To be completely honest with you, I have never met TaLisa in person. Yet when I thought up of this segment, she was one of the first women to come to mind. I have known of TaLisa for a few years through mutual friends. It seems that everyone I know knew her! When my friend Yanitza joined the National Latin Sorority Chi Upsilon Sigma, I would see TaLisa all over her social media. I added her and immediately was amazed by her. She seemed to be everywhere doing everything! Judging by her posts I could see she was so driven and so passionate. She always comes across as genuine. Everyone I know that has met her or is friends with her always has something great to say about her. Despite us not crossing paths yet, she inspires me so much. I see her doing all that she does and think, “that CAN be me!” That just goes to say how bright TaLisa shines and how much of an impact her spirit has on those around her, near or far.
Ethnicity: Puerto Rican
Hometown: Reading, PA
Job Title/Position: I am blessed to have two jobs that are fulfilling and impactful. My first job is Student Affairs Specialist at the Pennsylvania State University, Capital College. At Penn State I work in the Office of Student Engagement where I coordinate the Multicultural Academic Excellence Program and the Chancellor’s Leadership Access Student Program. I also coordinate community and civic engagement opportunities for all students. My goal is to support students from underrepresented populations succeed, and empower all students to develop their leadership, academic, and professional skills.
I also work at Penn State Hershey and Pinnacle Health’s Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute as a Clinical Psychiatric Specialist. In this role I serve as a primary support to children and adolescents receiving treatment on our inpatient psychiatric unit. This can consist of individual therapy sessions, behavioral support plan management, and family therapy. I also run supervision for our nursing and behavioral health support staff two times a week.
Degree(s): I received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Social Work at Elizabethtown College in 2011, and then went on to receive a Master’s of Arts in Social Work at Millersville University in 2015. I also passed my board examinations in 2015 and I am licensed Social Worker in the state of Pennsylvania. I am currently applying for doctoral programs for higher education, with a focus in social justice, equity and inclusion, and working with underrepresented populations.
Orgs/ Extra Curricular you are involved in: I am a sister of Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, Incorporated and have been since December 2010. I am still involved within the organization, particularly with mentoring younger sisters. During my time as a sister, I was able to co-found the chapter where I am from, as well as assist in establishing chapters at three other schools.
I also enjoy staying heavily engaged in professional development and ongoing education. I am currently wrapped up in completing my research, where my particular areas of interest are Latinos succeeding in higher education, establishing support for first generation college students, cultural competency within higher education, and meeting the mental health needs of college students. Over the years, I have presented at both state and national higher education conferences including the NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Conference and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Student Affairs Conference. I continue to strive as a woman of color to be active and frequently present in these conferences to advocate and educate for underrepresented student populations and their needs.
How and where do you find motivation?
I like to say that I find my motivation in the simplest things…it could be found in a conversation with a student who just passed their exam that they have been anxious about, or a breakthrough during in therapy session with my client. My family is a huge motivating factor for me as well. Coming from a strong bonded, Latino family I find myself seeking support and nourishment for my soul and mind from wise maternal figures such as my mother, grandmother, aunts, strong women who I aspire to be. Also, I continuously strive to be a better self in order to serve as a mentor for the youth in my life who truly mean the world to me; my younger brother Jaime, my younger cousins Alberto, Alesandro, and Carina, as well as my godson Xelvián.
How do you decide what move to make next? (school, work, ect)
PRIORITIZATION! I am huge on prioritizing things in my life, always reviewing deadlines, and ensuring that whatever move I make gets my undivided attention. I tend to do daily meditation and check-ins, where I am completely honest with myself. In this time I find myself evaluating my short term and long term goals frequently, with a particular focus on what do I want my future to look like with myself, in my relationship with my significant other and future family, and with my loved ones.
How do you maintain work/life/activities balance?
In all honesty, this is something that I still find myself struggling with, but I am working on it! I love the work that I do, so I find myself getting lost in flow and working way more than I should be and I am beginning to hold myself accountable. Self care is a necessity, and life outside of work deserves every bit of attention. As I see myself getting older I see the need to make sure that I am take advantage of the time spent with loved ones and those who are close to me.
When do you think it is okay to break the rules?
When it involves the wellbeing or safety of an individual or group, I believe it is okay to break the rules. If it is a genuine purpose, and the good outweighs the bad, then I see justifiable reason to bend the rules. One thing working in the mental health field has taught me is that not everything is black and white, sometimes decisions are not as clear-cut and there are gray areas or situations we must evaluate on a case-by-case basis.
What values are you committed to?
There are many values that I feel I am committed to, but one that is close to my heart can best be described by an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana being ‘sankofa’. Sankofa is the idea that “you must reach back to reclaim that which is lost in order to move forward”. I firmly believe that the past is a natural guide to assist you in navigating and creating your future. We learn from the past and we must never forget where we come from. As a first generation college student, a Latina raised in the inner- city of Reading, Pennsylvania and in poverty, I faced many challenges. Growing up in a single parent household, I vowed to myself that my future children, as well as my mother and brother, would never have to worry about putting food on the table, shelter, or living paycheck to paycheck. As I have pushed myself (with the help of family and loved ones) through the higher education system, I never once forgot where I came from. It is my job to repay those who have assisted me by ‘reaching back’ to the community where I was birthed, and work to elevate and empower those alike to reach new heights, to strive for excellence, and make it out of their difficult situations. This is my reasoning for getting into higher education, because education was my way out of the hood. My purpose is to help students from underrepresented populations feel supported so that they reach their full potential and succeed, because my success is their success, and their success if mine.
Any time you took a risk that paid off?
Me pushing my career into the higher education field was definitely a risk! For the past year 8 years I was devoted to the mental health/ medical field and developing my clinical skills. I knew psychiatric diagnoses like the back of my hand, and working in the hospital was the norm for me. After a lot of self-reflection, I came to the realization that I am not getting any younger and I need to focus on my passion, my purpose and not settle for anything less. In my time in higher education, I have seen so much growth as a professional and personal growth too. I am so glad that I took that leap of faith.
Any lessons you had to learn the hard way?
Oh very much so! Now I am able to look back on it and see situations for what it was worth, a big lesson that I learned the hard way was finding out what is love. Growing up in a single parent household and my father not around, I most definitely struggled. My mother, God bless her, played the role of mother and father and to this day I am in awe with how much she had went through to ensure a safe and successful future for my younger brother and I, I am eternally grateful. As a young Latina woman with no paternal figure, I began to look for love in the wrong places such as relationships. I was hard headed, and found myself in a declining and dangerous relationship quickly. With the help of my supports I was able to cut off the toxicity in my life, move forward with college, and encountered the best love there is…self love.
What are you most proud of?
Did you know that Latinas have the lowest percentage of graduate degrees compared to other non-Latina racial groups in the United States? Four percent of Latina women in the United States graduate with a Master’s Degree or higher by the age of 29. Four percent?! My greatest achievement hands down….obtaining my Master’s Degree and working towards becoming Dr. TaLisa Ramos. I am not going to lie that degree did not come easy, and I worked my butt off! I had a full time internship, full-time job, and was taking classes full-time. There would be nights that I cried non-stop feeling so overwhelmed, there were times where I just did not get the chance to sleep, but it was all worth it.
Who has influenced you the most?
I have been so blessed to have multiple mentors in my lifetime who I have looked up to and helped guide me down the path of hard work and achievement. I look back to my undergrad years in my work study positions, and my two bosses David Stewart and Rachel Hadrick supported me and really pushed me to raise the bar and use my voice to become an advocate for social justice. I don’t know if I would be where I am at today without them and I am grateful God had put them in a time of my life where I was developing into a leader. My sorority has also had a significant influence on me, in the best way possible. I look up to my older sisters who have experienced life and has allowed me to lean on their shoulders during the toughest times, as well as challenge my thoughts and actions to make me into a better person. And most importantly, my village of strong women has had the most influence hands down, my tia Sandra, tia Nancy, abuelita Gladys, and of course mi madre Maribel.
What books have most impacted your life? (If any, if not podcasts, movies, documentaries, ect)
Over the past years I have been inspired by the arts, particularly music, spoken word, poetry. Maya Angelou in particular, her work has spoken to me in difficult and confusing times of self-discovery and identity. I look to her for uplift, my favorite piece being “Phenomenal Woman”.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for being genuine. I want to be remembered for how I make people feel. I want to be remembered for being….me.