Presidential Leadership Scholar Shareefah Mason (2020) is diversifying and strengthening the teacher pipeline with a specific focus on increasing the number of Black and Latino candidates. Mason joins us for a Q&A on what motivates her to do this work, reflections on Black History Month, and more.
Can you tell us about your new role at Dallas College and its impact?
While my personal leadership project, RACE – Rapidly Achieving Campus Excellence, did not come to fruition entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of RACE has manifested in my new role as Associate Dean of Educator Certification at Dallas College. Now, I am leading the work around diversifying and strengthening the teacher pipeline with a specific focus on increasing the number of Black and Latinx candidates who complete the bachelor’s degree program and earn a teacher certification.
What motivates you to do this work?
I’m motivated to do this work because I grew up extremely impoverished in New Orleans in the 1990s. Hailing from a city with such a high crime rate largely due to the invasion of street drugs and a dismal educational system that consistently ranked amongst the lowest in the country, I knew the importance of education. I was raised to value learning and to exude intelligence in any endeavors in which I engaged because education was the only consistent path out of the disenfranchisement and destitution that plagued my hometown.
What makes you most proud of your heritage?
What makes me most proud of being a Black, African American is that I am engrained with the drive to create and design what I desire to see. The inherent ingenuity that lies within me has been the force behind all of my accolades. Being a part of a race that can endure struggles and overcome obstacles while courageously presenting as my authentic self is very empowering. I know that I am carving out a legacy that will be the guide for young girls who look like me to embrace the field of education and create new ideas that will transform and revolutionize this space as they empower Black, Brown, and White students across the globe.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
For me, Black History Month is a time of reflection and projection. I often think about the sacrifices of amazing leaders like Ida B. Wells, Opal Lee, Malcolm X, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Reflecting on their difficult, yet valiant journeys helps me to appreciate the opportunities I readily have that they did not. More importantly, it is the foundation that reminds me that there is much more work to do, and I am obligated to do that work because of the luxuries that I have been afforded.
Can you tell us about the people who have influenced you?
The people who have inspired me are my parents, Sharif and the late Taahirah Nadir. My dad was a high school dropout, and my mom held a high school diploma. They made higher education a non-negotiable item in our home. They were very intentional about ensuring we were culturally diverse and articulate. I believe that the greatest gift you can receive is to have someone to provide something for you that they have not experienced. My parents gifted me with access to an education, and it has opened doors to a world they didn’t know existed. For that, I am eternally grateful.