Written by by Christine Vega
Attending the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) conference in the spring of 2016 in Costa Mesa, California, transformed my worldview of the academic community entirely. I was ready to pursue AAHHE as a conventional conference; however, it was strongly rooted in networking, community and revitalization of academics amongst academic professionals across the nation. AAHHE surpassed my expectations as I learned and became part of a familia, a cohesive and caring community of first-generation scholars. As a first-generation Chicana from Pacoima, California, who attended community college and transferred to UCLA with limited resources and role models, I was embraced within AAHHE as a fellow. Here I was paired with Dr. Glenny Valoy, a faculty member at the Borough of Manhattan Community College—CUNY who reminded me about self-care, balance of parenting and academia, and self-advocacy.
While at AAHHE, not only did I become part of the community fabric of scholars and researchers, I was embraced with the support of faculty fellows, senior fellows and the amazing acceptance and unconditional love of my graduate fellow cohort. Sharing my research on attrition and retention of first-generation Chicana Latina Ph.D. mother-activists with my cohort prepared me for my proposal defense. Because I am a Ph.D. mother in academia, I found the support and affirmation of my work through other parenting scholars. This kind of intimate interaction between my research and my cohort critically prepared me to develop my dissertation proposal. As a result of this amazing support and thoughtful critical feedback from my AAHHE colleagues, I successfully defended my dissertation proposal June 2016.
In addition, I was engulfed with information and tips about the job market, conferences and publications from various AAHHE scholars across the U.S. As a result of being a fellow, I collaborated with my colega and dear friend, Estee Hernandez (an AAHHE graduate, fellow cohort-mate and doctoral candidate at Florida State University) on a conference submission. We were accepted to present our papers at the El Mundo Zurdo: Nepantla—Theories and Practices—An International Conference on the Life and Work of Gloria Anzaldúa at UTA in November 2016. This is a huge feat for both of us as Chicana scholars engaging Anzalduan Theory and Praxis with the possibility of publication.
While at the AAHHE closing meeting, I expressed my desire to attend and learn from scholars at the American Education Research Association (AERA). Due to the generous support of Dr. Alberto I. Roca, the executive director of a project of community partners called DiverseScholar, I received the opportunity and funding to attend AERA in the spring with a pilot $1,000 travel grant for AAHHE Graduate Fellows. AAHHE and the graduate and faculty fellows hold a significantly deep place in my academic and professional trajectory, but they also inspire my commitment to support others in their pursuit to represent the professorate as Chicanas/os, Latinas/os, Central Americans and Indigenous people. •