Helping a student find his or her own voice is one of the most important things a teacher can do.
Dr. Daisy Collins, a faculty member in the school of social work, is motivated by her personal journey to help her students learn to speak up.
Collins moved to the United States from Mexico in her early 20s to continue her education. She faced many challenges on her journey through academia before eventually reaching her role as a teacher at Missouri State University.
“I moved here not speaking any English,” Collins said. “There were not many women like me – bilingual, non-native English speaker, first generation – who were working in higher education.”
Collins was inspired to find more women like her so they could help each other, share their stories and inspire one another.
Advocating with a scholarly voice
Collins was pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis when she began to look for ways to advocate for Hispanic women in higher education.
Her dissertation advisor encouraged her to turn her concern into a research question. Specifically, what are the experiences of Hispanic women in higher education, and what can we learn from them?
Finding Hispanic women in higher education was not an easy task.
“I ended up with 25 participants from five different universities,” Collins said. “Which sounds like a great pool, but it’s actually pretty small.”
Yet Collins turned the small sample size into a full account of the 25 women’s experiences. This became her dissertation, “The Brown Glass Ceiling? A Qualitative Study of Hispanic Women/Latinas Leaders in Higher Education.”
The dissertation was one of the first works giving a scholarly voice to the stories of Latinas in higher education.
“Sometimes you see people in high positions, but you don’t know their journey,” Collins said. “For me, it was so powerful to be able to give a voice to these Latina women’s experiences. It’s worth recognizing the barriers they had to overcome and the roles they reached, such as those of department heads or leaders of overseas programs.”
Expanding her work
Collins used her passion for advocacy to begin the work of creating a new textbook for EDC 345 Introduction to Multicultural Education and Diversity, a course she taught in the College of Education.
“It has been the most humbling experience to work with my colleagues,” Collins said. “Our collaboration has allowed us to share the voices of preservice teachers and help guide those interested in multicultural education and diversity.”
At the end of Collins’s email signature is a tagline that she strives to live by: “communicate respectfully, humanize and create positive environments around you.”
She hopes that her work – in the classroom and beyond – will do just that.
“Sometimes we take for granted what people do. That’s why I feel like advocacy is my calling,” Collins said. “I want Latina women in higher education to know they’re not alone. We are here to join hands and go through the journey of making our voices heard together.”