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The Experience and Advice I Would Give to Black and Brown Students

Paris Puckett

Academic Advising Program Specialist

Chicago, IL

When I’m not program coordinating or traveling to a department training, my 8:30-4:30 weekdays consist of emails, student follow ups, and research. It is in these mundane moments that I get to wear vulnerability on my sleeves as students share their hardest truths of not feeling enough, supported, and deserving. It is behind the closed doors of my office that I’m called to lean in and listen to the many attempts of students wanting to call it quits within their first semester. 

Without judgment, I listen with empathy and offer my most vulnerable identity– a Black woman in Higher Education. It is in this embodiment that I carry the scars of many Black women, but most importantly, our black and brown students who don’t see enough people who look like me in their classrooms, residence halls, student programs, campus employment, etc. As a Black woman, I’ve had to learn to pivot in rooms where most would deem me unqualified. The vantage point that I use to take up space is the understanding that I belong and I carry the seemingly impossible task of breaking barriers for our black and brown students, regardless of their oppositions. My inspiration to take up space so fully comes from my parents, who grew up in the civil rights era, and instilled in me and my four siblings the importance of education and what it meant to walk in our God-given truth. 

After receiving my Journalism degree, I began exploring my gifts and talents in hopes of finding my niche. Having worked in retail with a connection to customer service, I gravitated towards servitude and problem solving. It became increasingly easy for me to step outside of my comfort zone and find ways to relate to people. Self awareness and community building came easily to me. As I leaned in closer to find a community, I learned that undergraduate and graduate students of color were experiencing significant challenges in academia. I realized there were consistent questions being asked in my community like, “Is there a work-around to these issues? Why aren’t I being heard? Who can help me?” It was then that I realized my calling– to use my lived experience as a Black woman who studied in academia to empower Black students.  

My commitment to owning my identity and giving myself time to find my calling has allowed me to do my job well. To all Black and brown students and Black women across campuses, classrooms, and spaces, you lack nothing. Stay educated, opinionated, never silent, and brave. You are your ancestors' wildest dream, so if you’re afforded the opportunity to thrive in close minded spaces, thrive and go as far as you need in order to make a difference.


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