Have you ever wondered how we (scholars of Color) are supposed to learn everything that we need to know about the academy?

Questions like, “How do you get published in a journal?” or “How do you navigate salary offers for your first job?” or “What should really be emphasized on my CV?”

Well, I attended a weekend of workshops that helped me to answer all of those questions and more.

The inaugural RA.C.E. (Research, Advocacy, Collaboration, Empowerment) Mentoring Conference was held at Vanderbilt University from July 14-16, 2017.

Session topics included “publish or perish”, “CV tips”, “research methods”, “social media branding”, and “combating imposter syndrome at a historically White institution”.

Here is a list of the top 10 things that I learned from the conference (that no one else ever told me):

  1. Make sure that you choose a researchABLE topic for your dissertation.
    • You can’t research EVERYTHING. Choose a topic that you have access to and know that you can complete. Your dissertation should NOT be your best work, but rather a sign of BETTER work to come.
  2. Becoming a better (academic) writer means becoming a better READER.
    • Reading is an essential step in becoming a better writer. Read the seminal articles in your field and read across disciplines. Read for breadth AND depth.

3. Don’t be afraid to go the interdisciplinary route. Connect with scholars in other departments (or programs and institutions) to survive.

  • If you’re anything like me, you may not have any faculty of Color in your program. While at the conference, I connected with Black women mentors from across the nation, who offered to give me what my program could not. Do not be afraid to ask for what you need (outside of your department or program).

4. Plagiarism CAN ruin your career.

  • This one seems fairly simple. However, you can easily plagiarize YOURSELF by not citing your own work. Remember to ALWAYS cite, cite, cite!

5. Do NOT take rejections personally (for grants, publications, etc.). The committee is rejecting your application, not YOU.

  • This one is hard to learn, especially for scholars of Color who may just be trying to figure it out. However, it’s important to remember that a rejection of your work, is not a rejection of you as a person. If you receive a rejection from a journal, follow the reviewers comments and try to re-submit later. If receive a rejection from a grant, ask to see the previous year’s winning applications and try again next year.

6. Determine the difference between your paid labor and your WORK.

  • @DrVEvansWinters really put things into perspective with this gem. What you are paid to do may not always be what sustains you. Find a balance and keep pushing.

7. Practice updating your CV on the same date every month (e.g., 2nd, 12th, 21st, etc.).

  • This practice will help you avoid being overwhelmed later.

8. Do what you can to control your narrative.

  • Be mindful and wise about who you ask for references!

9. Your work will NEVER be perfect. Edit, revise, and RELEASE it anyway!

  • As a perfectionist, this is a hard lesson for me to learn. Like tip #1 suggests, your work in graduate school probably won’t (and shouldn’t) be the best thing you ever complete. Sometimes you just have to come to a stopping point and move on.

10. “Until the lion learns to write, the story will always be told from the perspective of the hunter”. -African proverb

  • We NEED scholars of Color in the academy. We need our narratives, stories, and experiences. Until we start to tell our own truths, someone else will always tell it for us.

I encourage all scholars of Color and junior faculty members to attend the R.A.C.E. Mentoring Conference at least once. It is encouraging, uplifting, and the perfect way to rejuvenate after a stressful academic semester.

Check the hashtag #ThisIsRM for more information about the R.A.C.E. Mentoring Conference. You can learn more about #ThisIsRM at https://rmconference.wordpress.com.

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