pre-order the book.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So I'm gonna go ahead and dive straight in the introduction. Subtitle is The Journey to Is Grad School for Me. And it starts with quote and so lifting. As we climb onward and upward, we go struggling and striving and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our [00:03:00] desires will burst into glorious fruition. Air Long Mary Church Terrell.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The journey to is grad school for me and our commitment to provide a candid and practical approach to applying to graduate school is intimately connected to our professional and personal lives, as well as our identities, culture, and history. I. As first generation low-income students of color, we, Yvette and Miroslava have faced many stresses of navigating predominantly middle and upper class white dominated spaces where our experiences and those of our communities were absent in the curriculum and infrequently reflected in our instructors and professors.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: While we did not face the specific challenges of non-traditional students who returned to higher education after a prolonged absence, we did encounter similar challenges dealing with the loss of a parent in Yvette's case, and both parents in Mi s Lava's case at age of 12. [00:04:00] These losses meant having our childhoods cut short.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Having the rug pulled out from under us and having to take on more responsibilities than any preteen would have wanted. It also meant living with increased financial precarity, given that Yvette had to rely on her. Now, single mother and Miroslava had to rely on the state to provide support. Fortunately, Miroslava also had the backing of her aunt and uncle who took her and her brother.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Into their household and raise them along with their two younger daughters. Nevertheless, we persisted and continued to persist in our personal lives and developed a social support network, not simply to survive, but to thrive in academic and non-academic spaces and thinking about graduate school and wondering if it's the right decision for you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: We want you to know that no single path exists to a graduate degree. Rather, you map out that route or [00:05:00] trajectory based on your needs and those of your family and community, as well as the resources that are available to you. Accessing those sources of support is not always simple or transparent, as we know from firsthand experience and has.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Wait. As we know from firsthand experience and has been confirmed in the literature on the hidden curriculum, that is the unspoken cultural beliefs and practices that help socially and or economically privileged students navigate academia to assist you along your journey we developed is grad school.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: For me, its tools and tips will help you become familiar with the expectations and demands of graduate programs before, during, and after you apply. To demystify the graduate school experience, we begin with our own stories of how we landed in graduate school, why we attended graduate school. This is Yvette.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: My story for me, [00:06:00] the decision to attend graduate school was easy as I felt at that time, as if I had no other option. I was going to graduate school with a bachelor's degree in English literature with few job prospects and could not afford to move back home with my single mother of six without some income.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I had also always been told that I was good at school and was unafraid to take on more. Schooling. The thought of getting paid to attend graduate school was appealing because it meant I could pay my bills to study something I loved, even if money was tight. What made it more feasible was the support FemMentorship and mentorship I received from the UCLA Mellon MAs Undergraduate Fellowship, a two year program funded by the Mellon Foundation for underrepresented students in the humanities, arts and social sciences who intend to pursue a PhD and a career in academia.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That program helped me apply to graduate school in my senior year of college as part of UCLA's inaugural cohort. The fellows, [00:07:00] myself included, had some added pressure to apply and get into graduate school. I did not really understand at the time that I had more career options than going to graduate school right after my bachelor's.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Little did I realize that I had the capacity to apply and get a job with my existing research and writing skills. I also did not understand that the option to attend graduate school does not diminish or go away if you take a year or many years to return to school. I only learned about this possibility when I walked into a graduate program with cohort mates who had much more life and job experience than I.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And I also did not realize what a big decision it was to commit six years of my life to a doctoral program. Despite the Mellon may support, many aspects of graduate school remained hidden to me, including the expectations and my job prospects after the PhD. Throughout my time in graduate school, I faced many instances of culture and [00:08:00] academic shock, which was further compounded by my deep belief that I was not good enough and did not belong.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: As a 21-year-old recent graduate with little job experience, I immediately felt less than my cohort mates who were older and had master's degrees and or professional careers in my area of study theater and performance studies. For example, costume design, lighting design, dramaturgy, directing, acting, and dancing.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: In contrast, I was a young Chicana from a disenfranchised heavily Latinx region of the San Fernando Valley, California. Until then, I had only performed in school plays and college student organization performances. I had not even majored in theater as an undergraduate in college, as had many of my graduate school peers, and I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I. The first day of graduate school seminars felt so foggy. I could [00:09:00] hardly understand my professors who spoke using theoretical jargon. Similar to my experience as an undergraduate, I found myself taking excessive notes in class, then going home to look up terms and names of scholars I did not recognize.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I struggled to participate in class due to my fear of being caught as an imposter. I believe they would discover that I was the person who was admitted by mistake or that I was ill prepared to facilitate graduate level discussions or write doctoral level seminar papers. At the same time I attended graduate school in a hostile tense environment that neither acknowledged my assets, nor validated my identity.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: As I got to know my cohort mates, I realized we were all just as afraid to participate. We all struggled with our writing. We all were intimidated by our professors, and we all shared similar experiences. To my surprise, they were also intimidated by me. The young scholar, who [00:10:00] according to them, seemed so prepared and on top of things, it took time for me to realize that my feelings of inadequacy and lack of belonging was actually a product of.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Deep structural problems and inequities in higher education. Reminding other scholars with similar experiences to my own that they are not alone is one of my motivations for writing this book. Our stories deserve to be told, our knowledge deserves to be validated and we, people like you and I deserve to attend graduate school without the added barriers that come from a lack of institutional and individual support along the path to the degree.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This is her story. Yvette and I share similar experiences even though I started my graduate program years before she did. I too decided to apply to graduate school because I did not think or know I had other options. After graduating from UCLA with an undergraduate degree in history, [00:11:00] I knew, however, that I had a passion for history and research, which was cultivated in my Chicana Chicano history classes and through a summer research program for underrepresented students where I had the opportunity to work with a professor exploring the experiences of Spanish Mexican women in 19th century California.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Slowly but surely over the course of eight weeks, I found my calling for research, though I had yet to learn anything about a career in academia. Looking back, I now realized I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I briefly considered law school, but after perusing the course catalog and seeing the corporate style language and the lack of representation of people of color, it was obvious that the curriculum was not for me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Like many of my peers, I did not contemplate returning home to my family because I wanted to carve out my own future. My aunt and uncle had raised me and my older brother after our parents died in a car accident in 1981, and I felt that I could no longer [00:12:00] continue to occupy space in their household.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Certainly my aunt and uncle welcomed me with open arms, but we had a small house, a one bath, 800 square foot home with four to five other people already living in that space, and I had to abide by the general rules of the house. Plus like most young people, I wanted to explore the world, in my case, Los Angeles, and established my identity.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: My thought was to stay in school until I could figure out what I would do next. As such, when I ended up in graduate school, which was made possible by a mentor who fought for my admission to UCLA's history department as first generation, low-income immigrant and self-identified Chicana, I aimlessly followed the path established by the institution.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I. I took courses, worked with peers, and received feedback from professors, which resulted in the message that I was ill prepared for graduate school. Essentially, as I came to learn, I liked the reading, [00:13:00] writing, and analytical skills necessary to communicate my ideas effectively. I. Coming from a tiny under resource all girls Catholic high school, I had struggled with acclimating myself to the space and pace I encountered as an undergraduate.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Also, at UCLA, especially its predominantly upper middle class white culture. By my second year, I navigated the campus and my courses fairly well. Even though the sting of not belonging and feeling invisible remained with a massive undergraduate population at UCLA. And infrequent interaction with professors and graduate students.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I received little academic attention, particularly regarding the tools I would later need to advance in graduate school today. Looking back at my early graduate school career, I realized that few of the faculty, except for a small handful of mentors, believed I was grad school material. That is that I had the skills and intellect needed to make it in academia.[00:14:00]

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I will never forget years later at my PhD hood, the surprise look on the face of a former history professor turned Associate Dean, who was handing out diplomas on stage at Royce Hall at UCLA miroslava. He said with surprise, when he handed me my degree, that experience did not tear me down. Rather, it emboldened me to work harder to make sure students like myself receive equal access and support in higher education.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I. My lack of preparation and understanding of the rigors of graduate school resulted in a constant battle with self-doubt and desire to drop out, not just at the beginning or end of the quarter, but on a weekly basis. Particularly in my first year, I recall that I would come home with a throbbing headache in productive moments.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I argued with myself debating the merits of staying in school. I had limited funding for the first year, but I fought. I found ways to make it work, and fortunately, the [00:15:00] same mentor who assisted me earlier made it possible for me to receive a multi-year package going into my second year. Ultimately, however, the only thing that kept me in graduate school were my subjects of historical research, Spanish speaking women in 19th century, California.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I asked myself if I didn't complete the project I had set out to do, which was to recover and rewrite history through their lived experiences. Who would. I owed it to them. I reasoned and to all the women of Spanish Mexican origin who had sacrificed so much for their families and communities to survive and thrive in the 19th and into the 20th centuries.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: My commitment to my subjects is what kept me and still keeps, keeps me focused on reaching for my goals, but at the same time, it did not provide me with the knowledge and skills to access and navigate graduate school successfully. Fortunately, generous, tireless, and invaluable mentors. [00:16:00] My 20 year plus journey in academia and my deep passion for creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment in higher education have all helped me learn what it takes to navigate successful paths to graduate school for first generation, low income, and or non-traditional students of color.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Certainly no one mold. Fits everyone's needs and desires, but this guide we share the key tenets to make it possible for you to achieve your professional and personal goals. Why is grad school for me is grad school for me as a useful tool for first generation low income and or non-traditional students of color who are exploring or seriously considering graduate school as a viable path to professional and personal success.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Is grad school for me helps you not only make the right decision but also successfully apply to graduate school even if you are not familiar or have little understanding of what goes on behind [00:17:00] closed doors. Both of us have spent many years as students and workers at graduate institutions and are still figuring out what goes on behind the academic veil or curtain In is grad school for me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: We share those insights and walk you through the process step by step for thinking about what you need to do to achieve your goals. Part one focuses on what you need to consider before applying. Chapter One pays attention to demystifying graduate school by teaching you the key differences in graduate programs and giving you an insider perspective on the graduate school admissions process.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: We discuss what committees have historically looked for in an applicant's profile, as well as the ways that implicit forms of bias have influenced decisions. We also provide you with insights on what you can do to take control of your education, to ensure you get what you need from the programs you're applying to.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: In chapter two, we turn our attention to helping you decide if [00:18:00] graduate school is the right step for you by addressing the wrong reasons to attend and discussing how graduate school may impact you, depending on your life and career stage, as well as your intersectional identity. That is the combination of your race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and so on.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Chapter three focuses on debunking common misconceptions about graduate school and sharing the expectations of admissions committees once they review your application. The chapter also covers the common obstacles that first generation, low income and or non-traditional students of color face, including imposter phenomenon, family achievement, guilt, and feelings of doubt, and how to manage them.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Part two focuses on the application process and the components of the successful application with real world examples of essays. Chapter four focuses on how to get started by learning [00:19:00] organizational time management, and productivity strategies to help you get your application done without burning yourself out.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This chapter also discusses how to create a graduate school list and questions to ask yourself and others during this process. Chapter five focuses on the statement of purpose and walks you through the components of that statement. It includes sample statements showing you a variety of approaches from different disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Chapter six pays attention to the personal and diversity statements, and like chapter five, contains sample statements. Chapter seven teaches you everything you need to know about letters of recommendation, what they mean, who to ask for them, and how to obtain them. It also looks at other components of the application process as well, including hidden costs.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Part three turns our attention to what you need to do once you have submitted your application. Chapter eight [00:20:00] goes over the application review process, what a typical admissions timeline looks like and when and how to plan for a plan B. In chapter nine, we discuss how to prepare for a graduate school interview and the preview day or open house.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: How to establish solid relationships with the key people in your career, what graduate school funding packages may look like for you, and how to negotiate for better terms. Chapter 10 rounds out part three of the book with an in-depth review of what to do. After you've accepted a graduate school offer, this includes how to prepare for the big move, how to practice self-care and stress management, the grim realities of the academic job market, and how to carry out career planning.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: There it is. That was the first nine to 10 pages of. Is grad school for me, demystifying the application process for [00:21:00] First Gen Bipoc students co-authored by me, Dr. Yvette Martinez Vu, and my own femtor, Dr. Miroslava Chavez Garcia. I hope you will strongly consider pre-ordering it, getting a copy for your friends, for your students, for your mama, whoever can benefit from it.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Please, please, please. Order the book and let us know how you find it helpful or how you intend to use it. Thanks for so much for listening. I will talk to you all next time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thanks so much for joining me in the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. If you like what you heard, here are four ways you can support the show. The first is to make sure you're subscribed and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. The second way is to get your copy of my free Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit, which [00:22:00] includes essential information to prepare for and navigate grad school.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You can access it at the link in today's show notes. The third way to support my show is to follow me on social media. You can find me on Instagram with the handle at gradschoolfemtoring and on LinkedIn by searching my name. The last way to show your love is to sign up to work with me via my Grad School Femtoring Academy, my group coaching program for first gen BIPOCs seeking to work on their personal growth and gain sustainable productivity skills.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You can learn more at gradschoolfemtoring. com slash academy. Thanks again for listening and until next time.

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