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Texas Exes Asian Alumni Network » Faculty Spotlight » September Faculty Spotlight: Kenyatta Dawson

September Faculty Spotlight: Kenyatta Dawson

We’ll be doing a new feature every  month where we’ll do a spot light feature on an Asian American; faculty, alumni, and a current student leader.

Our first one of the month is with Kenyatta Dawson of the Center for Asian American Studies.

Kenyatta Dawson

1. What are you involved in here at UT

I am the Program Coordinator and Lecturer for the Center for Asian American Studies. As Lecturer, I connect students to the APA population within the Austin community through service-learning opportunities. As Program Coordinator, I wear many hats. My primary roles are: advisor, course scheduler, events coordinator, community liaison, secretary for the Asian/Asian American Faculty & Staff Association (volunteer), advisor for two student organizations (volunteer), and dabble with graphic design/webdesign.

2. Best memory, favorite tradition, or favorite thing about UT

One of my favorite memories was when first began working for the Center.  Dr. Hsu, director of CAAS, and I were walking through campus.  Comparing both my undergrad and graduate universities to UT-Austin, I was astounded by the diversity.  In a heavy way, I felt responsible for every Asian/Asian American that I passed! I remember thinking, “Whoa, I’m going to be very busy.” [laughing] Indeed, I was correct. I have also learned that the responsibility is not all on me.  Students also have the responsibility to seek out their resources.

3. Are there any interesting projects that you’re working on?

To increase our overarching mission of broadening the awareness of Asian American issues, our Center will devise a Student Advisory Board made up of majors, minors, a core faculty member, and myself.  I am very excited about this team because it will bring us one step closer to the APA undergraduate experience.  As an administrator, I will never be able to encounter what the average UT-Austin undergraduate experiences.  The Student Advisory Board will allow us to connect not only to the APA community, but to the UT-Austin student population.

4. Advice for any current students or incoming Freshman?

When in doubt follow your heart.  I can not tell you the countless times I have encountered this scenario: Student A is terribly unhappy with his/her current major & course in life. They could change their college plan to acquire happiness. If they continue their current course & graduate, they will make a lot of people happy and live up to everyone’s expectations.  However, if he/she changes the direction of their ship, there’s a high probability of loneliness, feeling of failure, fear of the unknown, and a great potential to be happy.

Creating a life worth living is difficult. Change is difficult. The difficulty of making life changing decisions is now in your control as a person who’s becoming their own independent individual. Change can also be fun, challenging, and empowering. There’s nothing wrong with making your supportive network proud of you.  There’s also nothing wrong with changing your plans now or in the future. For an incoming freshman I’d advise you to seek out three major resources: your major advisor, the Career Exploration Center, and a faculty member who mirrors your interests.  For current students, I’d add on: seek a mentor who is currently in the career you see yourself 15 years from now. These individuals should guide you towards your goals, even if you have no clue what that actually entails. Furthermore, these individuals can demystify the processes of obtaining your goal(s) and bring your ideals into realism.

5. UT’s motto is “What Starts Here Changes the World”. What’s one thing you would like to see done while here at UT?

One thing, which of course is out of my locus of control, is to see more intermingling of faculty, staff, and student resources.  At times, I feel that we’re all reinventing the wheel. We are all here for the central purposes of creating a community of young adults who will become active citizens.  For me, “What Starts Here Changes the World” means that what is learned here at UT-Austin will hopefully create individuals who will give what they have intellectualized back to their community.

6. What’s something that you’ve learned while at UT that you didn’t learn from a classroom?

I have found my voice and my own method of communicating to populations.  As a marriage and family therapist, I have always worked within the systems of counseling which is usually a one-on-one relationship.  I have learned that whether I’m speaking to one student or a group – I’m really speaking to the whole community since what I’m saying is incorporated into the listeners thoughts and acted out based on their methods of interaction.  I am still learning this all important skill and have great hopes to increase my approach to reclaiming my voice.

7. Favorite role model

Boy, this is a difficult one! Let’s see. Quite honestly, I’d say Queen Latifah at the present moment. I love her song U.N.I.T.Y. and just her presence.  One of my favorite professors once told me “What other people think of you is none of your business.” That is now my living motto. I would like to say Queen Latifah lives by this quote also. I just see a photo of her and think “Wow, such grace, fun, and power! Go, Latifah! GO!!!”

Written by Jennifer Wang

Filed under: Faculty Spotlight · Tags: , ,

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