*Accidental* Académica?


“You need to put ‘serendipity’ in there somewhere.” That’s what one of my friends told me when she read my blog announcement. When she saw that I was calling myself an “accidental” academic, she put on her coach hat and made clear: I am no accident: I worked for what I achieved and I am entitled to be called an academic, as is every one of the PhDs out there, no matter where they come from or what school they went to. The rigors of the doctorate are what make those letters so precious. And she’s 100% correct. And make no mistake: I am proud of my achievement and I certainly believe I earned and deserve it! So why did I choose a seemingly self-deprecating title?

The Accidental Académica refers to the bewilderment, anxiety, isolation, frustration, and overall disorientation that I feel as I adjust to being Dr. Leyro. Sometimes I feel as if I literally stumbled into academia. Because what I saw as an ideal for what I was working so hard for got stretched really thin along the long, dark tunnel I crawled through as a graduate student, and then changed completely at the other end, with new goal posts and standards. And if my informal conversations with colleagues and other folks I’ve met at meetings and conferences is any indication, my feelings are not unique. Hearing that others feel and have experienced the same is what led me to start this blog. I want this to be more than just a cathartic tool where I spill my guts on some online diary. I’m wondering: were we sold a bill of goods? Or perhaps, are these experiences related to the same institutional conditions many of the books we read and studied say exist outside of the University?

I have a feeling that the latter applies…

And speaking confusion: I’ve had conversations where people have told me they find it “icky” to use their credentials. Not that they are still tripping over being called Dr. – they are not referring to the urge that even I still feel to turn around and see who they’re talking to whenever they hear ‘Dr. [so and so].] No, I’m talking about people (many of them who are exercising their privilege) who say they think it’s tacky to use the initials “Ph.D.” or “Dr.”

And that confuses me. Because here we are, working so hard to achieve those three letters after our name, to engage in and conduct original research, to write a minimum 200-page document outlining and defending that study. And then you get those three letters, and you’re told that it’s tacky to use them?

Now, I’m not saying I want to go around introducing myself to everyone as, “Hi, I’m Shirley Leyro, Ph.D., please refer to me as Dr. Leyro.” And when I am introduced by anyone to others – even students – I always say my name is Shirley. But yes, I sign my emails with Shirley Leyro, Ph.D. And yes, I expect correspondence to me to use “Dr.” in the greeting.

And it’s not about being on some power trip, or perpetuating the colonizing instrumentality that Freire rightfully and eloquently denounced in his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”

It’s more about being confronted by folks in the academy – most of them who have enjoyed this title for some time – with the argument that to use our credentials is inappropriate and haughty and tasteless – petty. It diminishes the process we struggled through and frankly, denotes some type of sentiment that delegitimizes our achievement. I don’t like it. To me, it always comes off like when a wealthy person expresses disdain over the discussion of money.

So, discussion point: What is your opinion on using your credentials?

Do you agree? Does any of my story relate to you? Or maybe not – either way, please comment and share your own viewpoint…let’s keep the conversation going! Also, please contact me if you are interested in posting a guest blog.

Until next time, I have another blog in less than 2 scaramuccis!


— Dr. ShirLo



(Photo cred: Binder Sister Dr. Kira Thurman)


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