What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?
My motivation for going to college and earning a degree was inspired by my family. As a child, I was often encouraged to take my academics seriously. Every marking period, my grandfather would reward his grandchildren for making the honor roll. One year, in either the first or second grade, after routinely redeeming my report card for rewards, he denied me. Perplexed, I learned that I would longer receive external rewards from him for “good” grades, but essentially, he explained to me that I would have to find the inner strength and fortitude to continue without him (his rewards). It would need to come from my personal desire to do well. He would always say, “Knowledge is power.” He said that if I focused on any one thing in life, it would benefit me to pursue education. As he believed, “When you are educated [reading, writing, comprehension], you can teach yourself whatever you need to know.” I now know that having knowledge is good, however applying your knowledge is powerful.
What did you study? What degree did you earn?
I earned my Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision (emphasis in Rehabilitation Counselor Education). Rehabilitation Counseling works with people who have different types of disabilities. My dissertation explored the influence of motivation on successful opioid tapering outcomes among individuals living with chronic pain.
Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?
Many family members, friends, and other supporters spoke into my life regarding intellectual and academic ability. My first-grade teacher said to me, “Shamira, you are a scholar,” after I attempted to explain its definition. I agreed with what she spoke, and therefore I continued my academic pursuits. After seeing my oldest brother graduate from college, I knew I both wanted to earn a degree and become a role model for my younger siblings and others, just like he did. My six siblings are also educated, four of us just happen to have a college degree. High school teachers and staff, as well as guidance counselors (two whom I now consider family) were very supportive. I was also an accomplished student-athlete, so my coaches and teammates inspired me to get better daily. I knew undoubtedly that I would attend college. I earned a track and field scholarship to throw at South Carolina State University. I am grateful truly to God for the many people who love and support me.
What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?
My advice to first-generation college students today is to seek the bigger picture and pursue purpose. I believe that is to understand the “why” behind our pursuits. I believe that knowing why helps to make decisions less complicated. It also pulls us into a place of introspection that causes us to lean into our intrinsic versus external motivational states. Is college necessary to achieve your goals? Which type of institution best supports your needs and desires? Seek mentorship, no matter what level you are in life – we all can use mentors. Ask questions when you do not know something – many people are happy to help. Do not fatigue in your preparation towards your goals – it equips you with tools and the direction necessary to see them realized. While you may be considered a first-generation college student today, because of your current persistence someone in your family will come become a second-, third-, or fourth-generation college-student because of you. Be encouraged. It is not about speed but endurance. You must persist until you achieve what you desire.
What goals have you set for yourself?
My immediate goal is to secure employment within the government around the area of research administration and evaluation. There, I hope to work in areas of research, teaching, and populations that interest me. It would afford me the opportunity to engage with, and possibly influence, research and policy initiatives.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to thank ACT for funding my education the last two years and for the opportunity to intern with ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning this summer. I am blessed by its mission to improve opportunity, access, and success for underserved learners. Equity is a topic that needs to be addressed in every system embedded in our nation. I am glad that I could both benefit from and contribute to this great mission and purpose driven work. I am thankful to be “PHinisheD”!
Hear from Dr. Rothmiller and her educational journey on a recent Education Talk Radio podcast here.
Shamira J. Rothmiller attended South Carolina State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management in 2012. She is an ACT Scholar and a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC) who earned her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of Iowa this year. Rothmiller is a native of New Jersey.