Student Spotlight June 2024


    Fei Bi Chan is a doctoral student studying Counseling Psychology. She was one of two students selected to attend this year's Faculty Women of Color in the Academy Conference. 


    Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to your area of study and, ultimately, to the University of Louisville? 

    Fei Bi: I am a third-generation Chinese Malaysian woman whose ancestry can be traced back to Guangdong and Fujian. I was born and raised in Malaysia and moved to Turtle Island (Mni Sota Makoce, specifically) to pursue my undergraduate studies in psychology and dance. Growing up, mental health stigma was prevalent in my family and the Malaysian community at large. It still is in many ways. I have witnessed how the lack of access to or fear of accessing mental health care can negatively impact an individual, their families, and their communities. I entered counseling psychology with the hope of understanding what makes us (humans) well/unwell and contributing to closing the mental health access/treatment gap wherever I reside, be it Malaysia or Turtle Island. As for what brought me to UofL, you can say it was a gut feeling! Out of all my offers, UofL’s counseling psychology program and my (then) advisor felt like a good fit for me. And here I am, three years in!


     Q: What are some of your long-term goals or aspirations? 

    Fei Bi: I hope to create spaces where people feel safe and empowered to show up authentically, to tell their (counter) stories, to share their pain, to access joy and hope, and to imagine alternative futures. My “end” goal is to co-steward a land for healing with friends and colleagues. I have always held on to this vision that I would co-create a place where community members can come (for free or at an affordable rate) to learn, eat, dance, garden, rest, play, read, make art, connect, be cared for, and access community resources.


    Q: What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of? 

    Fei Bi: Making it this far in the program! I cannot believe I will be taking my comps this summer and that I have been seeing clients, as a student clinician, for nearly two years now. I am also proud of this life I have built here with my community. It's my home away from home.


    Q: What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?

    Fei Bi: Building community! I have connected with and learned from many students, scholars, thinkers, psychology professionals, colleagues, and community members who are deeply passionate about their work and are doing important work in their communities.


    Q: What made you want to apply for a sponsorship to attend the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy (FWCA) National Conference? 

    Fei Bi: My wonderful advisor, Dr. Amanda Mitchell, encouraged me to apply for the sponsorship because she knew that I was considering joining academia after graduating. I wanted to attend the FWCA conference to grow my connections with other faculty and aspiring faculty whose lived experiences and values align with mine. I was curious about how faculty women navigate and thrive in academia, a system that is unkind and often hostile to them/us. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about how faculty women of color, given their diverse social location and ethical/epistemological stance, engage in scholarly activism.


    Q: What were the most impactful sessions or workshops you attended at the conference? Were there any discussions, topics, or speakers that resonated with your experiences as a woman of color aspiring to become faculty? 

    Fei Bi: I attended a workshop with Dr. Loron Benton titled Embracing and Honing Your Voice as an Emerging Scholar in the Academy and Beyond. On voice, Dr. Benton prompted us to think about our voices. We have multiple voices that can show up all at once or be strategically salient depending on the context. After identifying our voices, we were prompted to think about what conditions facilitate the silencing of our voices. Through these analyses, we can begin to explore how to build relationships, capacities, and creative strategies to resist the stifling of our voices or the development of voices (e.g., the model minority voice) that function as silencers.


     Q: Did you connect with any senior faculty members or mentors during the conference? If so, what insights or advice did they share with you?

    Fei Bi: Yes, I did! They were so kind and generous to share these insights with me:

    •  “We keep each other safe.” Academia was not created by and for us, hence, we will be met with unkindness and hostilities. We are most vulnerable when we are alone. As such, we need to band together to care for and uplift one another. We need to be mindful to not engage in lateral/horizontal violence. Turn against the system, not each other.
    • Prioritize rest and living. Be attuned to what excites us, academically and personally. Notice what energizes us and brings us joy, and nurture it! As we navigate systems that drain and take from us, it is so important for us to be intentional with how our labor is used and to what end.

    Q: Did you gain any new perspectives or insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by faculty women of color? How do you plan to address or navigate these challenges in your own career path? How do you envision incorporating the strategies or practices discussed at the conference into your own career development and academic journey?

    Fei Bi: I am reminded that my/our (women of color and other folx whose knowledge systems have been invalidated or erased in academia) presence and voice in academia unsettle the hegemony and coloniality of “Western” thinking. Through this unsettling and openness to engage with discomfort, we, as a society, can build our capacity to have genuine and productive conflict and discourse. Thus, establishing foundations where new worlds can be co-imagined and co-created. I am also reminded that my voice matters because it emerges from the many voices and knowledge of the collective. My being in academia would not just be for me, it would be for those before, with, and after me. I have a responsibility to make visible the labor and humanity of those who have profoundly impacted my ways of thinking and being in the world. I have a responsibility to build loving relations and solidarity with other scholars/thinkers/activists who are building new worlds. I have a responsibility to plant seeds that can help us build worlds beyond oppression.


    Q: How do you envision contributing to the broader movement for equity and justice within academia as a future faculty leader and advocate?

    Fei Bi: I envision sharing and building power with future students and colleagues. I also envision speaking truth to power. As much as I have been disheartened by the silence in academia around the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the occupations across the world, I am rejuvenated by the liberatory stance taken by students across Turtle Island to protest imperial violence. Past and present student protests and encampments show us exactly how powerful knowledge and academia can be in disrupting and transforming oppressive structures. Have you seen the videos of faculty members across university campuses who are risking their safety and livelihoods to stand in solidarity with their students against university administrators’ suppression, police brutality, and counter-protestor violence? That is how I envision my contribution to equity and justice to be. I hope my contribution will not only exist in theory but be embodied and lived out through my actions. And with that, I say: The Empire must fall. Free Palestine. Free Turtle Island. Free Congo. Free Sudan. Free Haiti. Free Hawaiʻi. Free Puerto Rico. Free Tigray. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”. For language to facilitate our grounding in issues of power and oppression, I direct us back to Adrienne Maree Brown’s piece here.


    Q: What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of school?

    Fei Bi: I love learning hula with Hui Kaululehua. I also enjoy eating and cooking good food with my partner and friends.


    Q: Do you have anything you would like to add?  

    Fei Bi: Yes! A few thank-yous are in order J Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) to:

    • Ayla and Erin, my dear cohort mates, I could not have made it this far in the program without your care and love
    • Dr. Mitchell, for your support in this sponsorship application process and for always affirming my voice
    • My people and revolutionary thinkers who gave me the language to speak truths
    • Donna, for traveling to FWCA with me. It was a pleasure to get to know you and to see you present your work on a big stage in front of ~700 women of color!
    • Folx at FWCA for helping me see, think, and speak more clearly  
    • The Graduate School for sponsoring my trip to the FWCA conference. It was a wonderful experience! As you can see in my responses above, I had a lot to learn and reflect on!

    Fun Facts:

    Favorite book or movie: Everything Everywhere All At Once and CURCUM’s Trees: A Decolonial Healing Guide for Palestinian Community Health Workers. You can access the final “draft” for free here.

    Favorite quote:  Mai Hilahila, is ʻŌlelo for “no shame” or “don’t be ashamed”

    In the context of learning, do not let shame silence you. Remain humble and curious for knowledge.

    Role Model:  The list is too long! Anyone who unapologetically embodies and stands firm against oppression and who radically loves themselves and their community.

    Favorite thing to do or place to go in Louisville:  I love coffee and small bites! Current go-to’s are Café Kiwa, La Pana Bakery y Café, FOKO, Bamboo Coffee & Donuts, and Phalcha Coffee.