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Big Bend Community College William C. Bonaudi Library

William C. Bonaudi Library's Down the Research Rabbit Hole | Issue 7 | Dr. Sara Thompson Tweedy, DM, President of Big Bend Community College | A Plan Called Yes

by Rhonda Kitchens on 2020-09-04T18:34:00-07:00 in Library and Research Skills | Comments

 

Issue 7 and 8 of Dr. Sara Tweedy's Down the Research Rabbit Hole

 

You have had an amazing range of studies, professions, and successes. Not everyone has been a heavy wheel diesel mechanic and also attended Yale Divinity School. Your range is breathtaking. You've worked on issues of justice, reform, LGBTQI, and education. Your tagline "See you around the Bend" has also been attention-grabbing.  It seems in addition to the range of studies and experiences you may also have some promo mojo.  Through these years, what have been your go-to texts, journals, magazines, and/or online resources?  Do you have gurus, mentors, or writers/researchers that serve as your inspirations?

 

I can’t resist saying that the question implies that I took a well-thought-out path through life. I definitely did not. Life has invited me to embark on interesting journeys and I have taken a variety of different trails getting stronger and more confident on each adventure. Maybe the universe has this well-laid plan, but I am not privy to the plan. Whenever life tempts me with a new adventure I just keep saying, “Yes!” I want to learn and grow as a result of the places life takes me. 

In college, I was introduced to the advocacy and writings of incredible people like Audre Lorde and bell hooks, who shared a perspective and a vision that really pricked my conscience. I also was fascinated by Eleanore Roosevelt who used her position of privilege to advocate for equity. From then on, I read voraciously—books, magazines, journals—and listened carefully to others about their lived experiences. My go-to writings are the biographical stories of individuals who pursued a fairer, more equitable world enduring great risk, ridicule, and harm.

  Image of Dr. Sara Thompson Tweedy

What kind of research did you do to prepare for your interview at BBCC?  What sources did you consult? Did you use social media or another other digital media? Is there a story about a place or event in the area that intrigued you?  

 

My research on BBCC began before I even applied for the presidency. One of my make-or-break criteria is related to diversity. Because Big Bend is a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS), I decided to learn more. I read the college’s strategic plan, the Academic Master Plan, the Campus Climate Action plan, Board of Trustees Minutes, and other publicly available information such as completion rates. I studied the organizational structure, read the local newspaper, and researched all things Moses Lake and Big Bend. I also spoke to people who live in Washington and work in the Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges (WACTC) system. As I progressed in the search process, I returned to those sources and individuals and kept digging deeper. 

 

 

Your dissertation: Tweedy, S. T. (2018). More than Just Numbers: Strategies for Improving the Use of Data to Increase Community College Student Progress and Success (Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland University College), includes in the acknowledgment a small anecdote about your sons who wanted to play soccer, but you were busy researching, writing, refining, and completing your dissertation. We have many student parents on our campus.  Do you have any research advice for them and their unique challenges?

 

My most important piece of advice, GET HELP FROM LIBRARIANS! They know their way “around the stacks.” They’ll save you a lot of heartaches trying to figure out a research approach on your own. 

In addition, I deployed two strategies that served me well. You may know the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant?” Disgusting, but useful imagery that encapsulates one of those strategies—one bite at a time. Being a mother of two, a professional with great responsibility and a part-time doctoral student meant that every single day was chock full of things that I needed to do, places I needed to be, and people to whom I needed to attend. If I did not take my research in bite sizes, I could be overwhelmed quickly. My first piece of advice: Break the assignments down into smaller actionable steps and the first step in that process is… wait for it… talking to a librarian. Accomplish that step!

Lastly, keep the goal in mind. When I wanted to cry and tear my hair out, I took a mental break to imagine that moment when my sons would ask me to play soccer on some Saturday afternoon and I would be able to say, “YES!” (When they read that statement in the acknowledgments, they held me to it too!) Another was imagining graduation day when my sons would also see their mother at the hooding ceremony with all of the pomp and circumstance that comes with it. While they may have been too young to fully understand all the implications, I know they will in time. 

 

Image of Dr. Sara Thompson Tweedy with pet

 

Tell us about one of the biggest or the most important presentations you have ever done.  What was your research approach? How far did you go with audience research?  What type of feedback did you get?  Did you use any unique sources? 

Presenting myself as a candidate for president at Big Bend was my most recent high stakes presentation! I was so honored to progress through each stage of the process, but I had to check my ego that I was not in this process to get the job at all costs. I wanted to present an authentic version of my vision so that there would be no question about who I would be as president—a student-centered, approachable leader with heart and passion for the justice mission of community colleges. While I was reading cues that this vision was resonating with the BB community, I could not venture into guessing what someone might want to hear which could result in a poor match. When I was offered the position, that was the ultimate feedback that there was a like-minded college locked in the same pursuit to use education to uplift socio-economically marginalized persons. The commitment to students was palpable and I wanted to be part of Big Bend.   

 

We started a tradition of Holiday Haikus at BBCC last year. Do you have any poetic interests or writing you might share with us this year? On the scale of "poet and I know it" to "Haikus?"  where does your wordsmithery fall? 

 

I have dabbled in writing poetry, but my craft is the spoken word! I love to bring written words on a paper to life for an audience. I get chills when I can see my words landing on others in a way that resonates with them, inspires them, and/or humors them. I experience great fulfillment from introducing ideas in ways that provoke thought and deep consideration. In that sense, I do consider myself “a poet and I know it.”


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