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Burnout, Bravery and Being a Woman of Color in STEM

Burnout, Bravery and Being a Woman of Color in STEM


“I needed to break from my old life of high pressure and unreasonable expectations.”

~ Nayla Kidd

Here at #VanguardSTEM, our main concern is for the health, wellbeing, uplift and empowerment of women of color in STEM. We work hard to build a safe space where you can explore your STEM identity without having to sacrifice your holistic identity, find community with others who may more readily understand your perspective and encourage (and feed!) your scientific interests.

As such, the recent coverage of the disappearance and reemergence of Nayla Kidd, an African American woman and full-scholarship, Ivy-league undergraduate engineering student has been “top of mind” in this community (and many others). We have decided to devote the remainder of this month and July’s episode of #VanguardSTEM to the broader topic of “Burnout, Bravery and Being a Woman of Color in STEM.” We’ll be exploring feelings of burnout and overwhelm (and their impact on mental health) that most of us have felt or are feeling, how bravery can take on various forms from pushing through, to taking time away, to amending the initial plan. We’ll address the additional expectations that often exist alongside gross underestimation and the treacherous landscape that can create for WoC in STEM. There’s a lot to discuss and we hope you’ll join the conversation.

We want to treat this subject with care and give it the attention and time it deserves, so we’ve planned a number of ways for you to engage with us on these topics. The three main initiatives we have planned are as follows.

#VanguardSTEMLetters. We’d like to show our support for Nayla, without putting too much more attention on her specifically, while also giving voice to the ongoing struggle with overwhelm, burnout, disappointment, and many other not-so-great emotions along the academic journey. We know there are many more who feel this way, and thankfully, many who have felt that way, but found their way through it while still honoring their core vision. As such, we’d like to invite you to send along letters of support to other #WoCinSTEM who feel this way right now. When have you felt like that before? How did you find your way through? What would you tell someone who is there right now? Send us a short 100-200 word reflection/advice/encouragement, ~30 second (up to 1 minute) voice recording, tweet, facebook comment or other contribution that we’ll compile and publish on the #VanguardSTEM website. You can email us at social@vanguardstem.com or use social media to send along your thoughts. This campaign will run until June 30, so send along your contribution now! (A special shoutout to Dr. Jami Valentine who suggested this powerful community-driven idea. Thanks Jami!)

#VanguardSTEM Support Series. Building on the above letter campaign, we’re looking for six people to do one-on-one interviews that pair those currently going through a particular phase with someone who has walked that path and has advice to give. We’ll tailor the questions to the participants, but the overall feel should be (practical) “lessons learned.” These features will come out once per week for the rest of June (and the first week of July), so please do email us by June 30 if you are interested in participating. Email us at social@vanguardstem.com

Meet our panelists. We’ve got a really good show lined up for you in July and leading up to it we’d like you to get to know our panelists a little better, so that you can be ready to ask them questions. Thus, we’ll have a profile of each guest leading up to the show. We’ll also get the wheels turning on some of the topics we’ll be discussing on the show. So stay tuned to meet our awesome guests.

Phew! That was a lot! But we have a lot in store for you, so we can’t wait to hear from you throughout the month. If you have any questions, concerns, ideas or feedback for us, please do reach out — we’d love to hear from you!

All the Best,
Jedidah Isler, PhD on behalf of
The #VanguardSTEM team

We got our beautiful image from colorstock.com, you should check out their offerings.


Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
All rights reserved. The content above or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of #VanguardSTEM except for the use of brief quotations, with attribution, and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to #VanguardSTEM, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at hello@vanguardstem.com



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