Life As A Post Doc – Dr. Fiorella Carlos Chavez
Dr. Fiorella L. Carlos Chavez, a postdoctoral scholar in Human Development and Family Science and the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award and 2019 SRCD Latino Caucus Dissertation Award, is committed to ensuring that her research involves giving back to students in order to see them thrive in spite of life obstacles they may face. Her research involves exploring health challenges, family decisions, stressors among Latino children, youth, and families along with the health and developmental implications of Latino migrant youth in U.S. agriculture.
“For me, working with undergraduate students is the highlight of my day. My students are curious, take initiative, and openly share their ideas, suggestions, and strategies to best meet deadlines and research presentations. I give them the freedom to focus on areas that resonate with their values and agency (e.g., social justice, mental health awareness, long-distance parenting, acculturative stress, family support),” says Chavez.
Dr. Chavez shares how her identity as an immigrant Latina allows her to relate to the desire for belongingness that many Latinx youth experience in the U.S. and across borders. “My work focuses on Latino Emancipated Migrant Farmworker Youth, a semi-forgotten population who are essential to the U.S. economy. Latino/a migrant youth come to the U.S. on their own, without their parents, to work in agriculture. I have found they are also youth who are predominantly males, ages 15 to 20, who not only provide for themselves but also provide for their parents and siblings back in their home countries. As young migrant farmworker youth face many risks, including exploitation, and challenging working conditions and a profound sense of loneliness,” Chavez explains.
However, Dr. Chavez explains how their resilience and ability to overcome in spite of their circumstances is a constant reminder of her own journey. “Despite their day-to-day challenges and stressors, these youth are resilient and hope to eventually return to their home countries and be reunited with their families. The public can learn so much from these youth, they are a living proof of a child’s love for one’s parent, to the point of leaving home for work abroad” says Chavez.
Above all, Dr. Chavez says mentoring her students has also become a full circle moment within her academic career thus far. “I remember one of my undergraduate students saying ‘I want to get started on my abstract, I wanna be on top of my game’ and that was a total déjà vu moment for me. That was a phrase I constantly used with my mentor from Florida State University. It helped me realize that in life, things go full circle: one day we are mentees and later we become mentors,” shares Chavez.
And when asked what advice or words of wisdom she would share with current graduate students, Dr. Chavez offers graduate students and postdocs the following advice for success:
Make mistakes and learn from them.
When you are young, you do not know any better. You are going to make mistakes and that is OK, you will learn from your mistakes, and you will grow. All the hard knocks from life that you have receive or that you will receive (e.g., disappointments, failures, sacrifices, being bullied in public) are preparing you to become a better version of yourself.
Find a good mentor
Find a good mentor and develop a lasting friendship with that person. Your mentor may or may not look like you but they will be the right person you need to walk through life (e.g., academic life), especially in some of your darkest tunnels.
Walk your talk
You need to practice what you preach that way you can also help others become a better version of their selves. Remember that a Tiger is beautiful, not despite of their stripes, but because of them.