Texas Tech University

Inspiration from the Women of Arts & Sciences

The women of Arts & Sciences represent many generations, cultures and experiences. Here are the voices of a few who have been generous enough to share their stories—beginning with one of Texas Tech University's most respected professors, Dr. Aliza Wong.

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Aliza Wong

TTU professor Aliza Wong

Interim Dean of the Honors College
Professor in the Honors College and the Department of History

Who inspires you in your personal and professional goals?

​My students inspire me. They are equal parts fearless and vulnerable. They are equal parts knowledgeable and curious. They are equal parts questioners and solution seekers. And they are equal parts partners in the educational process and teachers of teachers. I am emboldened by them, empowered by them, and educated by them. They are the reason I am at Texas Tech and the reason I strive to be a better scholar, teacher, and leader.

What would you tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in your field/area of expertise?

Insist and resist. The field of history is such a rich, open, and expansive area of study. Ask the questions that haven't been asked yet and know that even if the questions have been asked, they haven't been asked in the ways that YOU would ask them. When someone tells you that the archival materials aren't there and so you can't include women's voices or narratives of minoritized community members, don't let it stop there. Ask why they aren't there. Ask what systems make them so difficult to find, render them less visible. Ask how we can uncover, recover them. Read between the lines, in the interstitial spaces. Because women and BIPOC voices are there. We have always been there. You just have to listen carefully enough, have enough respect to find them, to engage with them.

Aside from your profession, where do you find the most satisfaction and fulfillment?

​I think we are all nomadic in what brings us joy. My professional life is also part of my personal life. And the fact that I find such joy in the academic world in which I exist makes me a better, more fulfilled person in all the other facets. But I love reading, writing, traveling, enjoying a very good meal with very good friends. I love building relationships with people. And I love learning more about the hope that exists even in the most precarious of times.

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Valorie Duvall

TTU staffer Valorie Duvall

Administrative Assistant, Department of History

Who inspires you in your personal and professional goals? 

My grandchildren inspire me in my personal goals because I want them to see it doesn't matter what a person's age is if that person wants to go to college to get a degree, it is possible. Dr. Debra Lavender-Bratcher inspires me in my professional goals. She encourages in every aspect of life. 

What would you tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in your field?

I would tell them to be the best that they can be and to always think positive.

Aside from your career, where do you find the most satisfaction and fulfillment?

I find satisfaction and fulfillment when I'm helping my family and people in the community as well as being a mentor for Mentor Tech.

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Kiara Garza

TTU student Kiara Garza

Junior Kinesiology Major

Who inspires you in your personal and professional goals?

Throughout my entire life, I have found myself drawn to the medical field. This passion for medicine was ignited inside me from a young age as both my parents have careers in the medical field. My mother graduated with her master's degree in 1992, one of the first members of her family to accomplish such a feat. Just a few years after this, she decided to have my brother and me while at the same time, deciding to attain her doctorate degree. I vividly remember being a mere 10 years old and not yet realizing the struggle she must have endured and the passion for education she must have had that lead her to becoming a doctor. Despite being a woman, a wife, a mother with two small children, and at the same time, being a doctoral student, she accomplished the impossible.

Since my journey at Texas Tech began, I have met many incredible women, but the one who has inspired me and continues to inspire me the most is my research mentor: Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte. Just last year, Dr. Kembra started up her own research lab while simultaneously raising a 4-year-old and giving birth to new baby. Aside from being highly accomplished professionally, both Dr. Kembra and Dr. Garza (my mother) were able to start a family and raise their children, showing me that my personal dreams did not have to be put on hold while aspiring towards my professional dream of being a physical therapist. It is this model that gives me the drive to continue my personal and professional goals despite all odds, contrary to what society tells women, it is possible to be successful both in the professional and personal arenas.

What would you tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in your current field of interest?

To other women who are interested in becoming a physical therapist or joining the medical field I would say: just do it! Embrace your goal and never let the fear of the competition nor the seemingly difficult journey discourage you. If you have a passion, you will be successful, and nothing will be able to hinder your accomplishments. College is a unique time that is all about experiencing trial and error while being a safe for one to discover your passion. At the same time, you will never be alone for there will always be resources to support you. I experienced this first-hand, and one of my favorite things about Texas Tech—specifically the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management—is that the faculty and staff are there for you every step of the way both in a personal and professional capacity. It is going to take hard work, it is going to take dedication, but if you have others to support and inspire you, you will always be able to persevere. If Dr. Kembra or Dr. Garza have taught me anything, it is that personal goals do not have to be sacrificed to reach professional ones.

Aside from your studies, where do you find the most satisfaction and fulfillment?

Aside from my commitment to school, I deeply enjoy giving back to the communities of Texas Tech University and the City of Lubbock, whether it be through the various organizations I am a part of on campus or the research I engage in. One of my favorite organizations is the ambassador program for the College of Arts & Sciences, where I am constantly able to volunteer to support Lubbock as well as Texas Tech University. Not only am I given the opportunity to give back and stand as a resource for incoming freshmen, I am also able to build meaningful relationships with other students who have the same goals as me.

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Ava Oliver

TTU Biology major Ava Oliver

Undergraduate Biology major, Department of Biological Sciences
with minors in Chemistry and Spanish

Who inspires you in your personal and professional goals?

Dr. Sharilyn Almodovar is someone who inspires me in my personal and professional goals as she is an incredible mentor. She encompasses a woman in STEM who is a leader, mentor, teacher, and overall looks out for those around her. She balances a busy life and inspires me to continue in my future endeavors.

What would you tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in your current field of interest?

I would tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine or research to become involved early in organizations and research, reach out to older peers with the same major, and overall enjoy all of the amazing opportunities during their time in college. Having mentors and peers to talk to is crucial in determining a career path and obtaining advice. I am always more than happy to talk with students interested in a career in STEM.

Aside from your studies, where do you find the most satisfaction and fulfillment?

I find the most satisfaction and fulfillment, aside from studies, in serving the community. I volunteer with children in need in the Lubbock community to cultivate a positive environment and address specific community issues. Additionally, I love outreaching to current and prospective students by sharing my own personal experiences during my time at Texas Tech!

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Anya Pazhoor

TTU student Anya Pazhoor

2nd-year Pre-Medical student and Honors College student
pursuing a B.A. in Psychology
and a minor in Biology

Who inspires you in your personal and professional goals?

I know it may be cliché, but my mother always has been and always will be my biggest inspiration. She came to a foreign, daunting country in her 20s and still seized every opportunity she could to establish and develop her career. She worked her way up through the field of research, while simultaneously raising 3 kids, and managed to excel in both aspects of her life. She instilled in me the independence and confidence that a woman needs to survive and thrive in this world, the same traits I see her portray in her daily life. Though she currently lives 532 miles away, I still hear her voice in my mind every day, telling me to pause, take a deep breath, and conquer the world.

What would you tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in your current field of interest?

As you embark on your journey towards the field of medicine, as a woman, it is important to keep one thing in mind. Do not let others define you. YOU are the only one with the power to define yourself. So carry this power carefully and display it proudly. The field of medicine is a very male-dominated career path, often filled with stereotypes about what type of physician a woman “should be”. Do not let these expectations limit your capabilities. You are as strong as you tell yourself you are. You are as strong as you present yourself to be. So never silence yourself and your passion and your beliefs. Stay strong and stay true to yourself and you will make it very far in the world of medicine.

Aside from your studies, where do you find the most satisfaction and fulfillment?

Recently, I have been making it a point to find joy in the little things. The things that I usually wouldn't even think twice about. I have come to love the sound of my friends and me laughing so hard we have tears rolling down our faces. I have come to love cooking dinner with my friends with music playing in the background, imagining we're a little family. I have come to love late-night drives after a long day at the library, singing Taylor Swift songs the whole way home. Everyone finds satisfaction and fulfillment outside of school in unique ways, but for me, it is through these little moments. Moments that I may not remember a week from now, but nonetheless, they always leave me with a smile.

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Kymberli Saldaña

TTU staffer Kymberli Saldana

Unit Manager, College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Office, Student Division
TTU alumna: BA Spanish 2008; MA Applied Linguistics 2010

Who inspires you in your personal and professional goals?

My husband (Matt) is my biggest cheerleader. He encourages me every day and helps me realize that I'm stronger than I think I am.

What would you tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in your field?

Balancing work and personal obligations can be overwhelming. Build other women up, instead of tearing them down with judgment and negativity.

Aside from your career, where do you find the most satisfaction and fulfillment?

Seeing my two children (Emalee, 4, and Nico, 1) experience new adventures. My parents also just moved to Lubbock, and I really enjoy getting to spend more time with them.

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Karen York

TTU staffer Karen York

College Of Arts & Sciences Lead Academic Success Advisor & Certified Life Coach

Who inspires you in your personal and professional goals?

Professionally, I have always been inspired by Dr. Angela Lumpkin, Chair for Kinesiology & Sport Management. Personally, my mother, Bettie Jeane Mize.

What would you tell women who are interested in pursuing a career in your field?

I would say to get your Certification in Life Coaching as soon as you start. The information you will gain will be invaluable to assisting students and their needs.

Aside from your career, where do you find the most satisfaction and fulfillment?

Definitely with my family and friends. I love to travel and enjoy it most when they are with me.

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For more features on Women's History Month 2022 in the College of Arts & Sciences, follow this link.