On February 14th 2017 I had the pleasure to sit with Dr. Sheryl Shirley and get an in depth look at her life and the development of her current career path over the years. When I opened up the interview with a rather common interview question I got a bold answer in which I knew the remainder of time spent conversing would not be a disappointment. “What is your full name?” I asked, “Sheryl Lynn Shirley, I wanted to keep my maiden name due to my career, I didn’t want to start my whole reputation over again, you could say I am a feminist, I didn’t see value in taking someone else’s name and giving up my own identity”. I smiled as she said it, it is important to have people especially today, that have a strong attitude toward building a name for themselves and standing strong. During the year of 1961 Sheryl Shirley was born in Inglewood, California and grew up in Glendora, California with her younger brother, sister, and parents all of whom still reside in the southern California area. I became jealous as I asked Sheryl about her experiences with travel in the past; Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Paris, Italy, Turkey, Morocco, and South Africa. After asking which place she found most interesting, she said “all were interesting to me, but I think spending a bit of time in a place to experience the people and their culture is what makes it so valuable. I have done extensive research in Guatemala, mainly focusing on human rights and the role mega development projects and mining and how it has impacted the indigenous peoples”. Sheryl still has many friends she keeps in contact with whom she met during her trips conducting research, and hopes to return for the 30th anniversary of when it all began! We even got to talking about the Spanish immersion programs she participated and gave me information because she knows the passion I have for speaking Spanish. Prior to studying political science Dr. Shirley thought that she might pursue a career in law, but chuckled saying “I’m glad I didn’t go in that direction because I felt I would’ve been bored”. Obtaining her undergrad in political science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, she went then went on to earn her PhD at the University of Austin. An important moment was when working with students at the University of Santa Barbra where she realized she had a strong interest in community and environment local politics. Working here at Plymouth State University Professor Shirley teaches Global Problems Power and Politics, Humanitarianism, American Foreign Policy, Latin American Politics, and Women in World Politics. But in addition she continues with her research, currently she is working on CEDAW: Compliance and Contestation in Latin America. According to her own personal research journal abstract she has posted, “this study examines the roles of Latin American states in the development of CEDAW, the international treaty on women’s rights. By then reviewing reports on Peruvian and Chilean compliance with CEDAW, the study begins to assess whether the international women’s convention has relevance for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and practitioners who seek to promote women’s rights”. This was so awesome to hear about because it helps give me an idea of how to work in my human rights aspect I wish to have in my major, and there is nothing better than having an advisor who is extremely involved in these types of research that help give guidance. This segways into the important question of do you do any interdisciplinary work? Sheryl answered with “I do research and collaboration on issues with human rights and trafficking. But also work with students like yourself in the interdisciplinary program to help find a career path and self design major”. Sheryl has been an avid support system for me since my freshman year in her Global Problems Power and Politics class, giving me guidance to find my place here at Plymouth State. Her personal goals she wishes to accomplish is to work for change in improving basic human rights, the right to be treated fairly and not to be discriminated against. The biggest change she wishes to see here at the university is having students find the help they need to feel comfortable speaking out and having a voice, in addition have students understand structures of power and how to impact the issues they care about. To close this interview, I asked Dr. Shirley “what inspires you”. She answered “my students. My students who go on to do amazing things. Many of them have gone on to work as human rights activists in both U.S organizations and international”. I think myself and many who have come in contact with Professor Shirley over time can agree that without her help and guidance, the amazing things they do would not have happened without the foundations of her help, and with that on behalf of many I am happy to say we are grateful to have her as part of the Plymouth State University staff.
I found these three readings to be extremely eye opening. Prior to being a student in Plymouth State University’s Interdisciplinary Program I wasn’t aware of the increasing trend of students having their own personal web domain, if I’m being completely honest I barely understood what domain meant. I’m just starting out! I especially enjoyed reading Colleges Must Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge By Vartan Gregorian http://www.uvm.edu/~cems/explore/reconstruct.pdf. This article touches on how college is a time in a student’s life for self-discovery, developing passionate interests, and trying to weave them into a meaningful career. I feel that I and many peers can relate to this because social trends are constantly putting pressure on many young students to follow a certain path in a certain way and if not it almost signifies failure in a sense. I know myself, that I want to be a nurse someday but ultimately learned I was unable to balance school, playing on the women’s soccer team and working all at once, because I see it is a trend that you must complete and be successful with the course path within four years, I felt as though I had failed. I have learned over time it is okay to approach your ultimate dream career in a way that deems suitable for YOU. This could mean getting your degree over the course of eight years if you have to, but along the way keeping a healthy mental/physical state and incorporating things that make you happy as well. You shouldn’t have to sell yourself short in order to reach “an unwritten time limit rule” stamped on your lifestyle choices. Slow and surely all will find its way of working out, it take patience.
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