· Academic Life

Merriam Webster dictionary has several definitions of this word, persistence. This definition speaks to my work and personal life: continuing to exist despite interference or treatment. As I prepare to return to Rome, I reflect on my ability to persist, overcoming challenges and doubt about my potential in this field. In my research on student persistence, I have discovered that students who have social connections in college are more likely to persist to graduation. These connections range from student-faculty relationships to student organizations or a small network of friends and family. They use social capital, e.g. networks, trust and some reciprocity to attain a college degree.

In celebration of Women’s History month I want to acknowledge my network, my tribe that has helped me persist. My mom is my inspiration as I watched her pursue her academic goals (masters and Ed.S.) while working full time as a kindergarten teacher. This was before online programs and Saturday cohorts. I was reminded of these times during my doctorate program, taking evening classes while balancing home, parenting with a demanding job as Dean of Students. I come from a family of women who are doctors, lawyers, nurses, K-12 educators and higher education practitioners. The women in my family either continued their education after high school or returned to the college campus after raising their families. Several are very successful with their high school diploma, attaining on-the job certifications. They are businesswomen, entrepreneurs and women excelling on their job raising their kids as a single parent or with the support of a loving spouse. There have been trials and tribulations, moments of sadness and seasons of celebration. But they have been resilient and persisted to achieve their personal goals and dreams.

I have a group of female colleagues, from South Carolina to California, that have provided encouragement and support along this journey. Each, in her own way is blazing a path, persisting to attain advanced degrees, create programs and services for students while supporting their family.

This journey has not been easy but God never intended it to be; only that he would be there to help along the way. When my daughter looks at me, I want her to see a woman, grounded in her faith with a daily prayer life, never giving up and being confident to travel alone either domestic or internationally. I want the memories of me up early to work out, get ready for a meeting or to write my research show her that hard work pays off. I want her to have memories of bringing lunch to school, annual trip to the beach and early pick ups from school.

Now my network has expanded across the Atlantic, a result of relationships cultivated the past 5 years leading to my first international paper. My father sent me a text yesterday morning, wishing me safe travels to Italy. His message began with “Be blessed as you continue on this never-ending journey that moves in the same direction.” I do not know where or when this journey will end. I just feel blessed to have the opportunity.