The skill and commitment that I offer as a writing tutor and coach are the outcome of distress endured and healing achieved during my first graduate school experience at the University of Chicago. The expansiveness of thought experienced in classes was exciting and my increasing knowledge and analytic skills were fulfilling. I was cognizant of developing critical strength in identifying logical weaknesses and constructing persuasive responses. Nevertheless, I suffered severe emotional turmoil as a student in the joint anthropology and linguistics PhD. program in which I was enrolled.
The sense of doom that overtook me each time I sat to write an assigned paper is unforgettable. Fear and shame prohibited me from asking my professors how to approach written discussions of topics because the men seemed so inhospitable, and their grumpy public remarks about students’ lacking skills were fences that warded off approach. Nevertheless, after long hours of suffering, I usually managed to produce a paper, but rarely was I satisfied with what I wrote. My sense of inadequacy accompanied by fear and dread overpowered my thoughts when I had to write an academic paper.
Self-help books, were the resources within reach, and I diligently partook of lessons from several different self-work systems for inner peace. That effort rendered greater self-understanding and increased my ability to endure as a student with outsider consciousness, as I had a fellowship that would not allow me to transfer. I continued with the self-improvement work and added writing texts to those on personal and spiritual development. Among those, Marilyn B. Gilbert’s Clear Writing for Self-Study or Classroom Use (1972) was the treasure find. Active engagement with the book helped me to slow my internal hysteria, as the lessons inspired me to focus on organizing my thoughts for writing rather than worrying about what I wanted to say. Gilbert’s book was a resource for informing how to state my thoughts and that decreased a great deal of worry and replaced it with a stronger sense of security in my reasoning and ability to write meaningful anthropological and theoretical linguistics papers. Nevertheless, it did not completely relieve my social anxiety disorder.
Although, reduction of heightened concern about writing papers did enabled me to examine my fear and sense of inadequacy. In doing so, I recalled, interestingly, that I had entered the university with awareness of dominant cultural views as they pertained to class and race, and with perspective on the down-looking behavior of persons holding those views. I had been active in the Black Power and Black Arts movement, and was experienced in ideological analysis of oppressive social situations. Still, I had been surprised to encounter subtle and overt oppression active in departments and classrooms of higher education. On-going self-examination revealed that my naivete resulted from retention of the outlook on institutions of higher learning that had been prevalent in my culture since emancipation. People of African descent had, and many still have, reverential attitudes towards institutions of higher learning, believing professors and administrators to be benign and pledged to uplifting all students. That unrecognized credulity had led me to expect professors to benevolently engage and productively advise me on any difficulty presented within my academic work.
After five years of living with acute outsider syndrome, I left the University of Chicago and began working as a translator and writer of business letters and legal documents for individuals in my community and as a professor in Chicago City Colleges’ Basic Education program. In addition to the subject content, I taught students how to avoid internalizing difficulties with their studies as personal inadequacy. Many of those students excelled and continued their education at higher levels. Others found jobs that they had previously believed they were incapable of acquiring or executing.
Soon after, music and the performing arts beckoned, and I enrolled in Sherwood School of Music. There, I actually found a teacher who took me under her wide wings! I studied voice and performed under Maria DelAlbert, former contralto soprano of the Hungarian Opera, for several years while studying piano, dance, and shakere, in addition to writing and performing my own performance scripts with other musicians.
My artistic work continued as I winded through several years of rewarding employment, first as a Family Counselor with a Child Abuse Prevention agency that led to my co-authoring Parents Healing: A Way of Learning with Sara Ann Burton, then as Project Director for the Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance of the ACLU while an active member of the National Black Women’s Health Project, and writing Building Multicultural Alliances: A Practical Guide.* Then, after teaching Advertising Culture; Culture, Race, & Media, and Semiotics at Columbia College Chicago for five years, I had a strong need to complete my PhD. Actualization of that need was facilitated by my friend and colleague, Gail Myers, PhD. who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and called me soon afterward to say:
“Bisola there is a school here where you can finish your PhD. that
I moved to the Bay Area in 2006 and enrolled in the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). It was exactly the right place for me to complete my PhD. and develop my therapeutic approach for providing academic and writing support for college and graduate students. Early during my residence as a student at CIIS, I was hired by the school to coach and tutor students. I continue to provide support for CIIS students as well as for students from other institutions. I do so because it assists me in keeping the knowledge I have acquired active, and because assisting the skill development of others is an endeavor of major importance to a fulfilling life. Each student’s successful completion of a project with which I have assisted is cause for celebration, as it references my rejuvenation and the importance of self-understanding and belief in self.
That is Why I Do This Work!
*This article is posted under the heading Published Articles by Bisola Marignay on this website.
Bisola Marignay, Ph.D.
As a published writer experienced in scholarly, creative, and technical writing, Ms Marignay is familiar with diverse cultures and linguistic codes. She communicates effectively with individuals and groups from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.