Pictured L-R: Kim Chhay, Tammy Robinson, Robin Tyler
Yeah, you know you remember the slogan, and five Stark State College professional women recently reiterated just how true it is: You’ve come a long way, baby.
To cap off the College’s celebration of Women in History Month, the panel of women talked about how their life is markedly different than their mothers’ and grandmothers’ as well as the challenges of juggling the many roles of women in today’s world. Panel members were Kim Chhay, multicultural student affairs advisor; Tammy Robinson, orientation and student engagement advisor; Robin Tyler, multicultural student affairs officer; Lu-Hsin Klein, director of technology training and services; and Yojana Sharma, PhD, interim co-dean and department chair/associate professor of mathematics and physics.
Klein’s life, she said, seems light years away from the era when her grandmother painfully bound her feet to meet the standards of Chinese cultural beauty. To her grandmother and mother, “education and career were not important,” she said. “The focus was to serve a husband, cook, raise the children.” Raised in Malaysia until age 21, Klein was educated by English-speaking nuns while her brothers went to Chinese schools. Not fluent in Malay, she was discouraged from attending college. “I said, ‘I am not going to let this country stop me from having an education.’” Homesick but determined, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Kent State University. “I’ve taught my daughter education is so important,” she said.
Sharma’s grandmother in India may have had the “simple, hassle-free life” Sharma dreamed of, but, banned from education, she had to resort to stealing materials from the boys on their way home from school to teach herself to read and write. Sharma’s mother earned a master’s degree, but did not pursue a career while Sharma, a PhD who has been in the United States for 20 years, juggles many roles professionally and personally. But “I still go home and cook dinner most days,” she said. Her daughter plans to pursue a career in medicine.
During the genocide in a dictator-ruled Cambodia, Chhay’s mother managed to shepherd her surviving children to the United States. Having entered an arranged marriage at age 16 with no education, in the U.S. she opened a restaurant to support her children. “She encouraged us to open our minds and learn all we could in our new country,” Chhay said. Even today Chhay said she personally works to juggle the roles and expectations from her culture, her family, her profession and herself.
The strong work ethic of Tammy Robinson’s parents apparently was passed on to her. Following a 20-year path as a traditional and nontraditional student, she became a first-generation college graduate. Now she’s close to earning a master’s degree. “My mother was my cheerleader,” she said. Her mother also taught her, she said, that taking care of your physical and mental health goes a long way toward success, whether wearing the hat of mom, student, caregiver, employee … or many at one time. “Sometimes,” Robinson said, “I have to put up the sign that says I’m officially ‘closed’ for a while.”
Don’t wear sweatpants in public, even at 4 a.m. in Walmart. “You will see someone you know,” Tyler said. “You’re always representing yourself, your family, your employer – always someone.” Tyler, who has also been both a traditional and nontraditional student, has worked full time and gone to school and has experienced the demands of both caring for parents and parenting, can empathize with her students. “A great support system is important,” she said. “I had to learn to ask for help. Women have to make time to take care of themselves, because we take care of so many others.”
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