The power of scholarship

“Hometown Values & Vision” coverage is made possible by the Kurt Pearson Social Concerns Fund and the Wilson Social Justice Fund of First Unitarian Foundation.

Sousada Chidthachack  (Courtesy Photo)

Most people would be surprised to learn that I was born in a Thai refugee camp and grew up in a north Minneapolis housing 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. I am an energetic 30-year-old female mathematics educator. 

My parents are most proud that I am a teacher. 

While earning a bachelor’s 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. Females and students of color especially need to see educators who are a reflection of them and come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. 

In 2011, I began my journey to pursue a doctorate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education with a supporting field in math. I understood that mathematics equals opportunities, especially for inner-city youth like me. After I complete my doctorate degree in summer 2016, I foresee myself helping to “plant” new schools and improving practices in under-represented areas in the Twin Cities and around the globe. 

During my first year as a doctoral student, I taught mathematics in rural Thailand, and also received a grant from the U.S. government called Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education which enabled me to conduct 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.

A leader at one point in time meant having “muscles” or telling people what to do. Today it means working collaboratively with people to educate, inform, uplift and invest in young women of color to become productive professionals and citizens. 

Sousada Chidthachack is a doctoral candidate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 

Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published as a longer post on the U of M Women’s Center blog. 

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