I grew up believing that I would be a veterinarian. I had a love for animals that I still have to this day. My mother often recalls the story about how I would go around telling anyone and everyone how I would “fix” all animals that were sick. It wasn’t until I took high school chemistry that I realized that science was just not my thing. I often joke how I’m a “bad Asian” because math and science have never been my forte. I did fine but I realized that fine would not be enough for the amount of science and math that were ahead of me to fulfill my dream of becoming a vet. And so, in my last year of high school, I began to think about Plan B. I was late to the game. I tried to figure out what I personally was good at not what I had grown up believing I should be good at and found my calling in education and ended up majoring in Music Education.
Fast forward 10 years and I am currently obtaining my Doctorate in Higher Education Administration, and not fulfilling the idea of the type of “Doctor” everyone expected me to be. I would have never guessed that I’d be working as a Title IX Investigator. Heck, back in 2005 when I went to college that line of work didn’t even exist the way in which it does now. Even now my father, who is very proud of me and what I do, will still ask every once in a while when I will go to law school. Pharmacy, law, medical, and business are the fields I grew up hearing the most about.
To be “Desi” in some element meant that you would work in one of those fields. It’s just how it was meant to be. Even when I told family I was attending The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) many assumed it was for the nursing program, since TCNJ was well known for that program, and because that was a field that stereotypically fit what I was meant to study. To them that was the only thing they knew about TCNJ. No one in my extended family knew that TCNJ was one of the best Colleges in the state, let alone that it was well known for its education program. So this is me being honest in saying that I am a #HigherEdDesi.
But to clarify let us define the term “Desi”. In preparing to write this introductory post, my friend Briana Mathew was kind enough to connect me to two #HigherEdDesi #SAPro superstars, Dr. Ajay Nair and Dr. Mamta Accapadi. As Dr. Ajay Nair and Dr. Mamta Accapadi describe it, “Desi” is very much a political identity. The term itself transcends geography and includes people in a global way. “Desi”, as explained by Dr. Accapadi, “is to South Asians as Latino is to Hispanic”. The term includes members that many may not believe fall within what they know to be “Desi” in the same way that my working in higher education may not be in the working identity that my family had envisioned for me growing up.
My reasons for asking my #HigherEdDesi family to share their stories as I am sharing my own is to provide a context of how we came into Higher Education and what that journey looked like for each one of us. This is only my story. Maybe others will be similar to my own, while others may be drastically different. I have always been curious to learn more about my #HigherEdDesi family and their respective journeys and thought that maybe other #SAPros feel the same way.
And so as we embark on this educational journey together, please remember to be mindful of people as they share personal stories. This is a safe space. Remember the age old saying, “if you have nothing nice to say please do not say anything all”. Do not share the stories of others for them but rather connect people with one another and allow everyone to be the narrator of their own story.
Thank you to those of you who are willing to share your story. My name is Juhi, not “Judy”, not “Julie” or any other name I have mistakenly been called before and I am a proud to say I am a #HigherEdDesi.