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How a Passionate Scholar is Redefining Academic Wellness for Marginalized Students?

“You are the expert in your life, and while it may feel a little unbalanced right now, what happens to you and what’s happening inside you don’t have to be the same. You have the inner wisdom, and as you lean into that, you can lead a life of responding rather than reacting.” 

Meet Keondria McClish Boyd, academic wellness coach, educator, speaker, and consultant promoting academic success and well-being for graduate and post-graduate students.

Dr. Keondria McClish Boyd is a passionate educator leading wellness coaching for graduate students, scholars, and academics, especially marginalized populations. Her coaching style is tailored to meet the individual needs of each student to help them introspect, set, and achieve their personal goals.

She is a qualitative researcher and Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) with a master’s degree in academic advising and Ph.D. in adult learning and leadership from Kansas State University as well as graduate certificates in gerontology and qualitative research.

Dr. McClish Boyd has a passion for and experience in family life education and qualitative research, and she is a rising coach and consultant in academic wellness. She has worked with students from all walks of life as an educator at the University of Oklahoma, University of Florida, Kansas State University, and Metropolitan Community College. 

Her passion for her work is evident in her research and authorship work.

The two published pieces, “A Framework for Endarkened Narrative Inquiry” and a Cultural Diversity in Family Life Education textbook, dive into the real-life issues around cultural perspectives within families.

Challenges Marginalized Students Face in Higher Education

There are several challenges that marginalized students face in higher education. One of them is the disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes between different groups. Studies indicate that students of color and other marginalized communities often receive less experienced, lower-quality instruction than their White counterparts (Oakes, 2005; Orfield & Lee, 2003). 

Additionally, scholars of color and other marginalized communities often face exclusionary practices within academia itself. For example, they may be less likely to be hired for tenure-track positions or experience bias constituting lower salaries and fewer institutional resources (Coleman, 2006; Gilliard & Mills, 2003). 

However, one of the biggest challenges is feeling empowered to thrive, not just survive school life. When you come from a background of poverty, racism, sexism, or any other form of institutionalized oppression, it is easy to feel unsupported, isolated, or sidelined. . You may feel like you do not have the same opportunities as your classmates or have to work twice as hard just to be taken seriously.

These difficulties can lead to disparities in test scores and graduation rates between the different groups. All compounding to stress, anxiety, and mental health toll from managing studies in this thorny background.

It is from this backdrop that Professor McClish-Boyd’s wellness coaching stems. 

Her passion for advocating for wholeness, especially for marginalized students and those looking to do justice-oriented work, shines through the desire to help them navigate similar challenges she went through to thrive academically. Her coaching is not just talking through issues with a coach but relationship and mentorship from personal experience. Dr. McClish-Boyd shares her journey through her dissertation process alongside her mentor  Dr. Kakali Bhattacharya to develop a culturally centered approach to narrative inquiry in: Endarkened Narrative Inquiry.

Creating an Inclusive Environment for Marginalized Students

1. Passion for Developing Black Women and Families

McClish-Boyd’s experiences working as a qualitative researcher, and background in gerontology and adult learning and leadership have shaped her worldview and stance in adding women of color’s stories to the larger mosaic. Her research is critical in adding an authentic perspective in educational resources for qualitative researchers and family life sciences. By providing fresh insight and approach to data collection and analysis, which take into account the unique experiences of black women, she adds to the mosaic of women of color discussing the intersections of their lives.

This is central not just for black women but also for society. When we understand the complex realities of black women’s lives, we can begin to address the systemic issues that have continued to silence and perpetuate their marginalization. Only then can we amplify a sense of urgency and create a truly inclusive and welcoming space.

2. Authorship of Cultural Diversity in Family Life Education

After teaching Families and Diversity, Dr. McClish- Boyd realized the approach to the course was exclusive. That left many students feeling marginalized and without enough representation in classes to learn how best to approach this topic with material relevant to their intersectional identities.Together with colleague, Dr. Kimmery Newsom, they set out to provide a different approach to teaching about families and diversity in Family Life Education programs that offered a varied perspective as practitioners.  After conceptualizing and presenting the ideas at the National Council on Family Relations conference and receiving much positive feedback, they set out to develop the textbook in conjunction with Dr. Lover Chancler.  The book bridges this gap by providing varied perspectives.

3. Academic Wellness Coaching

What Sienna and Slate Coaching is All About

“Instructor of graduate level research is my profession. Helping those heal from academic trauma and wounding is my life’s work” Dr. McClish Boyd.

The academic pressure students face in higher education can be overwhelming. Studies have indicated that students of color, black students in particular, often feel isolated and undervalued in academy settings, which consequently can lead to how they see themselves and show up in the world.

This is where academic wellness coaching comes in.

Sienna and Slate coaching empowers scholars, students, and those looking to do justice-oriented work to balance the intersections of their lives. 

As a partner, Keondria works with her coaching clients to uncover personal strengths, discover self-awareness, and empower you to take meaningful action in your life.

Academic wellness coaching provides students with the tools to achieve success both inside and outside the classroom. By helping them identify their goals and develop actionable plans to reach these goals. Beyond that her programs help students learn to reduce stress and anxiety levels, improve time management skills, and boost confidence.

But perhaps most importantly, these coaching programs help students of color feel like they belong in academia. Imposter syndrome in graduate school is one of the biggest challenges students face yet is the least talked about. What differentiates this program is its focus on helping students work through doubts and find footing in their emotional, spiritual and physical wellness.

When students of color feel supported and motivated, they are more likely to thrive academically and personally. 

Learn more about the wellness coaching programs and resources offered by Dr. McClish Boyd to track your academic journey.

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