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Having Stories and Having a Voice: One Decade. Two Podiums.

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by dr. Saby Labor in Standard
May 12, 2016 1 comment

blog 2 title photoI was invited to give a talk to scholarship recipients, donors and faculty at a campus awards ceremony. I was asked to provide a student perspective, as someone who is nearing the end of their doctoral journey, and as a scholarship recipient. I was honored and accepted the invitation. I would like to share with you the talk that I gave at this event, as it speaks to my education pathway and my journey of self-discovery and self-authorship. I hope that there are pieces that resonate with you and your journey.

It was a cold and rainy Minnesota evening and college students scurried in the absence of umbrellas…ah yes, let’s fast forward to the talk:

I wanted to talk with you tonight about having stories and having a voice. Ten years ago, I was asked if I would be the student speaker at my Lavender graduation ceremony, a celebratory event for graduating LGBTQ and ally students. I was simultaneously honored and very surprised; but more of the latter. I thought “What do they see in me that I don’t?” I accepted the invitation, yet I struggled for weeks with my pen hovering above a blank sheet of paper (and yes, we actually got a lot done with pen and paper back in the day). I had so many stories, and overcame so many challenges, hurdles, and barriers to arrive to the graduation stage as the first in my family to earn a college degree. I worked multiple jobs, lived off campus, and entered the university as a community college transfer student. One might have labeled me “at-risk”, or at the very least, overcommitted. My college career was a time where I struggled with my sexual orientation, my gender identity, and my gender expression, never quite feeling comfortable in my skin. You would think I would have had something substantive to share, or even some deep impactful stories to proclaim. I eventually created and delivered this talk to my peers and our families, but I was aware my message lacked depth; it lacked character, wisdom, and meaning.

Fast forward ten years…I stand before you this evening as a doctoral candidate in higher education administration and an aspiring college president. I stand here on the shoulders and backs of countless mentors and influencers, whose wisdom, humility, and tough love shaped who I am today. They have helped me celebrate achievements and milestones, and endure through challenging times. I am here before you, humbled, honored, and unrelenting.

Today, I have a voice. I have agency, self-awareness, and a clearly defined purpose. I stand before you as a scholarship recipient, a partner, and a daughter. My amazing mother, who still doesn’t know exactly what it is that I’m studying, yet, she wholeheartedly and unconditionally loves me and supports my journey.

I arrive to this podium tonight with a message and a call to action for those in the room. I arrive with defined purpose, direction and clarity of values. My voice has never been more empowered than it is today.

I hope you will indulge me in reflecting on the following questions:

“What are you passionate about?”
“What do you wake up so excited to do?”
“What drives you?”
“What message or legacy are you leaving our university? Our community? Our world?”
“What is your voice?”

…and as the ideas begin to piece together and a picture of purpose begins to emerge, building deep connections to your story, then you will discover your voice. You will recognize it when it demands to be shouted from the rooftops. As you find the answers to these questions and others, I challenge you with this inquiry and a call-to-action:“So…what are you going to do about it?”

And with your newly discovered voice…….“Go.Do.It.”

Feel free to share your responses and results from these questions in the comments section below. Want to inspire others to find their voice? Share this post with them.

Saby Labor
Founder of Resilient Campus

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