My name is Sousada Chidthachack and I am an energetic 30 year old female mathematics educator. Most people would be surprised to learn that I was born in a Thai refugee camp and grew up in a north Minneapolis project. I am the second woman in my family to receive a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree; but the first to earn a graduate degree. My parents however, are most proud that I am a teacher. I am sharing my journey as a Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló (Women’s Center) Scholarship recipient because my story inspires hope and change in the community—from how people choose to invest in young women of color, to funding for education of women in underrepresented fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). I made a commitment to sharing my story and a commitment to service because my community has given so much to me. In the following paragraphs, I will share my journey towards a PhD in order to garner more support for women and underrepresented communities.
In 2011, I embarked on a journey to pursue a PhD in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education with a supporting field in Math since I understand that mathematics equals opportunities, especially for inner-city youth like me. Upon completing my doctorate degree, I foresee myself helping to “plant” new schools, and seeking to improve current practice in under-represented areas in the Twin Cities and around the globe. For example, during my first year as a PhD student, I taught mathematics in rural Thailand, and the same year, received a grant from the U.S. government called Funding for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) where I conducted research on a high achieving mathematics department in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
I am an educational activist in the Twin Cities. I serve as a math tutor and mentor to low-income high school and college students who would otherwise not be able to afford a tutor to help them succeed in their mathematics courses.
A leader at one point meant having “muscles” or telling people what to do. Today it means working collaboratively with people to educate, inform and uplift them to become productive professionals and citizens, just as the Women’s Center is doing. My philosophy is to lead by inspiring others to do their best in institutions of learning, especially encouraging females to pursue STEM careers.
My journey is also a testament that education can transform a life. While earning a bachelors and a graduate degree, I have studied on six continents. My hope is for students to understand that education truly can lift them from poverty by providing career and leadership options. Urban students, especially females and students of color need to see educators who are a reflection of them and come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. I am thankful, that I am able to do just that. This fall I am teaching mathematics at my alma mater, University of St. Thomas, while completing my dissertation.
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