Sometimes a writing group is about much more than writing—for two Endicott faculty members, receiving the North Star Collective Faculty Fellowship was one such occasion.
Back in December, Dr. Annabelle Estera, a Graduate Instructor and Advisor in the School of Education, and Dr. Adilia James, Assistant Professor of Sociology, were selected as members of the inaugural fellowship cohort created by the North Star Collective, a group of colleges and universities in New England committed to uplifting Black, Indigenous, and people and faculty of color (BIPOC) on their campuses (Endicott is one of the founding members).
The goal of the fellowship is to provide professional development support to BIPOC faculty members, which starts with backing writing and publishing endeavors but also includes help navigating career challenges, finding community, and developing a healthy work-life balance.
For James, the fellowship provided space to pause and remember why she pursued academia in the first place—and to reflect on core passions and values.
“There was a focus on building a more spiritual community and support group that can help us reflect on our career journeys before we take the next step,” she said.
Estera’s takeaway was the importance of self-care and rejuvenation.
“I want to commit to paying this opportunity forward and cultivating more BIPOC spaces, but to be a part of long-term changes, we have to take care of ourselves,” she explained. “To make a difference for folks, we need to be intentional and strategic to avoid burnout.”
Time to Write
The surface goal of the fellowship centers on writing—creating time and spaces to write, receiving feedback, and having accountability conversations. The structure included bi-weekly virtual writing group meetings, monthly webinars with special topics, and a weekend in-person retreat in March 2022.Dr. Annabelle Estera at work with her graduate studentsEstera counts the weekend retreat as the “shining star moment” of the fellowship, and James appreciates that the group offers accountability in a non-admonishing tone.
“It’s not your standard writing support where they’re like, ‘You said you were going to get x done by the end of the month, where is it?’ but more about, okay, if you didn’t get this done, why?” she said. “What are the solutions for dealing with that next month? It’s about how to build our productivity and create balance in our lives.”
Looking at Diversity in Veterinarians
James used her writing time to work on the analysis and writing phase of her pre-pandemic research project about diversity in the veterinary profession. While an increase in women in the field led to gender parity in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been no corresponding increase in people of color, she noted. Her research aims to uncover why the profession remains 90% White, and add to broader conversations about how the American Veterinary Medical Association might effectively address the issue.
“My research is talking to people; I wanted to get a sense of how they understand what’s going on in the profession—why they think there has been this increase in women, but not people of color,” she said. “Then we can get a sense of how their understanding of what’s going on shapes their behaviors in vet schools and practices.”
A Dissertation’s Next Step
For her writing focus, Estera took an opportunity to break out her dissertation research into four smaller pieces for publication. As a Filipina, Estera noticed a dearth of perspectives from Filipinxs in discussions about diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Her dissertation explored the meanings of decolonization in the personal and professional lives of Filipinx higher education staff.
“How people define decolonization is based on a person’s individual context and mediated by their own environment,” said Estera, who is readying a piece for publication in June in the Globalisation, Societies and Education journal.
“Colonization might mean I don’t speak Tagalog, for instance, or, I don’t know who my ancestors are beyond three generations. I found that everyone’s desire to bring decolonial thinking into their work came from people’s own backgrounds as Filipinx and the reckoning that comes along with thinking about what those topics meant in our own lives.”