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Inspiring Conversations with Yvette Martinez-Vu of Grad School Femtoring

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yvette Martinez-Vu.

Hi Yvette, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in the northeast San Fernando Valley and was raised by Mexican immigrant parents up until age twelve when my father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from a brain aneurysm.

After that, my amá became a widow with six children and as the eldest daughter, I felt the pressure to help her out with domestic and caregiving labor as well as do well in my studies. My childhood escape was acting on stage in free and low-cost theater clubs.

I was the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.

While in college, I was an English major and theater minor. As an avid lover of learning, I was admitted into a research and graduate school preparation program whose mission was to train “underrepresented” students like me to become professors and thus, diversity academia. I was determined to become a theater professor where I could participate in, research, and teach theater to other first-generation students of color like me.

My goal changed while pursuing a doctoral program after developing a chronic illness and having my first child. My world turned upside down during my second year of grad school when I developed what was initially called post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome, which has now resulted in numerous other diagnoses.

Then, while studying for qualifying exams and applying for fellowships, I had my first child where I experienced pregnancy and childbirth complications; I hemorrhaged, lost three liters of blood, and had multiple procedures to save my life. I also developed postpartum depression and thanks to a combination of therapy and medication I got better.

Both instances made me realize that I no longer wanted to become a professor at a research university because it did not mirror my values and priorities of service first, then teaching, then research. Instead, I pursued a career as an academic staff member running similar research and graduate school preparation programs.

The work was fulfilling until the pandemic hit and I had my second child. Suddenly, my personal and professional load became unsustainable. I could no longer work full-time, homeschool my son, watch and breastfeed my infant daughter, all while experiencing more chronic illness flare-ups. Something had to give.

I broke down on Mexican Mother’s Day in 2021 and that’s when I had the wild idea to move abroad. My partner and I narrowed down our choices and determined Portugal to be a place that was aligned with our family values and needs (i.e. it’s affordable for us, safer, slower, and more family-friendly). We reviewed our finances and made a plan. Then I quit my job, sold our home, and we moved abroad last December.

I’m now running my own academic coaching and consulting business called Grad School Femtoring, LLC, where I get to continue supporting first-generation students of color according to my own values and abilities. I’m enjoying the slower pace and better quality of life I am afforded here.

And I only hope I can model possibility for others who, like me, are in search of something different, a life that’s more value-aligned and sustainable.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
This road has not been smooth at all but I attribute my success to my self-efficacy and self-compassion.

As I mentioned earlier, I have struggled with my physical and mental health for many years. With my chronic illness and history of depression and anxiety, I have had to make difficult decisions and turn down wonderful opportunities because they are not a good fit for me, and that’s okay.

I also did not have a straight and narrow career path. I went from wanting to become a theater practitioner, to a professor, to a director of a university program, and now an academic coach and podcaster.

But despite, and perhaps because of, overcoming these bumps on my road, what I have gained is an incredible amount of belief in my ability to do the things that I dream of and I am gentle enough with myself to not get discouraged when I experience setbacks—whether that’s because of my physical health, mental health, or other circumstances outside of my control.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to do things according to my own timeline and that I get to define my own success.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
I provide one-on-one coaching services as well as talks and workshops to groups, centers, and organizations that work with first-generation students of color.

I focus on supporting students and early career professionals with improving their writing and organizational skills all while doing so in a compassionate, accessible, and social justice informed way.

I support individuals from the moment they apply to graduate school up until they are applying for jobs out of graduate school and I do so with an emphasis on helping them pursue a career and life that is values-aligned.

Here is what two recent clients have said about working with me:

“Dra. Yvette helped me break down the personal statement I had to write. She helped me by asking questions about how I can elaborate more on what I had written. She took the time to ask questions and get to know me and the current field I work in. She also helped me prepare for my virtual interview.

We did mock interviews and she prepared me for questions I may get asked. She made me feel confident going into my interview. She brings lots of years of experience and schooling that will help anyone during their journey of applying to schools.

I also really enjoyed how professional and organized she was. When I was applying to grad school I was a mess and she put my nerves at ease and had wonderful advice to get me through the process.” – MSW Student.

“I came to Dra. Yvette for assistance on writing strong fellowship applications and learning tools to better manage my time. Thanks to her support, I received a prestigious national fellowship award for the 2022-2023 academic year! I also created a solid PhD timeline to complete my dissertation with the goal to graduate next year!

I am so grateful for Dra. Yvette’s incredible feedback that was instrumental to receiving such prestigious national fellowship award. I have further gained tools as well more confidence to believe in myself to finish the last major milestone of my PhD program.

My favorite thing about working with Dra. Yvette was her passion and dedication to uplift and empower first-gen students, particularly other mother-scholar-activists like myself.” – Graduate Student.

We’d love to hear what you think about risk-taking?
Risktaker is not an adjective that others have used to describe me, perhaps courageous, but not risktaker. As someone who was raised by a single mother in a working-class family, seeking physical and financial security and avoiding risk was always my goal.

What changed my perspective on this was developing growth and compassionate mindset, learning about financial literacy and personal finance, and then actually making a plan and following through on chasing my scariest dreams. By far the riskiest thing that I’ve done was move my family abroad because it involved taking a calculated risk, a leap of faith.

I quit my job, sold our home, and donated most material items we owned, all to start a new life in a country sight unseen. But you know what is scarier and riskier than moving abroad, not doing it, and then asking myself “what if” for the rest of my life.

In radically transforming my own life, I am now on a mission to help others do the same but with their own academic and life goals.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Ella Guerreiro Photography

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