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The Science of Support - Anjelica L. Gonzalez

Norma Newton

Credit: Hartwell Foundation

Credit: Hartwell Foundation

   Support.  Everyone needs it, regardless of what you do for a living.  When it comes to academia and science there is now a much needed voice that seeks to help others by sharing insight and knowledge.  This narrative comes from Anjelica L. Gonzalez who is a scientist and a Yale University professor. She is also an African-American and Mexican-American woman, raised by a single mom who worked as a blackjack dealer in Vegas.  Curious to know why she is talking about her journey and how she ended up as a scientist?  

   Gonzalez is sharing her story in an attempt to answer questions she routinely gets asked: how she got to where she is now and why there aren’t more people like her in the science world.  In answering the first question, some of the factors she cites for her achievements in the field are humor, ingenuity, tenacity and wit (skills she learned from her mother).  Another important factor has been the presence of advocates who encouraged and endorsed Gonzalez at critical times in her career.  As it turns out, support is also key in answering the second question she is commonly asked.  

   By articulating her experience, Gonzalez also highlights why there is a dearth of women and people of color in the sciences.  While established obstacles like cultural norms and implicit biases persist, Gonzalez exposes the lack of institutional support as yet another hurdle in the path to success.  One way Gonzalez is trying to change this situation is by suggesting professors and peers be taught how to become better mentors.

   Advocacy and mentorship have been vital to Gonzalez’s trajectory.  Perhaps reading about her will remind us to lend a helping hand when the time is right, because ultimately, we all rise together.