Q & A: Meet Habiba Braimah, PhD candidate

June 23, 2022

Habiba Braimah, PhD candidate and director, Brandeis Intercultural Center
Photo by Mike Lovett

As a scholar, an educator and a practitioner, Braimah is on a journey of self-discovery. At the Intercultural Center, she fosters a welcoming community that values diverse experiences and perspectives. Her dissertation focuses on the underrepresentation of Black women in tenure-track faculty positions in higher education. Braimah is a recipient of the Marjorie S. Trotter Doctoral Fellowship, the Barbara Wakefield Endowed Scholarship and the Wyatt Jones Endowed Fellowship.

What motivates you?

Success. I am motivated by seeing other people go after their dreams. I am motivated by Black women. When I see a successful Black woman, I am in complete awe knowing that she has achieved success despite her multiple marginalized identities.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a pediatrician! But I think the only reason ... was to appease my parents. When you come from an immigrant household, it is not uncommon to have parents who project their version of the American dream onto you. My parents saw my potential and encouraged me to become a doctor, but I eventually learned that it wasn’t my dream. I’m still going to be a doctor, just not the type my parents wanted me to be!

What is the biggest misconception people have about your work?

People think I am the expert on diversity, equity and inclusion, but the reality is that no one is an expert. A person may have expertise in this area, but to expect us to be all-knowing is setting us up for failure. Information, as we know it, is constantly evolving. What was a best practice one day may no longer be culturally sensitive or relevant the next. This work requires everyone’s participation, and we should all strive to be students of diversity, equity and inclusion.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Just do it. We get into a bad habit of over-thinking, over-analyzing everything. Sometimes, we experience analysis paralysis when we do that, which then impacts our ability to do what we want to do. That’s the stage I am at in my life: just doing it. I’m going to trust my intuition, and I’m going to do it. And I won’t always get it right, but at least I can learn from my failures and successes.

If you could enact one law, what would it be?

I would give Black people reparations. Black people have played a critical role in the success of this nation, and I think that it’s important to pay them their reparations. Beyond that, I would start thinking about how to redistribute the wealth so that everyone can live the quality of life that incorporates what is most important to them. I just want people to be, and live freely.