Dr. Joan Collier
CSAA-D Spring 2017
Current Position: Visiting Assistant Professor Institution: University of Texas at San Antonio
Dissertation: Using Sista Circle Methodology to Examine Sense of Belonging of Black Women in Doctoral Programs at a Historically White Institution

What have you been up to in your new role?
As a VAP, I have teaching and service responsibilities in the Higher Education program in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at UTSA. My office is on the Downtown campus where I teach masters level graduate students in our current programs (part-time, full-time, and Alamo Colleges cohort). I’ve taught College Student Development, History of American Higher Education, and Research Methods. This spring, I had the awesome opportunity to teach with our Alamo College cohort (ACC). The ACC is comprised of practitioners and faculty from five San Antonio community colleges, collectively known as the Alamo Colleges. I have a fresh interest in and renewed respect for the justice and labor that happens at community colleges. My research agenda mostly employs qualitative methods and methodologies through which I examine critical race and gender studies related to student affairs practice and college student development. I continue to collaborate with Scholar Brittany Williams with our #CiteASista project, and Dr. Marvette Lacy (PhD 17′) and I continue to expand sista circle methodology within student affairs and higher education research.

How has your time in the program influenced how you engage in your current work?
I am still coming into my own as a faculty member, but I have tremendous shaping by watching, working with, being mentored, and being supervised by the faculty. I have very different working styles than almost all of them, but I was able to learn through them. Good teaching and research are good teaching and research, even when our styles look very different. I am thankful for their continued support, guidance, and feedback.

What insights would you share with current and prospective CSAA-D students?
Current: PRESS YOUR WAY! I don’t even have to tell you all the ways that you’re tired and “over it”. I can tell you that press on anyhow. Take care of yourself as you press your way. I cried, cussed, blank faced, laughed, loved, and sister circled my way through. However that looks for you, press your way. If you don’t know me personally, ask someone who does. I’m sure they have a story for you lol.

Prospective: The PhD is *not* just another credential in the CSAA-D program. That’s not how the program works. Make the most of the experience. Invest in your research team, consider writing for an association journal, get (more) involved in an association, build your network beyond the smaller community you entered the program with, and take classes and experiences beyond CSAA that build knowledge. Craft experiences that set you up for success while you’re there and that benefit you after you’ve departed from that place.

Can you talk about a specific experience in or outside of the classroom from your time as a student that impacted your work as a professional?
Studying abroad in Ghana with Dr. Cynthia Dillard, Dr. Candace Moore, Dr. Darris Means, Mrs. Carolyn, and an all-Black doctoral student delegation changed my life and my professional practice as a student affairs administrator and future faculty member. Prior to that experience, I had been able to understand the structural differences in Black folks crafting out space for themselves in historically white spaces (PWI’s) and Black folks taking up space that centered them as much as possible within a white supremacist structured society (think HBCU’s). I am not saying that we made an HBCU in Ghana, but I am saying that we were able simply be. We were Black folks, in a Black space, getting to explore ourselves, our ideas, and the collective us (African Diaspora) without much of the hassles of white supremacy which shapes so much of our experiences in the US. As a professional, I encourage minoritized students to take up their space as a means to allow themselves to simply be/exist. I am committed to it now more than ever before. I also grew in my knowledge of Black feminisms and embraced what Dr. Dillard titled an endarkened feminist epistemology. My pedagogy, methodological choices, and professional praxis are all grounded there.

If you could change one thing about your CSAA-D experience what would it be?
Because I thought that I was returning to the practitioner life after completing my degree, I pushed through the program in three years. As a faculty member, I wish I would have stayed for another year, sought additional publication opportunities, and completed the qualitative studies certificate. I’m equipped to do and create a lot of things, but I do with I had slowed down to invest more in faculty socialization during my doctoral process.

Can you share a story, funny or otherwise, that reminds you most of CSAA-D?
I’m a CSAA double dawg (MEd and PhD). My mentor, Dr. Pamela Anthony, passed away in January of 2017, prior to me completing the program. She had written recommendation letters for my masters and doctoral experiences, as she was a CSAA-M alumna and a fan a Dr. Cooper (as am I). When I defended my dissertation that April, Dr. Cooper announced that I passed. My friends who had joined me to wait all cheered and we did a little Pentecostal shout and dance. When I went to hug Dr. Cooper, who had also known Pam, whispered to me, “You did it! Pam would be SO proud of you. You know that, right?” I balled my eyes out. I don’t know if Dr. Cooper cried (because she’s an OG lol), but we shared a good hug. As long as I have my mind, I’ll never forget that moment. That, for me, *is* CSAA-D. It’s lifelong relationships, encouragement through the most difficult of times, and the joy of accomplishment.

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