As calculated risks provides professionals of color the

As my network has expanded, I’ve found that
people of color are impacted by the imposter phenomenon differently, but
regardless, many have developed strategies to assist with coping, thriving, and
redirecting their mindsets.  Professionals
of color have historically repurposed barriers into opportunities and the
imposter phenomenon has the potential to continue this tradition.  While there is still a lot to learn, professionals
of color will continue to reframe the impact of the imposter phenomenon and master
the ability to use it as a tool to direct their professional growth and move
closer towards becoming a better version of themselves. 


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Transcending the imposter phenomenon takes inward
and outward courage.  Using strategies
that are rooted in increasing comprehensive knowledge and taking calculated
risks provides professionals of color the opportunity to remain anchored to
their core values and beliefs while stretching their potential.  In my experience, I recognized that knowledge
acquisition was the best tool to help me overcome personal barriers placed by
imposter phenomenon and lingering impacts of my multiracial identity.  Furthermore, while some professionals, within
the division and beyond, focus on becoming specialists, the ability to become a
generalist and understand the inner workings of the institution can address imposter
feelings, increase my confidence, and increase professional value to the organization.

Student affairs professionals of color should
have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about the inner workings of their
institution.  Too often the desire to
learn and advance remains within functional areas or divisions, but the ability
to understand and articulate how various functions of the institution integrate
and advance the mission are invaluable.  Professionals
of color should not become victims of self-imposed limitations due to
traditional approaches of navigating and advancing within student affairs.  The increase of professionals of color in
student affairs, especially administrator roles, is a game changer and, as a
result, new rules may need to be applied. 
Additionally, professionals of color can create positive change within
their institutions by maximizing the influence of their positions and the
campus partners.  One of the best ways to
overcome the imposter phenomenon is to take healthy calculated risks that
increase self-perceived competency.  In
doing so, professionals model behavior that demonstrates how to create positive
changes and potentially provides courage to others.  As professionals of color advance into
administrator roles there are countless opportunities to initiate change for
the betterment of all people, as well as advance of culture of excellence. 

As the student affairs industry becomes more
diverse and enriched by professionals that are qualified and have opportunities
to advance, feelings of inadequacy do not disappear.  The foundation of the student affairs
profession is grounded in helping people become the best version of themselves
and the imposter phenomenon can prevent individuals from reaching their
potential.  As people of color continue
to populate institutions where they’ve been historically underrepresented and
marginalized, they must find ways to make systemic and personal changes that
impact others regardless of their identity. 
For me, the strategy to creating these systemic and personal changes was
guided by lessons learned through my multiracial identity: learn the rules and
change the game from within.

Strategies to Overcome Imposter Phenomenon

To navigate these experiences, I relied on
lessons I learned as a multiracial child including leveraging my identities to
navigate systems, exercising my ability to move in and out of subgroups, and applying
an unwavering commitment to becoming my best self.  I learned early how to assess and evaluate
systems to determine the most efficient way to reach my goal.  I developed and refined the ability to read
my environment and calibrate my personal brand to enhance collaborative
partnerships related to duties.  Finally,
I navigated imposter phenomenon battles internally to ensure that I privately
overcame barriers that prevented me from moving towards my goals. 

As a Black and Puerto Rican professional
whose career begin as a twenty-one-year-old Director and advanced to an
Assistant Vice Presidency by twenty-nine, as well as an educational career that
included a master’s in business administration and doctorate by twenty-seven, I
have been challenged and enriched primarily by experiences related to my age, in
addition to those related to my race or gender. 
Early in my career I recognized that regardless of my competence,
education, and experience, I would always be youngest person in the room, which
often resulted in an immediate lack of respect, which often felt as a lack of respect.  In those moments it was difficult to
distinguish what were actual forms of unfair treatment versus negative perceptions
due to my lack of confidence, but through professional advancement, mentorship,
and maturity it has become easier differentiate circumstances and the best
methods of response. 

As the community of student affairs
professionals, especially administrators, have become more diverse, these
experiences and characteristics directly impact the way in which people lead
and create change on campuses.  While a certain amount
of self-doubt is normal in any position, Hutchins (2015) explained that
individuals experiencing imposter phenomenon tended to have heightened anxiety associated
with taking credit for their successes. 

Imposter Phenomenon and Administrators of

When considered collectively, these attrition
factors, characteristics of multiracial individuals, and the psychological
impact of the imposter phenomenon can extinguish a student affairs
professional’s attempt to survive and thrive within a campus community. 

The subject of attrition within the
profession of student affairs has continued to interest professional and
researchers for decades (Renn & Jessup-Anger, 2008).  Lorden (1998) and Tull (2006) found that
50-60% of student affairs professionals exit the industry within the first five
years.  Multiple research studies
identified job dissatisfaction, work environment issues, declining morale, and
negative transitions from graduate school to professional life as the primary
reasons for departure (Berwick, 1992; Boehman, 2007; Conley, 2001, Rosser,
2004; Rosser & Javinar, 2003).  More
specifically, Marshall, Gardner, Hughes, & Lowery (2016) explained
dissatisfaction with role ambiguity, role conflict, stress, job burnout, work
load, and perceived opportunities for career advancement as primary concerns
from former student affairs professionals.

Multiracial individuals are often described
as those who identified with two or more racial heritages (Root, 1992; Root
& Kelley, 2003).  Root (1992)
explained that these individuals experienced a variety of personal challenges
related to acceptance and belonging, physical appearance, sexuality, and
self-esteem.  Yet, Sands and Schuh (2004)
added that these students do not always need assistance in developing a healthy
identity because of coping mechanisms gained through experiences from their
youth.  Some of these include the ability
to easily navigate in and out of social groups, evaluate systems to maximize
benefits, and grit resulting from perceived or actual isolation from peers
(Spicer-Runnels, 2015).  Despite changes
to the US Census that allowed individuals to self-identify in multiple racial
categories, multiracial individuals, including student affairs professionals, continued
to experience challenges related to identifying themselves at institutions that
collect this data through a monoracial framework (Spicer-Runnels, 2015).  Renn (2008) found that many institutions racial
identity assessments were unsystematic and often resulted in multiracial
students being forced to choose one race category or defaulting into a singular
category, especially when Hispanic was selected as an identifier.

Clance and Imes’ (1978) found that highly successful
women, who despite their accomplishments and competence, discounted their
intellect and as a result, coined the term imposter phenomenon.  They found those with impostor feelings often
lived in fear of being exposed as a fraud and consequently held themselves to
exceptionally high standards regardless of their academic and professional
successes.  While imposter phenomenon was
originally and extensively studied in high-achieving women and later expanded
to other college student samples including graduate and undergraduate students
(Clance & Imes, 1978; Gibson-Beverly & Schwartz, 2008), newer studies have
examined the impact on higher education faculty and professionals (Hutchins,
2015).  Furthermore, some research has found that the imposter
phenomenon was higher among women than men, other studies have failed to
produce gender differences (Cokley, McClain, Enciso, & Martinez, 2013;
Cowman & Ferrari, 2002). 

Literature Review

Millennials are often criticized for aspiring
to advance too quickly without adequate experience and while this may be
accurate in some cases, there are many young professionals that have advanced
to administrative positions and achieved successes, but feel like imposters.  This feeling, known as imposter phenomenon
(Clance & Imes, 1978), refers to a person’s belief that they are a fraud or
phonie.  These individuals often fear
being exposed as inadequate and hold themselves to exceptionally high standards.  As a result, the imposter phenomenon has a
direct impact on the way they survive and thrive as student affairs

Transcending the Imposter Phenomenon as a
Multiracial Professional