Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Student Profile: Michael Lee Gardin

In a casual encounter on the UTSA campus, Michael Lee Gardin appears to be just another ordinary student; energetic, lively and approachable. Nonetheless, underneath the appearances, she is talented and phenomenal. Michael Lee, a native Texan, manages to balance being a doctoral student at UTSA with being an instructor in English and women’s studies as well as a faculty advisor to the GLBTQ student organization. This is an outstanding achievement for anyone not only because it takes a lot of energy to participate in various academic projects, but also because it takes a unique passion to attempt such multi-dimensional projects.

However, her decision to partake in this educational expedition did not come easily to her.

“In my undergrad, I was a little unsure of what path I wanted to take for some time,” she confided.

She was interested in literature and women’s literature, but it took a lot of people in her life; women, friends, queer individuals, self affirmation on her part as well as reading literature by women activists, lesbians and women of color to propel her to focus her literature on women’s studies, queer studies and writings of Lesbian women.

“When I enrolled in a graduate program, it was really women of color writers who identified as lesbians that really inspired me to take the chance of studying identity along with something like literature. It was enrolling in a master’s program and reading writers like Gloria Anzaldúa and Audre Lorde that allowed me to see that it wasn’t just a personal identity but also a political identity that could guide my studies.”

Being in the master’s program was no easy feat either. During her master’s program, she had to keep uplifting herself emotionally, and also to find things and people that motivated her to remain a driven student.

“Being a graduate student for the first time, there was a lot of intimidation. There are things that you feel that other students just know already that you are supposed to know, and there was no ‘graduate student 101 training,’ but I think a good way of getting over that is trying to find things that sustain you. Learning about the women’s studies program here, even though it wasn’t a graduate program, was a way to sustain me.”

She went on to mention another thing that helped her was constantly reminding herself that she belonged there and that her being in graduate school was not a fluke.

Regardless of the initial intimidation, Gardin is fond of UTSA and San Antonio.

“I like the value in diversity, specifically cultural diversity in San Antonio. I feel that you get a sense that differences are not a barrier to many people in San Antonio and UTSA but, in fact, something to recognize and celebrate.”

“Other things I like about UTSA and specifically my program is that I have been able to explore things that are not always known as literature. I have had the ability to really craft my own projects and dissertation projects and really decide on the things that are important to study and feel supported in that.”

She aspires to graduate from the UTSA graduate program and teach full-time.

“One of my goals is to graduate with a PhD and to hopefully end up in a tenured track position. I want to stay in a university setting, and I want to be a researcher.”

Her advice to students at UTSA is to follow their dreams when pursuing a degree.

“I believe in the idea that you have to do what you love, especially in the areas of academics, social justice, writing and creating art. I think if you have a commitment to something, then it should be what motivates you. It should be what guides your career choices. Finding ways to sustain yourself and do the work that matters to you is really important.”

Outside of work and school, Gardin reserves time for fun and relaxation. Her favorite band is Tegan and Sara and she spends a good portion of her spare time, absorbing the music, interviews, pictures and press releases.

“I had the pleasure of being able to ask them a question in a concert, and I asked them what they thought about being known as activists and musicians at the same time? They had a really brilliant answer; it just made me love them more.”

She believes being a singer and an activist is an aspect of intersectionality because activist musicians have to understand that the music they produce sends a message to people.

“If musicians and artists start thinking of themselves as producing culture, then it is a different way of thinking of art, which is nice and in many ways is creative and expressive of things. Art is not produced in a vacuum and relates to everything else that goes on in our social world.”

She is thankful to her family and friends for being a source of motivation for her.

“They have been able to be the support system to help me get to being a PhD candidate, something I’d have never dreamed of.”

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