How Do You Know You’re Better than Good Enough?

Do you really think you’re good enough to do this work?

Many underrepresented researchers deal with this question on a daily basis. It was a recurring topic throughout New Connections’ 10th Annual Symposium.

“We all have those doubts,” admitted Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

One idea she shared, is “having a community like this to help you get through those times.”

Rosita López, PhD, professor of educational administration and leadership and previous faculty chair of the Department of Educational Administration and School Business Management, Department of Leadership and Educational Policy Studies at Northern Illinois University, delivered a plenary addressing the difference between obstacles and opportunities the first day of the Symposium.

Even for someone as accomplished as López, who has been appointed to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities, served as chairperson of the Northeastern University El Centro Board for more than 12 years, and received the National Hispanic Hero Award from the National Latino Education Institute, obstacles related to identity can arise when you are a person of color, or a person who is differently abled working in academia. These obstacles are often most profound when institutional workplace diversity lags behind societal realities.

Dr. López recounted her first day at a new job, when she met one such obstacle in the form of   a coworker telling her “don’t get too comfortable, you don’t belong here.” She shared another troubling example when, at another institution, she was told that she was just filling an affirmative action quota.

“In those moments of impostor syndrome,” she shared, “my first instinct is to believe this rejection. In those moments, I forget about the three days of interviews, the years of writing, of working, of research that it took me to get to that point.”

The audience burst into applause at this. Apparently, López was not the only scholar from an underrepresented background who had faced the injustice of poor assumptions and outright discrimination.

By meeting these obstacles head on, New Connections’ network of underrepresented scholars are living out something that scholar Shawn Bediako, PhD, explains in an online profile:

“I used to question whether or not I was ‘good enough’ to be an elite-level scholar and social scientist. Once I started applying the techniques I learned through New Connections, however, I became too busy with being productive and didn’t have time to dwell on the ‘am I good enough’ question.”

New Connections scholars have had to work hard to move forward in their professions. On top of the rigor and risk that come with the territory of academia, scholars continue to  face challenges relating to deeply ingrained inequities and, yet, succeed under incredibly difficult and sometimes hostile work environments. Through a combination of supporting their work, addressing institutional barriers, fostering relationships, and engaging with other researchers, New Connections is seeing its network reach new heights of success — helping scholars and network members turn obstacles into opportunity.