INSPIRING WOMEN: Dr. Cecilia E. Suarez

Dr. Cecilia E. Suarez, better known as "CC", entered my circle in 2012 through my involvement in TPE. TPE (The Placement Exchange) is a Student Affairs employment and resource conference that takes place annually. I was fortunate to be selected as a TPE intern for the 2012 conference in Phoenix. CC was one of our fearless leaders and has been an inspiring woman in my life since.

CC is smart, passionate, social justice focused, supportive, determined, and kind.

As a graduate student completing my Masters of Science in Training & Development, I was, of course, on my professional development hustle. Signing up for this and that, applying for every opportunity that I could find, taking on more than I probably should of but enjoying the experiences and connections that they brought into my young professional life. I don’t remember how I became aware of the TPE Ambassador and Intern positions – but I am so thankful I did!

The opportunity to be a TPE Intern was one of the best professional development opportunities I have experienced. And, through my role as an intern, I was able to build relationships with some of the most amazing people! Not only was I able to get to know a fabulous group of interns – other grad students in Student Affairs – I connected with some real movers and shakers in Higher Ed. This, of course, includes CC who, this past year, was the Event Chair of TPE in New Orleans.

CC was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Miami and majored in biology and elementary education.  Upon completing her Bachelors degree, CC enrolled at Miami University of Ohio where she graduated with a Masters of Science in Education in 2007.

After graduation, CC worked at New York University as the Diversity Educator in the Department of Residential Life and Housing Services for 3 years.  In 2014, Cecilia became Dr. Suarez and graduated with her PhD from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Education Policy Studies. Her research focuses on access and equity for students of color in higher education, particularly first generation women of color. CC currently serves as a faculty member at the University of Illinois in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences and teaches for the Leadership Studies Program. CC’s current research includes “Perceptions and Opportunities of Leadership Among Latino College Students” and “Intersectionalities of Identity among Women of Color in Academia”.

I admire so much about CC. She is the only women I have highlighted this month to have earned her PhD. I admire her brilliance and scholarship while staying true to herself and her identity. She has a funky personal style. (In fact, she was the inspiration for my undercut. I still am not brave enough to have designs shaved in it, though!) She also remains connected to her culture and identity and uses her position in academia to support underrepresented voices. And, CC is a genuine and engaging lady who is fun to be around.

After we met at TPE 2012, I’ve been able to reconnect with CC a few times.  I saw her the next year when I job searched at the conference and then several times here in New Orleans. In fact, last year CC and her crew (three other fab folks) all crammed into my tiny apartment for Mardi Gras. That was actually my first Mardi Gras in the city, so it was great to spend some of it with those old pros! ;) And, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing CC a few times this spring when she was down here for a conference and, just last week, at TPE 2015 (which she chaired! Woop woop!)!

Read about CC’s inspirations and words of advice below. . .

What inspires you?

“I am constantly inspired by people who believe that their lives are much more than just about them. Individuals who are focused on ensuring that every person in society has equal access to human rights inspire me. I am inspired by the strength of the human spirit to find the overall good in things. Although we face many challenges on a daily basis, people's LOVE inspires me.”

Who are women in your life or throughout history that inspire you?

“My mother and grandmother are 2 women who have inspired me to continue "The Good Fight". Raised by these 2 strong women, I learned to never settle, always focus on achieving my goals, no matter what others say, and live the fullest life possible. Although my mother and grandmother never went to college, they were the smartest women I know. They showed me how to be selfless and to always remember to reach my hand outward to help somebody along my journey. Although selfless, my mother is and my grandmother was FIESTY! Don't take their niceness for weakness. They were quick to tell you how it was if they felt like you weren't be fair or honest. Seeing them have a strong voice and strong values allowed me to grow into a SPIT FIRE womyn King who doesn't take "wooden nickels" from anyone!”

If you had one piece of advice for your younger self, what would it be and why?

“Don't allow others to tell you your worth! Your value is based off of your own perspective and does not need to be outwardly validated. Don't do things half-heartedly because you think someone will be mad at you and not think you are a good person. If you don't want to go to a party, DON'T GO! If you don't want to hang out with people because you don't really like them, but don't want to be seen as a "mean" person, DON'T HANG OUT WITH THEM! Your love and value comes from within! Remember not to lose yourself in relationships: friendship, family, or romantic. REMAIN yourself and do not adapt only to the needs of the other person. Reciprocity is key because, baby girl, you're amazing!”



This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!