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Panel speaks on experiences in academia as minorities

Texas Woman’s University students gathered to listen to a panel speak about their experiences in academia as racial and gender minorities on Nov. 2 at 5 pm.

The panel presentation was held by the Psi Chi, or TWU’s Psych Coalition, and was titled “Truth Be Told.” The event was open to TWU students, and focused on the psychology field. The members of the panel were Dr. Elias Na, Dr. Marlene G. Williams and Dr. Gabrielle Smith.

“I think these are things and questions that I was interested in as a student, and so having access to those narratives is important.” Smith said. “Having spaces where you can talk about things and talk about those questions you may have about the navigation of academia or graduate school; it is important to be able to do that.”. 

According to The Education Trust, about 51.4% of white women have college degrees as opposed to the 36.1% of women of color. This panel gave women of color the opportunity to listen to other women of color speak about the complexities of their experiences in higher education. 

“It is important to have more than just a single story.” Smith said. “Everyone’s story is important so make sure that we include the other experiences.” Smith said. 

Psi Chi members conducted a question-and-answer session, using questions submitted prior to the presentation. The TWU students in attendance also had the opportunity to ask questions throughout the hour-long presentation. The questions touched on various topics from the importance of a support system to barriers to furthering your education and microaggressions that the women faced throughout their careers. 

“I had a very old white mentor and my husband and I were actually in grad school at the same time, so I was able to see the very clear difference between the way my husband was being treated as white male and the way I was being treated as Asian female,” Na said. “He received a lot of preferential treatment, he received more opportunities, more attention, more publication opportunities. This was true of our entire careers. I saw many differences in terms of the way he was given interviews and things like that, and being an Asian female in the neuroscience field, a field dominated by men, is incredibly challenging.” 

Throughout the presentation, all three women urged students to find valuable and trustworthy members. They all expressed gratitude toward their mentors and the valuable connections they made through mentorship. 

“You also have to remember that when you go into a graduate program, it’s not just that program of people that you interact with.” Williams said. “Your professors may be from other programs and they might hold the same values as you and your program. I had similar experiences with professors in other programs, like microaggressions, and if I didn’t have the strong mentorship that I had, it would’ve been an even more negative experience.”

The women ended on the note that it is important to find your peace. They explained that whether it is choosing your battles or making time for self-care, it is vital to find ways to prioritize yourself. 

“You don’t want to pile on top of the upset and the stress of experiencing microaggressions and always feel like you have to respond to it,” Williams said. “It is cool to do that, but we also have to protect ourselves. 

For more information on the presenters, you can visit the TWU Psychology Department Staff and Faculty page. 

Karyme Flores can be reached via email at

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