Episode 6 - Nicole Trujillo-Pagan and Tamara Serrano Chandler

Host Annmarie Caño speaks with academic leaders at Wayne State University to learn how they have developed their careers while empowering themselves and others.

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Show notes

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan and Tamara Serrano ChandlerAbout Nicole Trujillo-Pagan

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies at Wayne State University. Her research centers on race and immigration. She is currently working on a book, American Dreams, Latino Realities, which explores the relationship between segregation and opportunity for Latinos in southwest Detroit.

About Tamara Serrano Chandler

Tamara Serrano Chandler is an academic advisor and coordinator of the College to Career program in the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies at Wayne State University. A critical element of her work is helping first-generation college students navigate their professional and academic goals.

Conversation highlights

Host Annmarie Caño begins the conversation by asking Trujillo-Pagan and Serrano Chandler to share what they love about their jobs. For Serrano Chandler, it's all about working with students and watching them grow. "We provide that safe space where they can really unload, and it makes a difference," she says. Caño points out that the magic of faculty/advisor partnerships comes from being able to see different pieces of the puzzle.

While reflecting on her own experience as a first-generation college student, Caño asks Trujillo-Pagan and Serrano Chandler about how they approach helping students embrace their capacity to learn and ultimately succeed. "It's having honest conversations with them," Serrano Chandler says, adding that she often learns the most about her students outside of the classroom when they're at different campus

events. Plus, this professional duo's constant communication helps. "You really understand my standards," Trujillo-Pagan tells Serrano Chandler while reflecting on her teaching style. "There are times where I feel like students really need to be pushed, and I'm glad that you're open to hearing the ways that I need or want them to be pushed as individuals and as a group."

Caño asks Trujillo-Pagan and Serrano Chandler about the challenges they've faced together. "Sometimes it's hard to understand what people don't understand," Trujillo-Pagan says. "With students, I think that that's a really big problem: They don't necessarily know what they need to be paying attention to, so you feel like, I've just said this, but for some reason, they've heard the words and not really understood it, and that's really confusing." She points out that Serrano Chandler's emotional intelligence uniquely allows her to really connect with students.

Later in the conversation, Trujillo-Pagan observes the impact that culture can have. "I'm not a big fan of generalizing about culture, but it has to be said that Latinos tend to feel that putting yourself out there and being confident is boastful and it's culturally penalized; what's culturally rewarded is to fade into the background." She adds that Serrano Chandler's work outside of the classroom plays a critical role in the learning process. As Serrano Chandler says, "When they see you as a real, authentic person, it makes a difference."

Caño ends the discussion by asking Trujillo-Pagan and Serrano Chandler what it means to them to empower students to lead. "It's empowering them to recognize their gifts — what they can contribute — but how they can work with a community," Serrano Chandler says. Community is also key for Trujillo-Pagan, who has observed a number of students come from the suburbs to become part of Detroit's renaissance. "I'm really grateful that they're coming in to do something, not just for themselves but for the city and for its neighborhoods."

Additional resources

Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies

Commission on the Status of Women

Follow EmpowerED to Lead on Twitter @WSUFacSuccess.

Transcript

Annmarie Caño:                 

Welcome to EmpowerED to Lead, a Wayne State University podcast for academic leaders who are committed to empowering their community to succeed. I'm your host, Annmarie Caño, associate provost for faculty development and faculty success at Wayne State. In this podcast, we'll explore the personal journeys of academic leaders, both current and emerging to learn more about how they've developed their careers. We'll speak with faculty and staff about their work and how they have empowered themselves and others along the way. By doing this, we hope to empower listeners like you, as you continue on your leadership path.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Today we're speaking with Nicole Trujillo-Pagan and Tamara Serrano Chandler, a faculty academic staff team that engages in collaborative leadership around student success. Nicole is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and the Center for Latino, Latina and Latin American studies. Her research focuses on race and immigration. She's currently working on a book project, American Dreams, Latino Realities, that looks at the relationship between segregation and opportunity for Latinos in Southwest Detroit. She is known as an outstanding mentor and leadership coach for her students.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Tamara as an academic advisor and coordinator of the College to Career C2C Program and the Center for Latino, Latina and Latin American studies. Among other responsibilities, Tamara is responsible for overseeing a professional and leadership development program for undergraduates in their junior and senior years at Wayne State, connecting them with professional mentors, internship and employment opportunities. A critical part of her work is to help first generation college students navigate their professional and academic goals. Tamara also serves as a key project coordinator for two of the Centers' annual events, La Academia del Pueblo, a Latino, Latina and Latin American research conference, and El Nuevo Comienzo, the Latino, Latina, Latinx and native graduation ceremony. 

Annmarie Caño:                 

[Spanish language 00:01:58] Welcome Nicole and Tamara.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Gracias, thank you.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Gracias, excited to be here.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Yeah, so we'd like to start by having you share what you love about your jobs.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Me first?

Annmarie Caño:                 

Sure.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Oh, I'm so excited to go cause this morning, you know I'm headed to the office. I had a couple of paragraphs that I got written last night, so I'm all excited to add them to chapter one of my book project. That's what's great about the summer, that you have time to really, you know, work on your writing, and I think as I drive in, so I'm always super charged. So that's what I love about the research part of my job. But then of course during the academic year, I cannot wait to get back in the class. I'm like a bee in the bonnet for my students, and so looking forward to that interaction. It's kind of lonely doing research all the time, you know? 

Annmarie Caño:                 

Great.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

So what I love about my job, sorry, I'm like jumping in, the students. I mean I think, I'm going on, what is it like nine years here at the university? It's probably the longest I've ever been at a university.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Wow, no way.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

But every day is just so different. And I think it's working with the students, seeing the students who come in freshman year, fail all of their classes, leave, come back three years later, get all A's, complete their degree, go onto law school and then end up, attorneys in Michigan. I think that's the reason I stay, and I'm not necessarily saying that that's the standard that everybody has that sort of narrative. But it's knowing that, sometimes first generation students really can have a hard time. And so they work through it, and those moments, we see the sweat, we see the blood, we see the tears and we're walking them through it the whole way. So I mean I think that's one of the reasons I love my job and love what I do.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I wish I knew actually what it is that you do, because you know, at the end of the semester, we have El Nuevo Comienzo, which is like a graduation ceremony, and I'm always touched by how the students are like, "Oh yeah, thank you Tamara for all that you did." But what did she do? How did she, what?

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

I think, it's those moments where, you know, they're going through their classes, they are kind of mentally dealing with a lot of issues and they come to the Center and they just need somebody to fully unload with, right? And so whether it's talking about, my [foreign language 00:04:25] passed this summer or I have this economics class, it's really kicking my butt. Or they have these multiple things that they're juggling and they just need somebody to talk to about it. I mean, I think often being that space where they can be real and they're struggling in their classes sometimes trying to see, "Do I belong here?" And then they come to the Center and they have people who say, "Yeah, you definitely belong here and we're going to help you make those connections and whatnot."

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

So I think it just makes a difference, right? Because often they go home and they don't have anybody to talk to about this sort of thing. Their parents maybe haven't had those experiences, they're the first in their family. So I think we provide that safe space where they can really like unload and yeah, I don't know. It makes a difference. So, it's kept me here, that's for sure. It's motivating.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So isn't it interesting, so you both work really closely together, but then Nicole, you're kind of, "What else do you do that I don't know about Tamara, because there's things that I don't see." So sometimes, when people are leading together or leading on the same group of people, they don't always see what the other person is seeing or experience with the other person is seeing. I think that's really interesting.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah. I really don't understand what happens for students, because I feel, we're in the classroom, I feel a real [foreign language 00:05:49] . I say things, it's a lively discussion. They're talking to me, they're challenging me. I mean, I think we're friends and somehow we leave class, and then I hear from Tamara, that they have questions about the assignment or that they're afraid to approach. I'm like, "But, I'm not even five feet tall. Why are they afraid to approach me?" But they do. They talk to Tamara a lot. That's why I'm saying, I don't really understand what it is that you do for them that I can't do for them. But yeah, when they approach me, it's always very sort of serious and stilted and formal. So I know that they really like going to you, and I don't know what the magic is.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Well, I think that's the magic of faculty and advisor partnerships, right? Because everybody is seeing the different pieces. So Tamara's not seeing them and how they behave in the classroom with you, and you're not seeing how they're behaving with Tamara, but you both are seeing pieces of the larger picture. And then by working together you can bring that all together, which is really leadership and being able to do that and not say, "Well, my work is more important than that other person's work." But that you're both bringing something to the table to help advance students.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Definitely. Then there are moments where I'm actually able to come into the classroom and I think that's where I can say, "Hey, I know you guys have questions, ask the professors." So modeling it. So I think I appreciate the fact that Dr. Trujillo-Pagan welcomes us into the classroom to kind of help in that way too.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan.:                             

Yeah, it is unfortunate that a lot of students, that there are only some students who are, I don't know, confident enough, to voice a sort of, I don't know, a controversial position. So it is nice to have someone there to encourage them and I think they really trust you in a different kind of way.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So as a first generation college student from a working class background and a Latina and I think in fact we all share, I mean we have diverse roots, but we all share Puerto Rican roots, right?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:08:03] that's wonderful. Especially this week, you know, we're on high about that.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So when I think about that and, and I struggled my first two years of college, I felt like I didn't have the confidence, I couldn't figure out the secret sauce of doing well in my classes. If a professor wanted to talk to me, I thought of it as very punitive. I thought, "Oh no, this means here again is more evidence that I don't belong here," even though they were really trying to help. And I wonder, how do you approach that in working with students no matter where they are in their trajectory, whether they're first Gen or not, or first year or senior year, how do you approach that to help the students embrace their capacity to learn and to succeed?

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

I mean, I think it's having honest conversations with them, getting to know what they've experienced before, what high school was like, what are some of their family's goals? I think really getting to know them beyond the high school they went to, the GPA they have, the ACT or SAT score they received. So knowing that they're individuals and getting a sense for what some of their fears are and how we can kind of help support them with that. But also, what do they want to achieve? Why are they here? Why are they at Wayne State ? What's the ultimate goal? And I think having real conversations with them.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Some of the initial conversations are actually, you know, they're going to be a little more superficial, but the more you get to know them at their level ... Our Center oversees a summer program and so often, we're not just in the classroom with them, we're out there walking across campus. Funny enough, I think that's when I'd get to know the students the most, not when they're sitting next to me in my office, but it's as we're walking over to some event and they're sharing, because at that point it becomes like this friendly type of, you know, they recognize that there's still a professional boundary and whatnot, but that they're able to just kind of be themselves and share some of their experiences.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

So I think that helps. It helps to really get to know them beyond, the major, either what their parents want them to do or what they hope to achieve.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I think, that I'm really worried about that when I teach an introductory level course. You know, I feel like the students feel alienated, like they're just shuffling between classes, shuffling to work, shuffling home. And I don't know that they really ... I think it's an important place in their life, even if they're a returning student. It's an important place for them to learn about themselves and who they want to be. And they don't know that students always know how to ask themselves the questions they need to ask in order to realize that, you know?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

So I appreciate what you say because yeah, I think a lot of me too, I mean I approach the class based on what we're there to do, right? What's the content I need them to learn, what do I need them to think about. We're very targeted and focused, so I'm not necessarily paying attention to who the student is, unless they come afterwards and want to talk to me. But still it's a very limited, time specific kind of interaction. So it's good that they have you there to support that kind of development.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

But I think that also, that's why we work so well because those moments where, I'm able to say, "Well, I think this student might have something going on." So if you're not seeing them in class or whatnot, you don't recognize that there's something greater that we're kind of working with them on. So, I think that helps because it kind of clues you in too, it's not that they don't care about the material or whatnot. There's something larger. So I think that that helps, that we are in good communication with each other.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah, I like that it's not just talking too, because I feel that you really understand my standards.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                          

Okay.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Right? There are times where I feel like students really need to be pushed and I'm glad that you're open to hearing the ways that I need or want them to be pushed as individuals and as a group, and then you're open to thinking about it and not to support students in doing that. I think I'm a very pushy person in class. I think that there's a reason why students may feel intimidated.

Annmarie Caño:                 

What makes you say that?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I talk fast. I'm a new Yorker. I'm very forceful, because in the class I'm very engaged. It's kind of like, you know those video games where you're driving a car and you have all of these curves and it's very fast? So I talk fast. There's a lot of ideas I want to cover and I know that there are faculty who feel that discussion may take away from the content and I don't feel that way, but discussion supports what I want them to learn. So there's a lot I need to get out of them, to build what I need them to understand. So I've sort of played them off against each other, and doesn't anybody have this experience, but what does that experience tells us? So it's very ... I mean, I don't know Tamara, you've seen it. How about you describe it?

Annmarie Caño:                 

An objective perspective.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

That's dangerous. No, I mean you're passionate about what you do and I think the excitement shows, and I think the students know that they're going to come to a class, and it's going to be a lively class and we're going to be dealing with some really hard issues. And whether it's talking about politics or culture or whatnot, they know they're going in and they're going to be challenged. But I think that's why, they enjoy it too. It pushes them to really understand what Latino, Latina Studies even means and is, at the community level and I think you help them see that and make those connections.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

But, when I say bee in the bonnet, I do think that a lot of my class sessions are uncomfortable because I feel them, I have a sort of personal conviction that education has to be uncomfortable. It can't just be easy because then you're not really, testing your ideas. So I do, I am, I play devil's advocate in positions that I feel really uncomfortable with, because I need to get them to understand, how to present a counter argument, how to marshal evidence, all of these kinds of things. So it is a very intense experience in class.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So when you say you can be pushing a class, really what you mean is you want them to engage in critical thinking and problem solving, and also to develop that tolerance for discomfort that comes with learning and growing, that that's part of the college experience is learning, testing, analyzing, but also engaging with other people, in a way that is civil, and still appreciating the humanity of the other person.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah. Although I have to say this, this semester a student was presenting a counter argument, and the person who initially made the claim didn't have a counterclaim and she was upset for like three weeks. It was really bad. But you know, I mean that's what they have to learn. It's sort of like I've been caught without a way to, you know, and I really do hope that she figured out how to move forward from it, because I just couldn't. She was quiet for three weeks and my students are never quiet. I mean, you would be hard pressed to find a student checking their cell phone, or going to sleep, or reading a newspaper or looking at a book. I know a lot of my colleagues have that, but not in my class. Not in my class.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So what is challenging about the work that you do individually and together? So if you think about some of the students who are in your class, but they're also coming to you, Tamara, to your office or walking across campus, are there challenges that you face in terms of working together to help students?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

There's definitely a problem with boundaries. I think that, I'm not a therapist, right? So when they come to me to tell me these sort of long winded stories about issues that they're having, I'm super uncomfortable and so I'm like. But sometimes, I mean with all due respect, I know you want to encourage them and support them. I don't like when they come to you about assignments and assignment requirements and expectations, because I really think they need to be challenged to talk to the professor. I don't clarify feed, I'm not gonna eat them.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

No, I hear you. And I think that's why we initiate the conversation, but then I always make sure you have to. I don't grade you. I'm not in charge of that, so you really have to talk to the professor.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                          

I mean, what I do appreciate is that you're also open to walk a student's your office, and maybe I'll sit there for a minute while you all start engaging. Or sometimes I feel like I'm trying to, what's the word translate for you all, which is kind of funny. I can see the student and they're sitting there and they're quiet and they might be shaking their head like they're listening and understanding, but I can tell that they're not taking notes. The professor is giving you ideas for how to write this next paper, and you have no idea what, you know, you're not going to take this with you. So I find myself almost coaching them through the process, "Take notes. She just said this great question." So helping model it a little bit. So I do appreciate that you're open to that because I can't yet.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah, but I'm always puzzled. You know, we sit down and we have this conversation about their research project and I'm saying, "Okay, so your question is clearly as this. This is the kind of data that you need. This is where you get it." And they're looking at me like, "Oh okay that sounds good," and they don't take notes. Then they send me a paper, and I'm, "But, we talked about this." So I appreciate that you support them in that.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I don't really understand, sometimes it's hard to understand what people don't understand. And with students I think that that's a really big problem. They don't necessarily know what they need to be paying attention to. So you feel like, "I've just said this," but for some reason, they've heard the words and not really understood it. And that's really confusing to me.

Annmarie Caño:                 

And I think that's a challenge, I know I've experienced in the classroom and others, where it feels like we're being completely transparent to the students. If you're not in the classroom translating things to the team that they need to carry something out, it seems really transparent, but then the action, the results are not there. So in those cases, that's when it's really nice to have a leadership team, because then you have two people again with access to different kinds of information, and then you can both work together to help figure out where are the gaps? Why isn't the student perhaps saying, taking notes? Maybe they're shaking their head, or nodding their head because it appears they understand, but maybe they just still don't know and they don't know how to tell you that they don't know.

Annmarie Caño:                 

But what you're both talking about is very team based in that respect, and not every academic staff faculty have those relationships together, which is why you're here.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

No, I'm very lucky about Tamara, because obviously I've worked with other academic staff advisors, student advisors, secretaries, and so I think that you are really unique in terms of your, what is it called? Emotional intelligence? And being perceptive.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Well, I appreciate that.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan.:                             

Really understanding students where they're at.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

I appreciate that.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So let's talk about outside the classroom too. So these students are going on, they're going to be presenting at research conferences and leading their student organizations. And can you talk about how you cultivate student leaders in that respect, and have them own their leadership?

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

A lot of the work, we have a lot of peer mentors in the Center for Latino studies and so often, we'll hire students that are maybe more introverted, quiet, but you see a lot of potential. And so then it does take that consistent talking to them. Well, this is one way to engage with someone. This is one way you can kind of push yourself. So I feel we definitely cultivate leaders through the peer mentor roles.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

I tend to work with some of the upper class students, which they've been here for a while, but they haven't necessarily always taken advantage of different organizations, maybe they haven't had leadership opportunities. So it almost happens as a result of their desire to kind of help their peer, help someone who was in a similar position to them, so coaching them in that respect. But other students, it's really just walking them through, "How do you want to carry yourself? The importance of making eye contact." Or it's the little things that sometimes we take for granted that sometimes our community benefits from. Shaking somebody's hand, I think it makes the student feel good if they go into a situation and they know how to handle themselves. So that anxiety ... So it helps them kind of build those leadership skills through that way.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Well also in terms of their research, I feel they don't always, when you think for example, about how they're going to translate their research into a presentation, I don't think that they always know what they're supposed to emphasize. I don't think, they've had enough experience to know what counts and what you put first and not, oh gosh, the problem of the over worded PowerPoint slide for crying out loud, right? And this almost compulsory use of PowerPoint. So how to present an argument, what's your thesis, what's your evidence.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I know it sounds so simple, but no matter how many times you repeat it, it's until the student has their project and can really think about how they're going to deliver it, that they, I don't know, it's a very different thing to move from the abstract to the practical implementation of presenting research.

Annmarie Caño:                 

How do you coach them in being able to lead in terms of their oral communication skills, and in these kinds of things?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Well, so here's the thing. I really need Tamara for this, because like I said, I'm very clear. I'm very direct. This is what it is, this is the scientific method, this is how it's presented. But I think, unfortunately, the students have gotten either into bad habits or they've been told things that don't really work like this. Like, I shove as many words as I can into a slide and that's how I look professional, right? Or I'll give you this whole big introduction that'll take 10 minutes and then I'll give you my research question. So I'm very focused, I'm, "You're going to do A. You're going to do B. And this is why. You see how this works better than this." But it's Tamara, who I think, I don't know what it is that you do. I think you sort of soften the blow. Like, "Okay, breathe. It's okay, don't be overwhelmed. I know she told you a lot. Let's break it down into steps," right? Because you don't have that much time with the students.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Yeah.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So as faculty member, you're providing the scaffolding and the feedback and almost kind of "Here's the recipe." And, it's not just students who put too much text in slides.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                          

Yes, unfortunately.

Annmarie Caño:                 

You know, that's a consistent, many professionals do that, but providing the scaffolding and then Tamara reinforcing the other pieces of it saying, "Okay, did you understand what that was? And then how are you going to manage your anxiety levels?" So yeah, getting both sides.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

And I liked that you said the thing about the words, because I do think, and I repeat this endlessly to the students, I think when we do PowerPoint, which first of all should not be compulsory, right? When students do PowerPoints, I really want the audience to focus on the student who's living the research and I need them to be confident, and I need them to project their voice. There are all kinds of things that I'm trying to teach them. So I have to say, I think that most students are very anxious about presenting their work, and so that's what they do. As long as I can get you to focus on a slide and not me, then we're okay. And I'm like, "No, that's the exact opposite of what we want to do."

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

So yeah, I really count on Tamara, to help move them towards. You're going to shine, it's OK, you're great. All that kind of, I don't know, confidence building that will let them really be a professional.

Annmarie Caño:                 

But I think you might be shortchanging yourself, Nicole, because when you are giving those assignments and giving them the feedback, you're also communicating maybe indirectly, "Of course you can do this. I believe you can do this. I have faith that you can do this. Here's some things to make it better."

Annmarie Caño:                 

So I think, both the role of the faculty member and the academic staff kind of supports the students in those same, "You belong here. I believe in you. We're here to help you," but they do it in different ways, and they can work together as you do too.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Well, that's where I think our personalities really compliment each other, because I might have a tendency to get frustrated. Like, with a really excellent student who doubts herself, I'm, "But how can you? How are you doubting yourself? You?" And so Tamara is like, "Oh, it's okay that you tell yourself, I'm going to help you feel confident."

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

I've been there sister.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Yeah.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I'm thinking about the student who just got admitted to the nursing program. When I first saw her personal statement, it was all so, teary eyed, tearjerker, "Oh, the hard life I've led." And by the time, I was done with her, the statement read, "Here's why you need me in your program. If you don't accept me to your program, it's your loss." So it was much more, that's what I'm saying. My students are really strong and I get frustrated that they want to hide their gifts, because they really need to show them, that's how they're going to succeed, you know? Nobody, you don't win points for being humble.

Annmarie Caño:                 

And if they succeed, it's not just them who are succeeding, right? It's their families who are succeeding. It's their peers, and then the other people that they're going to end up supervising and teaching, working with. And I think people forget that sometimes in leadership that to put themselves out there and to be, or at least appear confident that it's not just about you, it's about all these other people that you bring along with you. And for some students too, it's your ancestors who have passed away, and that you are part of a long line of development or that you bring everybody with you.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

So, you know, obviously it's the summer of collecting data. Something that I had really forgotten and that Tamara tries to remind me of, but then I'll forget again, that there really is, I'm not a big fan of over-generalizing about culture, but it has to be said that Latinos tend to feel that putting yourself out there, and being confident, is boastful and it's culturally penalized. What's culturally rewarded is to fade into the background, to be [foreign language 00:27:08], to be humble.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

And I remember because this interviewee was talking about how Southwest Detroit is changing, and who's moving into the neighborhood, and that's what she says. She's talking about white suburbanites moving in, and she says, "They're all about coffee shops and they're putting themselves out there and we're humble people," and she's talking about her family, it's all about the group, but I need them to shine. You know what I mean?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

So they really do have to make, it's not just about what they learn. So I think that this is an important part that I forget. It's not just what you're actually teaching in the classroom. It really is about the kinds of work that Tamara is helping them with, like what this society demands of you. You don't have to simulate it in all kinds of ways, but at least professionally you have to put yourself out there. You have to sell your ... There's the expression, "You have to sell your fish." Nobody's going to do it for you.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Yeah.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I've remembered going on this interview, in Mexico and I did that. And everybody was looking at me like I had three heads, "Why are you touting your accomplishments?" "Well, because that's how we do in United States," yeah?

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

No, I mean I think when we connect students with professional mentors, or we're helping them work through a resume or a cover letter, they really do struggle. I mean, even when it comes to writing bios, I struggle as a professional. So being able to kind of share that with them, "Take your time. This isn't always easy," but you've done amazing work. I mean it's helping the students see how, "You've been working at Starbucks, put that on the resume, talk about the different skill sets." They do sell themselves short often, and so helping build them up in that way is important.

Annmarie Caño:                 

And I think the cultural context that we all come from and that we're currently in is really important. An important part of talking about leadership, not just for the students, but for us and for other folks out there. Just being able to balance the requirements of what is expected of us professionally, but also with our authentic identity, and how we were raised in our families, culture, all of those pieces that we bring to work and finding a way to be authentic, but also letting people know of your contributions that that authenticity brings something to the table. And I'm wondering, is that something that you as leaders have faced in terms of working in an institution of higher education and balancing out the expectations of what Higher Ed requires with your own personal or cultural ideas of authentic leadership?

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

You're so funny. Nicole's giving me looks. I don't know, I mean I think I'm fortunate, because I think the Center is a space where we realize that sometimes the more rigid, Higher Ed ways of engaging with students don't work as well with certain populations, and certainly with ours. So, I think there's more flexibility to connect with students, whether it's after hours or through text messaging, or whatnot. But when you connect with a student outside the typical, nine to five, sometimes it just makes that difference. When they know that they're having this emergency situation, and they don't know who to engage with and they have either a peer mentor to connect with around these issues, it really does make a difference.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

So I think, I'm fortunate to be in a space that allows that flexibility. I'm very honest about who I am, and whether it's speaking ... I think students, when they see a Puerto Rican and they're, "Oh my gosh, I feel like I've never seen someone within higher education that can speak my language that has similar cultural experiences."

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

I was just talking to a student today, about the hurricane and kind of the impact that had on her family and me being able to share, "Well, yeah, I went a month without talking to my mom." So, you blur those lines a little bit, "We're here to talk about classes, we're here to get you registered, and make sure you have financial aid set," but when they see you as a real authentic person, I think it makes a difference.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah. Yeah, it's the opposite of that alienated student that we talked about. And I'm really grateful that, I mean there are times, wasn't it Christmas day that I had to talk to you real quick? She's got all these kids and yet she still managed to get back to me. So I don't really know how you handled that flexibility, but it's pretty amazing.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So what about for professionals who don't have a professional home like the Center, where they may be the only ones in their units or departments who are Latina, Latino or of a different cultural background and they're struggling with how to be authentic in a space that they're not sure would appreciate that? And let's talk about Higher Ed specifically, is there any advice that you would give to people who find themselves in those kinds of professional settings where they can still exert their leadership in a way that feels authentic to them?

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                          

I mean I think, I'm not sure about exerting leadership, but I guess there are a lot of other communities on campus that I've connected with, like the President's Commission on the Status of Women. I've found that those type of organizations have been places where I've been able to grow and bring in some of the Latino interest I have, and bridge whether it's student needs and maybe some of the gender studies type of focus that the organization does, or the Latino Latina faculty and staff organization. Through those spaces where, maybe your specific unit doesn't offer that, but connecting with other professionals on campus to have those conversations, to collaborate on different programming and whatnot.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

So I think there are ways to do it on campus there. You know, it's funny because you talk about all my kids, but trying to balance that for family and your professional needs, there're these amazing collectives growing on campus around, like parenting and bringing in advisers and staff from all across the university to talk about the challenges of balancing life and work. So, I think there are pockets of people that's being aware, connecting, because I think that's how I consider myself very much an introverted and quiet person, but it's through those networks where I've really pushed myself to speak up, connect with others, socialize more.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Even with the Commission on the Status of Women, I ended up being chair of a committee and I'm at a podium talking to people and it's like, "Oh my gosh, had you told me this back when I was a junior in college that I would be doing these things, I never would've expected it." So, I think it's, you recognize the growth that can take place within some of these spaces on campus.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

It's no surprise to say, I think, you'd be blind to not see that a lot of faculty of color don't have real critical mass on campus. So those spaces outside of departments and units are critical. And I think that the groups that I've ... I'm so grateful for the faculty of color on campus, the ones that I know, and I know we always, even if you don't know them, you know through somebody, "Look out for so and so, she's really great or he's really great or he does this or he does that." And that is really critical, because you know, departments are sometimes tough places where you're doing real work and you're trying to think about the university's mission, and yet sometimes departments have ways of getting things done that don't allow a lot of innovation. So that's where you need the sort of outside of the department feedback for creating strategies.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Yeah. So finding your community, building a community, and then you may end up, I'm going to use that phrase again, exerting your leadership in ways that you didn't even expect through these connections. So there are many ways for people to be able to contribute if we don't want to say, use the word lead, contribute to the life of the university in a way that it has a positive impact on themselves and other people.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Definitely.

Annmarie Caño:                 

So what does it mean to you to empower students to lead? What does that phrase mean to you?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

I immediately think of peer mentors, right? So you were just talking the shy student who you get to really help others.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

I think that's what it means to me. So it's empowering them to kind of recognize their gifts, what they can contribute, but how they can work with a community. So how it's not just, "Hey, I'm this leader, I'm this amazing person." You are this amazing person, and it's how you bring people together on a common goal. It's how you make a difference. Often helping students see that it's not this selfish, we just have to recognize how, it's, you want to progress professionally and academically, but why, and I think that's what your class has really helped with too. Those community connections, it helps them create though that persona of a leader within a community that they feel culturally connected to. So just helping them make a difference.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah, there is a big percentage of students who are coming right from the suburbs and so they want to connect. I mean, that's the part of the reason they're at Wayne, they want to connect with the city, in the ways that it's growing in the ways that it needs to be supported. So I really do, I have to say I really appreciate the courses that I teach for the Center, but also, in sociology, the students want to think about, "What can I do about the problems that I see around me." And I really am grateful that they're committed to doing something not just for themselves, but for the city and for its neighborhoods.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                          

Wonderful.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Yeah.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Well, Nicole, Tamara, thanks so much for being here with us today.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Thanks for having us.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Yeah, thank you, this was fun.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Where can our listeners find you online?

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Oh, I'm Nicole Trujillo-Pagan and the first click that comes up is my contact information, my CV, what I'm doing for research and they can email me.

Tamara Serrano Chandler:                           

Okay. That's so funny. I'm a horrible millennial. I don't Twitter, I don't Instagram, I don't do any of that. LinkedIn, Tamara Serrano Chandler on there, and then the Center's website, LAS.Wayne.Edu.

Annmarie Caño:                 

Okay.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan:                             

Awesome.

Annmarie Caño:                

Thank you.

Annmarie Caño:                 

We're glad to have you listening to EmpowerED to Lead. To learn more about our podcast, follow us on Twitter @WSUFacSuccess.