What is your personal story and what drew you to GlobalMindED initially?
During my PhD program, I connected with another student about being first generation and how we both wanted to make a difference in the world of higher education. She participated in the First Generation Student Leadership program and shared her experiences attending the GlobalMindED Conference. I was instantly interested and had to learn more!
Alicia, you were in the 2017 First Gen Leadership class for GlobalMindED. What did you learn and how did the training and the conference itself impact your career trajectory?
I think it opened my eyes to learn more about education from a global perspective. After working with college students in the US before starting my PhD, I had a very narrow view about higher education from a global perspective. It made curious about what we can learn from one another. I also think it inspired me to think about how I can have a bigger impact in the higher education space. I have seen huge gaps and want to be part of that solution.
Now that you are about ready to finish your PhD what are your career aspirations? What will you do to help students who come from the least resourced backgrounds?
I am actually finished! I finished my PhD in May 2020. Honestly, graduating was a bit underwhelming. I never thought I would accomplish something this big and become a “doctor.” When things were tough during my program, I kept envisioning what it would be like to wear the goofy gown and take pictures with my husband and my parents. I was holding on to that vision for so long and wasn’t able to make it happen because of COVID-19.
To help more first-generation students, I started a podcast! I was conducting a research study about how college students develop purpose, passion, and goals. I remember driving (I commuted over an hour each way, 4 days a week) and I was listening to one of the research interviews I did for the qualitative study. These students were incredible! Most of them were first generation, too, and they all wanted to do great things in this world. They also had a lot of self doubt, and questioned if they could actually go out and make a difference. I had similar experiences and knew that I had to do something about it. Their stories were inspiring and I knew that more college students needed to hear them. I decided to start the College Life podcast, which is a free resource for students who want to make a difference in the world and know that they are meant to do something that matters – but aren’t quite sure what that is or how to make it happen.
What do you most want to achieve personally and professionally by the end of your career?
I want to live a meaningful life and engage in meaningful work. I, too, want to have a bigger impact. My current goals are to reach 1 million downloads on the College Life
podcast; I’d like to make an annual income of $100,000 because I never thought that would be possible. I used to feel “guilty” about this because of my past experiences, but I no longer feel guilty for wanting to get paid for my hard work ethic. I would love to be motivational and inspirational speaker for high school and college students. I also hope to write a best-selling book to help students find direction and build their confidence that they can make a difference in the world.
Bio: I grew up in a small town called Bushnell, Florida and thought that I had three career options: teacher, doctor, or lawyer. I was first in my family to go to college and decided to become a teacher. I got into the education program my Junior year of college and I realized it wasn’t for me. I had no idea there were people on campus that could help me figure out life, so I tried to figure it out on my own. I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world but I had no idea what that meant or how someone like me could make a difference. I often struggled with social anxiety, perfectionism, and low self-confidence, which held me back from trying new things and really investing in my learning. I either didn’t know about opportunities, or when I did, I was too afraid to try them out.
I ended up majoring in Family & Child Sciences and fell in love with Human Development. I met a professor who helped me think through my career options and he helped me get into graduate school. He believed in me and pushed me to dream bigger. At the time, I didn’t know anything about graduate school, outside the medical or law programs. I ended up earning a Master’s degree in Social Work and applied to a PhD program – I did not get accepted. Academically, I had a high GPA, but I did not have strong test scores or real-world experience.
At that same time, I applied to several jobs and started working for Florida State University as an Academic Success Coach. I went to FSU for 6 years (bachelor’s + master’s) and had NO IDEA how many amazing opportunities were offered. I felt like I had missed out.
After working as an academic success coach for 3 years, I worked and lived in Maryland for two years and then applied to PhD programs again. I am so grateful that I did not get accepted that first time. I used every resource, every connection that I could to help me get to where I am now. I published research articles, started the College Life podcast, made meaningful connections and I learned to really use college to help me reach my dreams. My experiences drive me to help college students find direction and build up the confidence they need to make positive change in the world.