From the Catwalk to the Commencement Stage with Dr. Felicia Clark

Dr. Felicia Clark  [20:24]

This is another thing that chokes me up. Because I didn’t make that decision. I guess ultimately, I was told I better make that decision. Okay, my career was I got everything I wanted pretty much except I wasn’t a college professor. But that’s okay. I worked with colleges, in my position with Los Angeles school district and with Compton Unified. So I even had classes either that I taught or my staff taught where you get college credit. So that felt college professor enough, you know, I felt like, okay, I don’t get I don’t need to actually finish this. Right. And so I was coming up timing out, you have 10 years, right? Sure. And so I was like, Oh, well, you know, that I’ve just, I just won’t finish. Well, there was a so a weekend, a group that met on the weekends, called APAS, the Association for Pan-African Doctoral Scholars. And so I was involved in that you can be graduate student or already graduated. And it’s a networking group, and they encourage you to publish and I had published and done all that. And so I was helping other people. And I have a friend and I didn’t ask her if I could say her name, but I think it’ll be okay. She’s my fairy godmother in human form. Um, and, and her name is Jackie. So Jackie started after me. And Jackie was a leader, Jackie got the black alumni at Pepperdine together. And so she knew I was about to timeout. She’s like, Felicia, you are going to finish! And I was like, Well, no, you know, I don’t even I didn’t have my notes organized anymore. And then some research still dates. So you got to do it over and get the latest books. And I was like, and I don’t really need that. And she’s like, yes, you do. So Jackie decided I was gonna finish. And you cannot tell Jackie know her name. Dr. Scott. You don’t tell her “no.” Right. So I was like, so I told her, okay, I’ll do it. But I really wasn’t going to I was just like, I don’t want to have any. Job, but she wants to hear it and then go do my thing. Right? And so she say how is coming along? Like, oh, it’s okay. She’s like, I’m gonna meet you at the library next Monday. That’s like me. So she’s like, I’m going and you better be there. So she just set up a library schedule where we’re meeting. And the only reason I went is because she was there. And one day, maybe our second or third meeting, I’m thinking, How can I work him out of this because I don’t even I hadn’t even read my research for a few years. And I just was trying to find the words. And we were at a roundtable in the library. And I was like, I don’t want to finish I just, you know, my career’s going fine. And I would just looked up to tell her that, you know, I don’t want to finish. And she was sleep, she was so exhausted, she was so tired, she had a demanding job, her, her daughter was having a wonderful career in the W MBA, and she was very supportive and very protective of her daughter to make sure nothing bad happened. And she was doing both of those and being, you know, they have athletes, moms, so she was very active in that and would teach the other mothers how to manage their child’s money, so that it lasts and how to invest. So she was doing all of that, and then come into the library to make sure I finish so she sleep. That’s how tired she was just to help me and make sure I finish. And when I just stared at her while she was sleep. I was like, I’m gonna finish. And, um, I had to file for an extension, it was very difficult to finish. And so I had to get strategic about finishing and I did.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [24:17]

Felicia, I


Dr. Felicia Clark  [24:17]

Want to finish fast? Because not because you have to under other deadline, but it just makes sense to finish fast. I figured that out.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [24:25]

Yeah. Now I give my students about that all the time. But yeah, I tell everybody, you’re an adult, you make decisions. You decide what you want to do. What’s important to most of the students I work with, they want to graduate quickly. And that puts you on a certain path towards graduation means you make certain choices and certain decisions. And then folks who have other goals, that’s fine. That’s just not who I work with, because that’s not the way we do things. We our goal is get you to graduation as soon as possible. But I got to safely, so that story. Recognizing that someone was there and supporting you And I mean, that’s just really something. And you’ve got to wonder now, who is seeing you all, you’re not seeing them and saying I got to do what she did as well. Because that’s what happens in this world. And that’s really something. Yeah, I really appreciate that story. Yeah. So so let’s, um, so you when you went back to school, obviously, there’s a lot of hard work to do because like you said, a lot of your research is out of day, you had to get get the ball rolling again. Once you recommitted to it, was there anything else that really made you wonder if you were going to finish or made you think I need to walk away from this? Or was that recomended?


Dr. Felicia Clark  [25:46]

Once I decided I’m finishing I all I could figure out is like, how do I get this done quickly, efficiently and effectively. And by this time, I had so many friends that graduated and started after me, um, you know, because I was at the level of chapter 123. And I never defended it. And then they say, Wait, and then do four or five, six, but so many friends had graduated. And they said, look at the whole thing first, and set up your chapter three. So you can go through chapter four quickly. So that was so helpful.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [26:18]

I love that that is what we do with our students. Because, you know, I tell him that well, so my kids went to a magnet school that used Dr. Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that work they use. Habit number two is begin with the end in mind. And I tell them when it’s when you’re talking about your doctoral degree the end, that I want to talk about, is you getting your data collected and analyzed. Because it’s not obvious. But that’s when the real work is done. When you collected and analyze your data. What you’ve done is you’ve already gone chapter 1, 2, 3, like you said, the proposals done, the committee’s approved it, psychologically they go from wondering, I don’t know about this, Felicia, I don’t know if she’s gonna make it. I don’t know what she’s gonna do. They’ve gone from there to no, we’re on Team Felicia, like we already said yes to her. So when it comes time to look at your final dissertation, they’re predisposed to say yes to you again. So you’ve won that particular. That’s not something you can control what your committee says, but you’ve already pulled them over on your side. So you’ve got that external piece gone, then you have to collect your data, right? Well, that’s again, something that you can’t fully control because it’s an external thing. But once you’ve done it, then you’ve got that piece done. That’s another risk factor gone. And the last thing that you have to do, conceptually, is understand what that data is telling you. And how to report that how to speak to people about it, once you understand it, even before you write it down. That’s the last hurdle out of your way. Now the rest of its just work. It’s not can I do it? Can I not do it? Am I going to figure it out? Is somebody not going to like me and not do what they said they were going to do to help me? None of that stuff matters anymore. Now, sitting down writing it out, giving it to your committee, and then your committee’s gonna push back a little bit, but not like they’re pushed back. For chapter 1, 2, 3. They’ve already said, they’re going to they want to say yes to you again, you have to give them an excuse to say yes, now, rather than them having reasons to say no. So that’s that notion of starting with chapter three. Like I said, we talked our students about that all the time, it’s so important to know where you’re going, and to be very comfortable with the fact that you can get there. And that’s a big motivator to once you know exactly what you got to do to graduate. It’s a lot easier rather than looking at this whole big kind of elephant figuring out how am I going to do this thing?


Dr. Felicia Clark  [28:46]

Yeah, cuz for me, I had this notion in my head of what I wanted to do, and it was big, big, big. Yeah. But when I had to graduate and get done, I got very strategic about just carving out a little small section of that. And I was able to build a career on it. Specifically, because I was the mathematics coordinator in a big district, I was very disturbed by how um Special Ed was made up of black and brown children, and then they teach them basically two plus two over and over again, and they should have been learning algebra. And, and they, they would say, oh, these kids can’t understand algebra. Well, some of the guys in the classes play football. I’m like, the football field is a Cartesian coordinate grid, they can add and subtract integers in their head. Why are they not passing algebra? That’s ridiculous to me. And I had I went to a college with a very good football team. And so we would go and I didn’t really know the game. I just was watching it because it was fun. So all I saw was a mathematics grid. It’s a graph. You know, it’s like quadrant one of a graph. That’s what football was. Like to be you know, and then you know, Quadri running to and I didn’t understand it any other way. So then it was hard for me to understand why our football players doing well in algebra. So I know that they could. So I’m trying to prove this and I have to validate instrument. So that all that got off the plate when I had to graduate. So I was going on. Yeah. Yeah, so, um, long story short, um, I was going to school in California, but I’m from Colorado, and a professor at Colorado State University wrote something called the Math Anxiety Rating Scale. And so I bought some copies from him. And I was like, I’m building my study around that. And then I had worked in Lynwood Unified, and just just, you know, I was like, I got to use my resources. So my first principal, had moved up to associate superintendent over the years. Okay, so I called him and, you know, he was we got along very well, when I was a teacher working under him. So of course, he remembered me and said, I can do a study in his district. So that wasn’t even my home district, but I just needed different districts to make it valid, you know, to so you don’t have a Hawthorne Effect and those kind of things. So, um, I wanted to do my research in three districts. And so Dr. Garcia let me do that. And then Dr. George McKenna, an icon in education. Um, I had the good fortune of working with him in two different districts. So he let me do a study. And so it was, I was able to get in districts quickly because I knew the people but but I picked something where I knew the people where I could, you know, I didn’t have to send a cold letter that sits there for four months, like, I just went in person and ask them, can I do this? And so like, within a week or two, they would let me in and give the math anxiety rating skill.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [31:57]

And I think that’s brilliant. That’s exactly what we tell our students, you know, in terms of thinking about chapter three, is where can you get data? What kind of data do you have access to? What what is it that that you could do? And once we start figuring out what kind of things they can do, and they feel comfortable being able to do, then we figure out, Okay, how do we put that into a study? You know, what instruments are we going to use? What what are we going to do with those resources that you have, in order to turn that into a study. But I think that’s very, very smart that you said, I know I have access to these people, I have a network, I’m going to make sure my study is something that draws from that network so that I can actually use use that those connections. Brilliant.


Dr. Felicia Clark  [32:39]

Yeah. And then the blessing in disguise for me, instead of proving what I think I know, I really just had to look at the results that came back. And it was so profound, and I’m so glad that that happened, which is what you’re supposed to be learning anyway, right to do the study and not have researcher bias. But in my original model, there was a lot of researcher bias. And so I didn’t have that with the math anxiety rating scale. So we just looked at the results. And it was crystal clear that the students were failing algebra because of how they’re tested, not because of what they know. And so I’ve built my career from that and published books, I’ve worked on math textbooks, revamping them so that special ed children get a fair shot at passing the high school exit exam, I wrote a study guide for that, and specialist students, and not just Special Ed, because a lot of students just struggle in math. So anybody but my, my theory. And that’s what Dr. George McKenna helped me think through that if you can serve the most struggling population, you have tools to help all the others. So that’s why I focused on special ed because, like, they’re the center of the Venn diagram, kind of, you know, and so I’m able to help close the achievement gap between girls and boys and help all kinds of things. But I I’ve focused on really understanding what was going on, especially with these brilliant kids that know stuff in their head, but it doesn’t translate on the paper. And so that’s that’s what I built a career on, that I can build my career while I was in grad school. I just got graduated.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [34:31]

That’s so that’s another very important point. I you know, don’t people don’t come to doctoral students for help. They come to doctors, they when they’re looking for an expert, so finish the doctoral student part of your life as quickly as you can so that you can go on and do those other things that you mentioned. But I want to go back cuz you mentioned earlier that you know, you had this career in math that was going quite well. But also you said your career in modeling was going pretty well. And I know that you have done some interesting things related to that since like the book. So tell us a little bit more about this other thing that’s important in your life and how, what you’ve been able to do since you graduated with regard to that.


Dr. Felicia Clark  [35:14]

Yeah, so um, I’m, you know, I mentioned I write math books and math tests, and so there are standards, right? So I’ve done a lot of studying with the anatomy of good standards. I’ve studied the field of psychometrics measuring thinking. And so there’s good standards and bad standards. And so over the years in modeling, you have to meet modeling standards, right? And so over time, the beauty standards just make no sense. It was like, you learn classic beauty. And people say, well, you know, modeling and math, that’s so weird, but actually, I was good at print modeling, not necessarily all the other kinds, but I was good at print modeling, because to me, it was just mathematical proportions. There’s classic beauty, and it’s math to me. So I could do that very well. Some other stuff. Um, I learned it, but it was a struggle with the posing. That’s that that was my preference. And so then over the years, they would say, like, Oh, you need a brush job. But you can make your breasts look bigger and smaller with tape. With clothing tricks, you don’t need to go under the knife. Why are they having all these women go under the knife? And historically, breasts were considered sacred. Why are you asking us to? And you, can you Photoshop, everything else? Why don’t you Photoshop the ideal boob size, you know? And it’s not that the we want to be Photoshopped, they don’t let your pictures out. We don’t own our pictures, you know, they pay us and the person who paid us own the pictures, they would Photoshop them. So just Photoshop the kind of boobs you want. Why do we need to have surgery, you know? So I was just like, this is crazy. So I just there was a book that came out. I don’t remember maybe I want to say 90ish or something. But I had never read it. But it was very intriguing. And it was called the Beauty Myth. So I finally sat down and read it. And she nailed it. The author is Naomi Wolf. And she put voice to everything that I was saying, it just didn’t make sense about how beauty standards are about control. And when the economy quiet crashed in 2008, for a very short time, there were more women in the workplace than men. I don’t know if people know that. But like places closed, there was a foreclosure crisis, people laid off very fast. And so high in jobs, which were mostly men, the high paying jobs, those cut first. So women have the lower paying jobs, but they were still part of the workforce deriving income. So 2008, when there was more women in the workforce for just about a year and a half, that’s when you need Botox, you need but fillers, you need, you know, every you need 50 kind of surgeries to be beautiful. So that was so clear to me, because I read data, I’d rather read a data report then watch a, you know, something cool on TV, you know, so I’m, I’m looking at all these data reports. And I was like, it was painfully obvious to me that they’re using these beauty standards to take women’s money because women were making the money to consume your time, because then you don’t have time to really be powerful, you know, and you just leave it on exhaustion. Even if you got power, you can enjoy it because you’re exhausted. So I’m seeing all this, you know, I have the data that women spend three and a half hours more per week grooming to look acceptable for their workplace. So to me from my modeling background, if you’re deriving benefit from women looking beautiful, then they should get a mom fee. That’s how I feel about it. Not that they really would happen. But you know, it just they’re, the economics made sense that, you know, like restaurants, they want the hostess to be beautiful. Well, she should get them mom fee and you should pay for the makeup. You can call it a makeup artist. Why is she going paying for her own makeup, it’s been in her own time off the clock to get model ready. Like they pay you to do that when you’re a model. So I’m just looking at all these economics and thinking something doesn’t pass the smell test here. And so Naomi’s Wolf’s book just basically said as women get more power and money, beauty standards get higher and higher and she calls it an Iron Maiden I call it Beastly Standards. So Beauty and the Beastly standards, you know, beauty becomes more beastly if women have power. I’ve interviewed women all around the world because it’s the same formula, but different actual beauty standards. So it depends if you live in this country, your eyes are what make you beautiful, in this country, it’s your hip structure. In this country, it’s your lip size, but it’s the same formula. They just have moveable pieces. So I interviewed women that live in areas with low birth rates, where the society needs women to have more children, the beauty standard looks like them. And societies where they want you to control women, the beauty standard is the opposite of how you naturally how you naturally look. Consistent all over the world.

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.