Pursuing My Dreams Without Limitations

As I worked through my doctoral program at The George Washington University (GW), I often reflected on the second stanza of the Phi Mu creed:

Being steadfast in every duty small or large.

Believing that our given word is binding.

Striving to esteem the inner man above culture, wealth or pedigree.

These lines were particularly important to me as I promised myself in my undergraduate years that I would one day earn a doctoral degree. After obtaining my Master’s in Higher Education and starting my career, I also sought to follow through on another promise I made to myself, to dance professionally. I was able to accomplish that goal when I was selected as a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader for four seasons, and that opportunity redirected my life in ways I could have never imagined. Working with the Miami Dolphins franchise I developed a deeper passion for understanding individuals, their learning and leadership styles, and how they defined meaningful work. Bridging my undergraduate years, higher education experience, and seasons in the NFL, I identified organizational studies as the next step in my career. I sought to pursue my doctorate at GW in Washington, DC due to its respected faculty, research-based curriculum, and to learn outside of my comfort zone of South Florida.

Once at GW, I centered much of my research on women in the larger scope of organizations in the U.S. GW faculty empowered me to be a voice for women as underrepresented leaders in boardrooms, leadership pipelines, and advocating for women who continue to face disparities in the workplace. They encouraged me to commit to quality work, whether large or small-scale opportunities, to not only build my expertise but also to continually reflect on who I am as a woman in the U.S. GW faculty reminded me that every experience and effort would lead me to discover my voice as a researcher and lifelong learner. With an understanding of the professional sports industry, I knew this field, in particular, lacked proper representation of women, especially minority women, despite our leadership potential, contributions, and talents. Combing these points, I decided my dissertation would focus on Latina executives and their experiences in the professional sports industry.

As the completion of my program approached, I came to understand my degree and dissertation could be delayed as a result of financial aid. Receiving a Phi Mu Scholarship at a pivotal time in my academic career was not only an honor and a blessing but also a catalyst. The generous assistance I received allowed me to delve into research without limitations. I was able to complete and defend my dissertation in less than a year and graduated with a 4.0 GPA in Human and Organizational Learning. Last May, I was selected as the commencement speaker for the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and chose to convey the message of ‘knowing and doing’. Simply knowing is not enough, rather it is doing that will impact lives– using knowledge to take meaningful action, doing what is right or difficult, and committing to what we say we are going to do.

Phi Mu allowed me to follow through on my promise to earn a doctoral degree, and more importantly to create knowledge in hopes of making a difference. This scholarship helped me to highlight the few Latinas leading the way in sports and to share the stories of their hurdles, victories, and the ongoing drive to reach their goals– in every duty, small or large. Moreover, this scholarship helped me to identify how their experiences can pave the way for other women and help organizations move forward by illuminating women leaders’ potential and abilities above culture, wealth, or pedigree.

Throughout my doctoral journey, I had the unconditional support of my two sisters, who are Phi Mus as well, and I can proudly say I also completed this journey with the support of hundreds of other sisters who chose to invest in my potential. My immediate goal is to publish research related to my dissertation in an effort to provide other women with a roadmap for the corporate and sports world. Long-term, I intend to live my life in a way where I turn knowledge into meaningful action. Part of that meaningful action is to contribute to the Phi Mu Foundation so other sisters can create their meaningful action. It is my hope that sisters will also make this commitment. The difference that sisters helping sisters makes is paramount– the impact is lasting, much like our creed.

Written and submitted by Phi Mu Foundation Scholarship Recipient Mariela Campuzano, Theta Gamma Chapter at Florida International University.