Cultural Differences and Imposter Syndrome

This essay was originally written to apply for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Minority Student Leadership Program She was honored to be accepted into the 2019 class of the Minority Student Leadership Program, which she participated in at the November 2019 ASHA convention, Orlando, FL. . Since writing the essay the author has established a club at Arizona State University by the name of Speech and Hearing Science for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (SHS4CLD) with the assistance of faculty advisor Maria Dixon, and peers Nathaly Deane and Jennifer Philp.

To the Minority Student Leadership Program Committee,

“Imposter syndrome is real, but you have to remember that you are here because you deserve to be here.” That approximates what I heard from several mentors and read on numerous blogs before starting my own graduate school program. I listened, and I took note, but I did not believe I would feel the infamous imposter syndrome because of all I had accomplished during my undergraduate career. I knew myself, my work ethic, and why I wanted to be an SLP, and I could not fathom losing touch with those insights. My senior year I was awarded a W. H. Plemmons Medallion for student leadership by the Board of Trustees, Sorority President of the year by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Phil Arnold Award for student leadership by the Department of Student Engagement and Leadership, and the Chapter Leadership Award by the National Pan-Hellenic Council. I was working three different part time jobs, establishing a new campus wide initiative for mental health with the Director of Wellness and Prevention Services, and my grades were great. I was accepted and awarded a federal grant to continue my education at Arizona State University.

Imposter syndrome, for me, began before classes started when I realized I was the only Black student in my cohort of 45. It continued as I spent what felt like countless hours with my peers without forming a true connection with anyone. I joined the local graduate chapter of my sorority and the Black Graduate Student Association at my university and found connections in both of those groups, but still felt out of place in my program. When the fall semester concluded, I was proud of what I had accomplished scholastically and in my clinical rotation, yet I was sincerely weighing if I wanted to continue pursuing speech language pathology.

I believe the leadership role I am missing is one that I need filled for myself. I am now completing my second semester of class and clinic. I have been appointed a state leadership position in my sorority, I am the secretary of the Black Graduate Student Association, and I have plans to help create an organization for students of color in speech and hearing science. I realized that, racial diversity aside, what I have been craving is more open and collaborative dialogues about inclusion, activism and advocacy in CSD. In addition to learning about minoritized populations, I think students need to be engaged in learning how our own identities can influence the care we are providing. I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in MSLP to learn from the stories and experiences of leaders in our field and my fellow students. I believe forming these connections would be personally inspiring and help inform the organization I am starting in my program. I am also interested in learning about and discussing the different ways I can directly support an increase in diversity and inclusion initiatives through leadership after graduate school.

Nicole C. Flournoy is a candidate for Master Degree in Speech/Language Pathology at Arizona State University.