Overcoming the Odds

UT Tyler Alumna Finds Hope Through Education

Publication Date: 05/28/2020

Born half a hemisphere away in Lima, Peru, Dr. Silvana Chambers graduated from UT Tyler with a Ph.D. in human resource development. Chambers found hope through education, and now she uses education to impact and inspire others.

But her own educational journey started bleak. Growing up in extreme poverty during a time in which her country was plagued by terrorism, she learned early in life that at times – through no fault of their own – people can find themselves in precarious circumstances. Her parents taught her that in the midst of misfortune, natural-born talents could help improve one’s plight.

The 2019 alumna took those words to heart, and at the age of 9, she taught herself English. That decision changed the course of her life. By age 11, Chambers was fluent in the language without any formal education – just by listening to songs, reading borrowed books and watching television at her grandmother’s house in Peru. 

“Being able to read and understand English helped me tremendously because I had access to so much more information. I knew learning the language would increase my opportunities, and I wanted to be prepared,” Chambers said. “I was also able to teach myself computer programming and acquire skills that I would not have been able to acquire otherwise.”

Why UT TylerNimon and Chambers

Chambers ultimately moved to the US, considered the Land of Opportunity, and launched herself in the corporate world for most of her career. When the time came for Chambers to extend her education and look for a doctoral program, she looked no further than UT Tyler, which offered a unique program with superior faculty.

“The faculty convinced me UT Tyler was the right choice for me,” she said. “I also liked that the program was designed to work for both those in academics and practitioners.”

Chambers did not always want to become a professor, but her career path changed after starting UT Tyler’s program. She grew to admire the professors who first caught her attention.

“Seeing the profound impact that a good professor could have on one’s life, I decided to become a professor myself,” she said, adding that her UT Tyler education successfully launched her into academia.

“UT Tyler emphasizes academic excellence and rigor in all of their courses,” said Chambers, who now is an assistant professor of management at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. “Throughout the program, each course helped me gain skills that I now apply as an HRD scholar and researcher.”

Dissertation of the Year

Chambers discovered her efforts, determination and perseverance paid off when the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) recognized her work as a UT Tyler doctoral student. She earned the AHRD 2019 Esworthy Malcolm S. Knowles “Dissertation of the Year” Award for her doctoral dissertation.

The award recognizes an outstanding doctoral dissertation that exemplifies scholarly work and contributes to the HRD field, according to the academy. Her dissertation examined the extent to which gender quotas in leadership are an effective intervention for achieving gender equality in the workplace.

“I was very fortunate to have the support of Dr. Kim Nimon, my dissertation chair, and Drs. Andrea Ellinger, Forrest Lane and Julia Storberg-Walker, my dissertation committee. Their expert feedback helped me narrow my focus, sharpen my logic and further developed my ideas,” Chambers said.

Nimon, who also taught Chambers in four courses highlighting quantitative methods, is proud of her former student.

“Silvana was an outstanding student,” said Nimon, a UT Tyler associate professor of human resource development. “To see her grow and use her UT Tyler degree to make a difference in students’ lives is so great and inspiring.”

Making an Impact

During a typical workday, Chambers researches various HRD topics including gender, race, privilege and inequality in the workplace and communicates regularly with her students and department faculty. “Typical” has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however. Now with courses fully online, Chambers also assists those students who need help adjusting to an online learning environment.

“Every day, I like to remind myself that everyone is doing their best, and that each of us has been impacted in different ways,” she said. “I made the best of what was given to me, and now I found the opportunity to truly impact lives.”

Chambers encourages current UT Tyler students to “never give up” and value faculty feedback as constructive criticism.

“I know it sounds cliché, but in my experience, as you go through your education, you may realize that you do not know as much as you thought you knew,” she said. “Seeing the critiques and feedback on a paper that you poured your heart and soul into can be difficult, but don’t take it to heart. A “great job” does not help you grow as much as honest and expert feedback.”

Chambers currently resides in Katy with her husband, Ron, their two children, Joshua and Anna, and pet Westie, Braveheart. Aside from learning, she enjoys reading, traveling and trying new technologies and cooking recipes.