Scholar Stories: Dra. Michelle Tellez

How do you use writing or art in your life? 

I’m interested in stories as a pathway towards human connection and to create a world of possibility. Stories can be told in many formats – through music, oral traditions, writing and even in digital formats – I try to use all of these to share experience, histories, and knowledge systems that are largely undervalued but provide radical hope.

What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship?

There are many examples of feminism that I lived in my home and family of origin even if it wasn’t named as such – this critical lens coupled with growing up along the U.S/Mexico border shapes my work as a scholar, mother, community member and teacher. Being from here nor from there and the experiences of sharp gendered and classed social divisions all led me toward a path of critical inquiry and community embedded work. But I often remember when my mom used to tell me “el que mucho abarca, poco aprieta” which means one who tries to do too much ends up not doing much. I think about this all of the time as a way to be mindful of what and who I need to be accountable for and to.

What would you tell your younger self?

Trust yourself – your heart, your instinct, your gut.

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

 For women of color writers, scholar-activists, and community-embedded teachers, remember that our paths will not be typical, linear, nor will the puzzle pieces always fit perfectly together. Instead, we have to ask ourselves in what ways we want to contribute to our world. I am convinced that we must do work that we are politically, spiritually, and emotionally connected to, work that is accountable to the communities that we represent and are tied to. When we lose this, there is also a loss of joy, creative freedom, and the ability to self-determine and shape our lives. Don’t give up your power!

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