UIW Ph.D. Graduate and Current Doctoral Candidate Publish Book Chapter

January 26, 2024

StudentsUIW’s core value of education is one passed down to students on their journeys of becoming “concerned and enlightened citizens within the global community.” UIW Ph.D. graduate, Alyssa Cortes-Kennedy, and current doctoral candidate, Melinda Jimenez-Perez, recently demonstrated this Mission in action through their work to make a positive impact in the field of education.

In collaboration with Texas A&M – Corpus Christi, the pair published a book chapter titled “El Viaje: Latina Scholars Utilizing Storytelling to Document Educational Experiences in Higher Education” in the school’s 2023 CEDER Yearbook, a peer-reviewed book of educational research. This year’s publication, called, La Voces Nuevas: Emerging Scholarship on Latinas in Leadership, highlights emerging voices of Hispanic women in higher education. Cortes-Kennedy and Jimenez-Perez felt this would be the perfect opportunity for them to discuss the importance of storytelling within the Latin community and within education.

“Latinas in higher education and professional careers still struggle to be seen, heard, or taken seriously in their professional spaces,” the two wrote in the chapter’s abstract. “As female researchers and scholars in higher education who just happen to be first-generation college graduates and business entrepreneurs, this chapter explains the importance of narrative storytelling from two Latinas’ perspectives. It details how narrative can be utilized in academic and generalized spaces for others to gain understanding about these experiences, as well as contribute to academic literature.”

Jimenez-PerezJimenez-Perez, who is currently working toward her doctoral degree in Education with a concentration in Organizational Leadership, shared that her identity and culture as a Puerto Rican inspires her to work hard and remain ambitious. She carries the generations of Latinas who came before her in her heart and mind as she pursues her doctorate, achieves new accomplishments like this recent published chapter and more.

“I owe it to the women who came before me that were restricted by being the traditional Latina to always strive for more. Being Latina is being able to embrace the traditional and set a new standard for the next generation,” shared Jimenez-Perez.

Cortes-KennedyCortes-Kennedy, who earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership with a specialty in Adult Learning from UIW, shared how the presence of her ancestors also remained present throughout the process of writing this chapter. She feels that their stories contribute value to her own story, which is why she strives to continue their legacies through her research.

“This chapter is a perfect example of this,” explained Cortes-Kennedy. “We both reference personal memories, thoughts, and moments that define us and explain certain aspects of our lives and how those have shaped us.”

Through the creation of this chapter, the pair hopes to inspire other Latinas to dream big and give a voice to those who feel underrepresented through the power of storytelling. In a world that places so much focus on numbers, they hope to show the value of the stories that are behind those numbers.

“Only providing numbers (quantitative research) allows those interpreting the numbers to make assumptions about the level of privilege and opportunities,” Jimenez-Perez explained. “Being able to share experiences through storytelling allows us to provide context to the struggle of being first generation, of not having representation in our higher education journeys and of theories and academic literature not including the Latino voices.”

Through the process of writing this chapter, they found that their stories had many similarities that made them feel connected and less alone. That feeling emphasized the importance of sharing their stories with other Latinas who may resonate with them.

In addition to being able to rely on each other in this experience, UIW offered them supportive mentors and a learning environment that encouraged them to achieve their goal. They felt that the University helped them share their stories by acknowledging their identities and providing resources to assist them along the way.

Although they have or will soon be leaving the Nest, they have big plans in store for their prospective futures.

Cortes-Kennedy hopes to use her Ph.D. to provide consulting services in writing, editing and mentoring. Ultimately, she hopes to one day offer these services and skills at a university. Meanwhile, Jimenez-Perez strives to provide culturally informed financial education to individuals and organizations, as well as provide culturally informed training for educators around the world.

As they set off on their next adventures, they hope to remind those who also see the value in education to never limit themselves and to never give up.