Successful Women Seminar speaker shares her secrets

Originally published in the Central Florida Future:

Dr. Maria Santana’s discussion Tuesday for UCF’s Women’s Research Center’s third Successful Women Seminar was nothing short of colorful.

A crowd of about 50 faculty and students chuckled in the Cape Florida Ballroom as the associate professor and director of UCF’s women’s studies program quipped about motherhood, academia and advocacy. 

According to the director of the Women’s Research Center, Linda Walters, the mission of the series is to “make women faculty successful.”

“We want them to see what women are doing who’ve made it through the academic process of getting tenure and getting promoted,” said Walters. 

But beyond narratives of tenure or tales of her life as a writer and researcher, Dr. Santana offered advice that was welcomed by undergraduates and their instructors.

“You have to take care of yourself; there’s only one of us in the world,” Santana said.

According to Santana, it’s important for individuals to know their limits and to be aware of the challenges they face.

She notes that one of her highest fences to climb over was simply asking for help. 

“[I thought,] if I ask for advice, I look weak, not prepared…I thought I had to do it all,” Santana said. “But that’s not true. There’s no crime in asking for help, or asking for advice.”

Santana fears that if mothers don’t have extra hands to help drive their children home from baseball practices, or scholars don’t have different sets of eyes to scrutinize their research, they’d be spreading themselves too thin to relish life. 

Hoping to ward off such deprivation, Santana shared two of her richest secrets: timing and protecting weekends.

“I sat down with a timer to see how much was [in] an hour one day… an hour is very long,” Santana said. “If we were to set a timer to finish writing that paper for publication, I’m pretty sure [we’d] finish it.”

She also encourages everyone to delight in their weekends by protecting them. She leaves work for the weekdays and brings in memories every weekend with friends, family and her dearest organizations. 

“I want to live; it’s my life, [and] I only have one,” Santana said. 

However, with many students waiting tables to pay for college tuition and instructors working more than one job to meet their monthly bills, Santana understands that protecting weekends may not be practical for some. But she still suggests that everyone give himself or herself an hour a day to do something they’re fond of.

“A whole hour for you…watching a movie, doing your hair, napping, talking to your mom on the phone, having sex,” Santana said. “There’s 24 [of them]. I’m only asking for one.”

Senior psychology and interdisciplinary studies major Latoya Rattery was keen on Santana’s “secrets.”

“I’m going to try the one hour thing,” Rattery said. “With me, I will start something [and then] work on something else, so that was really good. I like her secrets.”

For assistant professor of sociology Amanda Koontz, Santana’s tips were refreshing. 

“It’s true, if you start helping yourself then you can start helping others better, and it’s nice again to have a reminder of that,” Koontz said. 

The Successful Women Seminar Series, which began in the spring, takes place twice a semester. Professor of clinical psychology and director of UCF’s doctoral program in clinical psychology Dr. Deborah C. Beidel will speak for the series’ fourth presentation Oct. 30.


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