I Have a Ph.D. and I am on Welfare

It has almost been a year since I wrote this piece. It is still relevant as ever. In the past few months, I have had multiple people coming up to me telling me they read this. At the time I wrote it, I can’t tell you how alone I felt, knowing very well I may not be.

Work is something that is not stable for people in this economy with or without degrees. There has been an ever widening gap on the rich and the poor in this country. Degrees will not save you. Higher Education is not a stepping stone as it once was to economic mobility. In short, education as a great eqaulizer under a democracy is a myth because democracy is not a reality in the U.S. There is no such thing as meritocracy. These are all things we must contend with and discuss and move towards working for true social justice that includes addressing pressing issues of our times. The Poor People’s Campaign reminds us that this movement for economic and social justice has been long and we must insert the voices of this generation and the future ones (such as my son) to consider what we are leaving them. More on this in the near future, but for now as I prepare to faciliate a panel tomorrow in East LA on the Chicano Movement and the Poor People’s campaign, I am reminded more than ever before, why I do this, why I pursued these degrees, why I write, and why we must not stop fighting for a better tomorrow.

Solidarity, Irene (Xicana Ph.D.)

#poorpeoplescampaign #singlemothers #welfare #economicinequality #womenofcolor #poverty #socialjustice #politics

Xicana Ph.D.

I thought the real challenge would be finishing the Ph.D. as a single mother who overcome so many obstacles to be where I was walking across a stage with my son in my arms to have a doctoral hood placed over my head was one of my proudest moments. I thought I had overcome the most difficult challenges, but I was wrong.

I had began my higher education as a community college student ill-prepared for college coursework, along with supporting myself and working multiple jobs, I was placed on academic probation and dismissal my first year. In other words, I was kicked out of community college. I returned a year later and later transferred to UC Santa Cruz where I finished my Bachelors. I then moved to Seattle to pursue my graduate degrees at the University of Washington. Almost as soon as I could after defending my dissertation, I made…

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A Letter to my “Academic Mama”

Originally on http://www.xicanaphd.com last year for mamas day.
Republished at Inside Higher Education in August 2017
Happy Mother’s Day.

Xicana Ph.D.

Dear Academic Mama,

I am here. I am still here. I said this today after thinking about how hard life has been after finishing the Ph.D. I emailed you to ask you for a letter of recommendation again today and remembered how many times for many years, I would come to your office for a meeting and how I wish you were here.

I came to you like many who walk through your door carrying more than books and my laptop. You reminded me that This Bridge Called My Back isn’t just a catchy title, but a lived reality. And I thought about how when I met you, you helped me set down my worries, my pain, and gave me a safe place as a Xicana in academia, a survivor, a single mama and so many things I was or became in the six years I spent with you in…

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If it’s Inaccessible to the Poor, Then What Is It?


Xicana Ph.D.

If it’s Inaccessible to the Poor, Then What Is It?
By: Xicana Ph.D.

I have seen the quote many times, “If it’s accessible to the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary”. I agreed with this phrase, but then something happened that made me question how easy it is to call something out as not being radical or revolutionary. It is time to be honest though, call this what it is, I use the example of a recent conference I attended in this piece, but we know in the end if it is inaccessible to the poor, it is unjust. This is not social justice. Stop pretending. If a space or place is not radical or revolutionary how are they really spaces of social justice?  Are they spaces where we dismantle oppression? Or do these spaces and upholding of them also uphold these systems and practices that have kept many of…

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From Community College to Ph.D., It Doesn’t Matter How Long it Takes You

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you. I told this to my students recently. I often give extra words of encouragement to the students who don’t even think they can go to college because they find themselves short on credits, in a continuation school, or in general feel as if they are incapable of … Continue reading From Community College to Ph.D., It Doesn’t Matter How Long it Takes You