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Student Spotlight: Babe Kawaii-Bogue

Babe Kawaii-Bogue

It took Babe three tries to get into Michigan. Along the way, she went to Columbia for her Master’s degree to raise her GPA and obtain further research experience. Babe received other Ph.D. program offers during the years she applied to graduate schools, but says she “really wanted to come here; the psychology department is so well known. I came to U-M because apart from the unbeatable financial package, I wanted to be amongst a larger student body of African Americans, and the psych program at U-M has the largest number black Ph.D. students next to Howard. I went to UC Berkeley for my undergraduate studies, and my entire time there, didn’t really get to know African American students. As an African American I really need that as a part of my education.”

“I always knew I really wanted to do clinical work and be a teacher, but I didn’t know what that would look like. I am passionate about teaching.” While at U-M, Babe completed the doctoral program requirements for two fields of study (Psychology & Social Work) and received two Master’s degrees, all in five years. She went through the Ph.D. program quickly. She came in without an M.S.W. degree but still finished in 5 years. It is rare for students to finish their program in 5 years, even when they enter their program with an M.S.W. degree, which takes a year or two to complete. She also fit in a yearlong clinical internship at Kaiser Permanente hospital in California, balancing that with a position as a visiting scholar at San Francisco State University where she undertook a large portion of her data collection, all while volunteering as a social worker in a public high school in San Francisco. She describes, “It was a really great experience to have hospital HMO system experience coupled with volunteering with high school kids, seeing such a difference in culture and resource levels. I can identify more with the public school system. There are wellness centers in San Francisco public schools staffed with therapists for kids. I really wanted to play a role in that.”

Babe’s Master’s thesis research focused on African American mental health. She explains, “I created a model for mental health delivery in African American communities and examined depression in black men. African Americans reportedly have the lowest rates of depression, and I wanted to determine the protective factors and strengths in the community that allow them to prevent the onset of depression. The other side is, once depression hits, it is more severe and persistent for African Americans, partially because there are so many treatment and access barriers to culturally competent mental health services.”

Babe’s dissertation research focuses on Multiracial populations. She says, “Multiracial populations are fascinating to me as a multiracial person. The Multiracial population is growing at three times the rate of the general population in the U.S., and by 2050, 20% of the population is projected to be Multiracial. Yet there is little research – it is overwhelmingly monoracial focused. My research focuses on Multiracial microaggressions by examining this population’s racial microaggression experiences and their coping strategies. Multiracial people experience racial microaggressions from their own racial communities and from their own family members. It is a unique experience that fascinates me.

Race has shaped Babe’s life in and outside the classroom. She says, “I grew up in a monoracial white family, but in a racial minority community, state, city, and public school system. Being a person of color in a white family is an interesting experience. Knowing from a young age you have to be educating your family all the time about race, always having conversations about it. That is something unique as a person of color being raised by white family.”

Babe recently relocated back to the Bay Area where she is pursuing clinical work and finishing her dissertation edits. “I love teaching. I am open to clinical work and a lecturer position.” she says.

Now that she’s left Ann Arbor, Babe can reflect differently on her experience at U-M. She shares, “Being a Ph.D. student is hard. People who haven’t done a Ph.D. don’t understand it and I don’t think they can. I’ve done three Master’s degrees and they were not hard in comparison. It is challenging to constantly be trying to meet requirements every day for an indefinite amount of time.”

She continues, “I got great funding. People get comfortable in academia. You get a sense of security from a strong financial package here - six years guaranteed funding - that is something the general population doesn’t have. The resource level of this university is something I haven’t seen anywhere in my life. I come from a low-income urban upbringing. I don’t have a home to go back to. There isn’t support from families that come from a poverty level or other marginalized community. They rely on your success and stability. Financial support is invaluable to students who don’t have other means. People are so wealthy here they don’t understand it.”

Acknowledging those who helped her along the way, she says, “CEW and RMF are really invaluable, also the Rackham Debt Management grant. This is the greatest support system. I got a CEW grant to go back to California for a funeral. CEW has saved so many people in my program. And my friends from the RMF Summer Institute helped me through everything.”