Academic Excellence Award Winner- Phitsamay Uy
What do you love most about working at UMass – Lowell?
The students, staff, and faculty. My first generation, immigrant and refugee students of color are amazing and resilient. The students teach me so much and give me hope in these trying times. They remind me daily why I went into education in the first place. In addition, the staff and faculty are also so caring and dedicated. These people make me feel proud to be part of a community that supports students to reach their potential.
Who inspired you to get involved in Higher Education?
It was my Southeast Asian community. As a refugee community, our elders struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder from the Secret War in Laos, Killing Fields of Cambodia, and the Vietnam War and their children struggle with a high dropout rate due to their families lack of resources and lack of familiarity with U.S. school systems. As one of the few Southeast Asian educators nationwide, I feel compelled to ensure that there is support and encouragement of Southeast Asian and other minority students in higher education so they can help lift our communities out of poverty and struggle.
What advice would you offer to new professionals who are starting their first professional position?
As a higher education educator, I like using acronyms. So my advice is SEAK:
S— seek out a mentor/ally who you can bounce ideas, share advice and become your cheerleader
E—educate yourself on the cultural norms of your new position: what are the shared beliefs and values of your profession? Learning about these will help you navigate this professional world.
A—always ask questions about people and their life interest; you want to get to know people outside of your work duties to help build rapport and community with your colleagues
K—keep your identity central to your work. You are a unique individual with wonderful experiences to share with others. Make sure you never compromise your identity because no one else can be you like you are!