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Five of Our Favorite Female Professors Share Their Best Pieces of Life Advice with Students

College is tough even for the best of us. As students, we’re locked in a frenzied state of perpetual growth and change while being regularly confronted with heavy workloads, daily stresses, and introspection about the frightening future. Having resisted the urge to crawl under the covers with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and wait to implode under the weight of all the adult pressures, we reached out to several amazing female professors here at UWF and asked them to give us some life advice about the ins-and-outs of surviving the professional world free of Cherry Garcia overdoses. Here’s what they had to say.

1. “Support your fellow women.”

Dr. Kelly Bushnell, Professor of Victorian Literature, Critical Methods, and Introduction to Literature in the Department of English as well as being a board member of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Faculty Advisory Board, offered us these much needed pearls of wisdom.

“The most important advice I can give you brilliant brave Lady Argos as you go out into the working world is to support your fellow women, lift them up, and celebrate their accomplishments.  Any woman’s success is all of our success.  And if you’re in a field or workplace where you’re routinely the only woman or one of just a few, remember that as you blaze your trail we are all behind you, sitting on your shoulder like a million Rosie Riveters whispering in your ear ‘You can do it!’” She also recommended that “every woman’s college degree should come with a copy of Jessica Bennet’s Feminist Fight Club, which is hilarious, poignant, and full of practical tools for dealing with manterrupters, mansplainers, and other workplace nonsense.”

2. “Don’t only meet expectations, but exceed expectations.”

Professor Mamie Webb Hixon, Director of the UWF Writing Lab and Respected, professional grammarian, gave us an exceptional interview wherein she gifted us with some serious girl power guidance.

“Maintain your identity. There is no need to develop a special identity for the workplace. Be who you are, do what you believe in doing, and be productive at it. Don’t only meet expectations, but exceed expectations. That’s how you succeed. The same rubric you would need for succeeding as a student will apply to your life after college. And be passionate about what you do! Find your passion, and get immersed in it. Find something that you do like, even if it isn’t your job. If your passion is volunteerism, then embrace that too. Choose the major you want and can be passionate about.”

When asked about advice pertaining to Women of Color in particular, Professor Hixon gave us these words of wisdom. “Don’t allow gender, race, or the color of your skin to be stagnating forces in your life. Let those things be your conscience but not your cage.”

3. “Calmly process your situation, and don’t be afraid to be assertive.”

We also met with Dr. Robin Blyn, Professor of Postcolonial Literature, 20th Century Contemporary Literature, and several other classes, and the coordinator for the Pensacola installation of The Typewriter Project. She gave us some great advice about the workforce.

“I think with the #MeToo Movement, young women are really aware that they are going to greet sexism at some point in their lives. Young women really need to remember their self-worth and speak up for themselves, and I don’t necessarily mean speaking out of anger. When you’ve been bypassed or you’ve been silenced, you could rage or you can say nothing, and I don’t think either of those are necessarily good ideas. Calmly process your situation, and don’t be afraid to be assertive. I’ve found that my female students are more likely to apologize for their opinions or what they’re going to say, and I think it’s important for them to know that they don’t need to let the men do all the talking. Don’t apologize for who you are or for your ideas. It’s important to convey that you are someone to be taken seriously.”

4. “Students tend to sell themselves short in a lot of ways. Shoot big, wherever that takes you.”

Dr. Katherine Romack, Professor of Early Modern Literature and contributor to the field of women’s and gender studies at UWF, gave us some poignant tips on how to be successful both in our educations and in our future workplaces.

“Everything depends on the life and the job that you want to go for. It’s important for students to really think about their progress and direction before graduation. Think hard about what you want to do. Be passionate! Don’t go forward and make decisions if you aren’t completely passionate about certain jobs. More importantly, don’t settle. Students tend to sell themselves short in a lot of ways. Shoot big, wherever that takes you. When you get into a serious job, work your butt off, and you will go far. You’ve got an edge, so make yourself useful.”   

5. “Always communicate professionally, respectfully.”

And finally, we were able to speak with Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, professor of computer science and director of the Center for Cybersecurity, who gave us this little gem of wisdom.

“Set goals for yourself and challenge yourself to achieve them. Always communicate professionally, respectfully, and in the same manner that you expect others to communicate with you.” This advice will be particularly useful in the world after college where, oftentimes, communication is the key to success.

An excitement for the future that is wrapped up in an anxiety about the unknown is just another part of college. We’ve all been there, and it’s easy to lose focus. Luckily for us, we’ve got amazing female professors here at UWF who are open, honest, and always willing to give us some amazing guidance on life, professionalism, and the workplace after graduation. May we never weep over a pint of melted ice cream again!

I'm a UWF student majoring in English Writing.