Month: March 2021

In Solidarity with our Asian and Asian American Community

Dear HESA Community,

Just a few days ago, we wrote to you with heavy hearts to name, acknowledge, and reckon with the racial violence impacting BIPOC communities, particularly Asian and Asian American communities. We have few words to express the sadness we feel as we mourn the murder of eight people in Atlanta, of which six were Asian and Asian American women. These murders are horrific and we ache at the continued violence hurled at Asian and Asian American people.

To our Asian and Asian American community members, we grieve with you. We understand this violence is part of a long-standing anti-Asian history that continues today. And, we acknowledge our responsibility to show up in our practice and in our community in solidarity and with love.

We strongly encourage our HESA community to attend a virtual panel this evening March 18 at 5pm ET on “Asians in America: Anti-Asian Violence and the Fight Against Invisibility” which will feature UConn students, faculty, and staff; provide perspectives on today’s climate; and discuss its impact on UConn’s Asian and Asian American community. Register for the event here. 

We in HESA continue our resolve to be more inclusive and supportive of our Asian and Asian American community members. We are committed and continue to work on the following:

  • Enhance our curriculum and courses to be more critically-inclusive of Asian and Asian American experiences in higher education;
  • Host a set of teach-ins on April 7th and 8th for our students to better demonstrate our commitment to a more critically-inclusive curriculum; and
  • Continue to work with our campus partners to share and receive best practices on cultural competencies and solidarity initiatives.

In solidarity, and with love,

HESA Faculty

Exploring Intersectionality Methodology During Women’s History Month

Saran Steward, headshot
Dr. Saran Stewart

During this Women’s History month, we want to consider, in particular, the intersectional oppression that impacts the lives and experiences of women and girls. In this post, we explore the concept of intersectionality by focusing on our own Dr. Saran Stewart’s work with several colleagues of conceptualizing an Intersectional Methodology (IM).

Intersectionality is a concept coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1991. Crenshaw offered the idea that legal analyses on a single-axis of Black women and women of color’s identities (race only, or gender only), contributes to their erasure (Haynes et al., 2020). Crenshaw argued for an analysis that examines the intersections of race, gender, and class in understanding the unique forms of domination that Black women experience. As Haynes and colleagues (2020) point out, Crenshaw’s analysis was “…rooted in the legacy of Black feminism, which contends that the experiences of Black women and girls illuminate a particular understanding of their position in relation to sexism, class oppression, racism, and other systems of domination” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 3). Intersectionality is often used as a theoretical framework in higher education research, but Dr. Stewart and colleagues aimed to understand how intersectionality is used in research methodology.

In a 2020 paper, Dr. Stewart and several colleagues used a literature synthesis to explore how scholars drew on intersectionality within their research methods, with the aim of “provid[ing] scholars with a nuanced methodological approach for taking up intersectionality in their study of Black women in education research, and social science research broadly” (Haynes et al., p. 13). They found that scholars who engaged Crenshaw’s intersectionality framework tended to employ four strategies in applying intersectionality to their research methods, which they termed Intersectional Methodology (IM):

  • Feature 1: Centralize Black Women as the Subject
  • Feature 2: Use of a Critical Lens to Uncover the Micro-/Macro-Level Power Relations
  • Feature 3: Address How Power Shapes the Research Process
  • Feature 4: Bring the Complex Identity Markers of Black Women to the Fore

“Our analysis suggests that intersectional interventions in higher education are needed because not all Black women (or Black people or women of color, for that matter) experience oppression in exactly the same way. IM presents researchers with the opportunity and ability to generate data-driven intersectional interventions that are transdisciplinary, effective, and focused on the needs of Black women” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 31).

Dr. Stewart and her colleagues’ work articulating Intersectional Methodology “presents researchers with the opportunity and ability to generate data-driven intersectional interventions that are transdisciplinary, effective, and focused on the needs of Black women” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 31). To read the full article, click here.

Dr. Stewart also presented a talk for the Center for Education Policy Analysis, Research, and Education this fall on Intersectional Methodology. You can view the full recording and transcript of the talk here.  Dr. Stewart and her colleagues’ work provides an important guide for scholars conducting research about Black women, ensuring that intersectionality is not an abstraction, but meaningfully applied into research methods and interventions.

UConn HESA at ACPA21

UConn at ACPA21 | A virtual conference 1-17 March 2021 | Support UConn scholar-practitioner during the ACPA 2021 Virtual Convention

The UConn HESA program is pleased to be participating in ACPA’s Virtual Convention as a whole program this year. Between March 1-17, ACPA 21 will offer a wide variety of educational, scholarly, and networking programs. ACPA21 aims to center attendees’ experience, focusing on building community, dedicated to a strong curriculum, and embracing the future of ACPA’s Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization.

ACPA-College Student Educators International is the leading comprehensive student affairs association that advances student affairs and engages students for a lifetime of learning and discovery. A key focus of ACPA‘s work is the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization, through which the association directs resources, energy, and time toward addressing racial justice in student affairs and higher education around the world. Many of our HESA program faculty have been actively involved in ACPA, including in  commissions and communities of practice. Since we signed up for whole-program registration in the fall, our students have also had memberships to ACPA and been able to participate in year-round programming. 

Although we are excited for everything that ACPA 21 has to offer, we are particularly enthusiastic about the five programs that were accepted from faculty and students in the HESA program. We have provided a full list of these sessions below. Convention registrants can access all of them, and the other great convention content by logging in with your ACPA account information to the virtual convention platform. 

Session Type Date & Time Title Presenter(s)
Research-in-Process Monday, March 8, 2021, 2:30-3:30pm The Personal is Professional: Exploring Emerging Student Affairs Professionals’ Intimacies Ashley N. Robinson, Sade Erinfolami, Tania Flores, & Trevor Madore
Research-in-Process Monday, March 15, 2021; 1:15-2:15pm Anti-Blackness and the Monolith Construction of Higher Education Latinidad Luz Burgos-López
Convention Program Monday, March 15, 2021; 3:45-4:45pm An Institutional Transformation Approach to Recruiting Racially Minoritized Faculty Milagro Castillo-Montoya, Ashley N. Robinson, Luz Burgos-López, & Jillian Ives
Research-in-Process Tuesday, March 16, 2021; 2:30-3:30pm Finding Our Voice: Combating Anti-Blackness and COVID-19 in Higher Education. Saran Stewart, Milagros Castillo-Montoya, Jasmine Sindico, Irvine Peck’s-Agaya, Nicole Hyman, Alquan Higgs, Rachel Wada, & Kiara Ruesta
Research & Practice Poster Supporting Undocumented Immigrants in the Current COVID-19 Era Kenny Nienhusser, Omar Romandia-Diaz, Kiara Ruesta

Interview Preparation: A Reflection on Mind, Body, and Soul

By Jillian Ives

Interviewing season is upon us, although it might look a bit different this year. I’ve had a fair amount of virtual and in-person interviews over the years, both as an interviewee and interviewer. There is a wealth of information out there, so I do not plan to summarize it all here. However, I would like to offer my fellow HESAs a different perspective on interviewing as they prepare to search for summer internships or full-time positions. When facing the daunting job search, taking the time for reflection is essential. Interviewing is just like any other learning experience—it is a developmental process for the mind, body, and soul, not an obstacle to overcome for a final result. I like to reframe interviewing, to see it as an opportunity to check in with myself and further refine my values, my goals, and my experiences. 

When facing the daunting job search, taking the time for reflection is essential. Interviewing is just like any other learning experience—it is a developmental process for the mind, body, and soul, not an obstacle to overcome for a final result. I like to reframe interviewing, to see it as an opportunity to check in with myself and further refine my values, my goals, and my experiences. 

The Mind

First, reflect on how your mind functions under the stress. When you are nervous, do you talk fast, slow, or stumble over your words? Do you get easily distracted? Try to think through these things and be proactive where you can. For example, if you are virtually interviewing and know you get easily thrown off by distractions, close out of your email, silence your phone, and try to find a quiet and minimally decorated space. I know that I tend to not talk much when I’m nervous, so I purposefully post bullet lists of key experiences I want to highlight near my computer screen so that I can remind myself to expand on my answer by adding an example. For the things you can’t control, just be honest about them. If you get nervous and you forget what you were saying or can’t get the right word out, just reset by saying something like, “I’m sorry, I’m so excited to be interviewing for this position that I think my brain was moving faster than my mouth!” Reframing your nerves as excitement can make them less intimidating. Admitting your nerves can also go a long way with a search committee. We are all human after all, and they are probably nervous and stressed too!

The Body

Also know how your body functions under stress. Reflect on your nervous habits in an interview—do you tap your foot or pen? If you aren’t sure, run a mock interview with a friend or at the Center for Career Development and have them look for those habits. I know I tend to play with my jewelry when nervous, so I make sure to wear smaller earrings and no necklace when I interview to mitigate that habit. Although sometimes these small habits help us relieve stress, so if you are interviewing virtually you can take advantage of the format by squeezing a stress ball under the table. Also know how your body reacts to prolonged stress if you have an all-day interview on campus or are doing multiple virtual interviews in a row, like at The Placement Exchange. Pace yourself, and do what re-energizes you during breaks. Listen to a song, meditate, eat a snack, or whatever helps de-stress you.

The Soul

Lastly, reflect on your soul. By this, I mean whatever soul means to you—whether that is spiritual, religious, or just what centers and nourishes you. One of the best ways to feed your soul is to not compare yourself to your peers during job season. Everyone will get jobs at different times, and it is not a reflection of your worth. Plan ahead of time what you are willing to accept and not accept in a job offer so that you do not question whether you are settling or not when you start to feel peer pressure. You do not need to find the perfect job because this will be the first among many. However, you do want to find a position that you can be happy in for at least a few years. Your soul impacts your mental and physical wellbeing—they are all connected. This is proven in research on how racially minoritized people end up facing physical and mental health conditions when working in a racist workplace—it is damaging to the soul, body, and mind. During the interview, pay attention to the diversity of the office space and gauge whether they value and prioritize equity. Ask questions about whether they have the resources that will feed your soul, whether that be affinity groups for faculty and staff, churches nearby of your religion, or beauty salons or barber shops that cater to your hair type. Make sure to reflect on what you personally need to be happy, healthy, and positive. For me, family nourishes my soul. I made finding a position near family a priority, so I didn’t feel pressured by the normative idea of conducting a national search.

A Few Other Tips and Tricks

Staying organized is perhaps the best advice I have for tending to your mind, body, and soul during interview preparation. Start by creating a spreadsheet to track every position you are planning to apply to. List the positions in rows, and the different information about the job and application in columns. For example, in the columns note the application materials required to apply, due dates, basic information about the institution, office, and position. Color code or mark off each as you submit the application. This will help you stay on top of due dates, but it will also help you remember what you’ve applied to and where, as your mind starts to muddle the applications over time. Then create a folder for each position, and save the final versions of the application materials you submitted and any research notes you collected about the position. If you get an interview, this will be very helpful for you to refer back to. Not only will it help you not duplicate your research efforts, but it will also help you remember what experiences you mentioned in your materials. 

There are many resources out there on how to research a position and prepare for interview questions, so I won’t expand on that much here. However, one tip I have to save you some time—and thus save you effort in mind, body, and soul—is to have an interview question cheat sheet that can apply to all positions. Write out the most common interview questions in higher education (you can find many online), and the ones that are common to your functional area (experience advising, supervising, organizing programs, etc.). Write out your general philosophy for each question—what is your advising or supervision style for example. However, the key here is to think about all your experiences over time and map them onto these questions. You can actually create a table with the questions in rows and the experience examples in columns. This is important because a good interview answer moves from the hypothetical or theoretical, to include a specific example to illustrate your answer. This is often called the STAR method—the example should briefly explain the Situation, Task at hand, Action you took, and Result. So the table will help you think through the different experiences you have, what questions they might apply to, and if you have any gaps to consider. This really helped me in my interviewing experiences. When they asked a question about advising a student who was facing personal challenges, I knew I had 2-3 stories in my pocket to use. Maybe I had already used one that overlapped with another question they asked about advising students with minoritized identities, so I had 1-2 back up stories planned. 

Additional Resources

There are so many resources out there about interviewing. I’ve listed a few below as a start. 

UConn Center for Career Development has many great interviewing resources, from videos on how to answer common questions, mock interviews, negotiating job offers, and more. They also have resources specifically for graduate students, and the common materials required for job applications.

The Student Affairs Collective has many blog posts written by student affairs professionals going through the job search process, and their tips and tricks. For example, see this post on the TPE experience.

Also, don’t forget that your network is a resource. Lean on HESA and UConn alumni. Check LinkedIn or HESA alumni groups to see if you know anyone working at the institution you are applying to. Email or call them to see if they can give you some insight into the institutional culture—what do they like or dislike about working there, what are the students like, etc. This will help in your preparation, but also give you better insight into whether you would want to work there.


Jillian Ives is a 2014 graduate of the HESA Program and a current PhD candidate in the Neag School of Education’s Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy program. Jillian also represents the Department of Educational Leadership as a representative on the Center for Career Development’s Graduate Student Career Council.