Zounlome channels experiences with racism into new book

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Throughout his time in academia, Ph.D. student Nelson Zounlome experienced several forms of gendered racism, negatively impacting his academics and mental health. But he also saw and experienced the transformative power of culturally responsive practices that foster comprehensive wellness among groups with marginalized identities. In that spirit, Zounlome created a workbook as a resource of support for students of color, Letters to My Sisters & Brothers: Practical Advice to Successfully Navigate Academia.

Zounlome, who is working toward his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, was inspired by, in his words, “the countless instances of oppression my colleagues and I have experienced in higher education.”

“Receiving support from friends and mentors of color on campus which incorporated my intersecting identities was instrumental in navigating these situations successfully,” he added. “This workbook is designed to help students of color attending college and graduate school do the same."

Receiving support from friends and mentors of color on campus which incorporated my intersecting identities was instrumental in navigating these situations successfully. This workbook is designed to help students of color attending college and graduate school do the same.

Nelson Zounlome

The book contains a collection of online responses from a survey of current undergraduate and graduate students of color across the U.S. who provide culturally relevant advice to incoming students of color on how to navigate higher education. These students offer their insight, experiences and encouragement to aid others along their academic journey. Accompanying their testimonies, the end of each section contains an activity created to better put their advice into practice and coloring pages for additional self-care.

Zounlome has several points of advice for students that he expands upon in his book, including:

  • Know yourself: Make sure to understand your capabilities and self-worth as a student of color.
  • Embrace your identities: Work to fully embrace your intersecting identities and externalize and reject any negativity people try to place on you.
  • Be attentive to your body and mind: Prioritize your health by taking care of yourself holistically.
  • It will be challenging, but you will overcome: Push through any setbacks that arise to fully realize your greatness.
  • Create your own village: Build up and rely on your network of people who understand and validate you.
  • Be visible and vocal: Do not suffer in silence. Speak up—advocate for your needs and the needs of others.
  • Learn to navigate the system: Being a successful student has a lot to do with learning how to effectively navigate a large college/university system by being aware of the different resources available to you.

Letters to My Sisters & Brothers is now available on Amazon.

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