How I Learned to Embrace My Identity as an Academic with Immigrant Working-Class Roots

July 2, 2021

2020 Wall Scholar, Sheila Teves was recently published in Science Magazine. Her personal essay explores her experiences as an academic with immigrant working-class roots.

Dr. Teves has been exploring and writing about diversity and inclusion in the sciences as part of her Wall Scholar residency.

Leaving home and entering the academic world took me further and further from my immigrant working-class roots. Every so often, though, I would meet other Filipino immigrants working in the university as janitors, building maintenance staff, shipping and receiving workers, and lab aides. When I interacted with them, I would seamlessly revert to my younger immigrant self, speaking Tagalog, the Philippines’s national language, and behaving more deferentially.

When I stepped back into my academic role, I would play the confident and assertive scientist. At some point I realized I only stopped to talk with the other Filipino immigrants when I was alone, which made me feel guilty. But I convinced myself that I was just being sensitive to my lab mates; after all, it would be rude to converse in another language when they were around. I wasn’t ready to admit that part of me was ashamed of my working-class background.

Dr. Sheila Teves in

You can read the rest of Dr. Teves’s essay on