In this regular feature, we hear from women academics and professionals about their lives, their faith, and the way it all intersects. Pull up a chair and join us as we chat with writer and consultant Dorcas Cheng-Tozun.
Welcome, Dorcas! Tell us about yourself.
Name: Dorcas Cheng-Tozun
Current job: Freelance writer, editor, and communications consultant
Current location: Nairobi, Kenya
Schools attended: Stanford University (for my B.A. and M.A.)
Favorite food: Dark chocolate
What was the hardest part of grad school and what kept you sane?
I finished my undergraduate degree in three years and then went straight into my master's program. I remember feeling so much younger than my peers, and I couldn't help wondering if they thought I didn't deserve to be there. Most days I felt intimidated and like I was just playing at graduate school.
But I adored my chosen field of study for graduate school: sociology with a focus on social stratification and inequality. Each day I was challenged with history and ideas and theories that came from far outside my sheltered suburban upbringing. Both my head and my heart were fully engaged as I learned about the hardships experienced by those with less privilege than I, and the battles they fought for dignity and respect and opportunity. That program forever changed the way I look at the world and deeply affected the trajectory of my life, for which I am so grateful.
What do you love most about your job right now?
Being a writer is just another way of continuing to be a student. Each opportunity I have to write an article or essay, I get to engage with what's happening in the world — current events, the latest research, fascinating people. I am constantly challenged to tell meaningful stories in a way that is clear and compelling, and hopefully leads to some positive change. I recently started a communications project for a Kenyan recruitment firm, and I love that I get the chance to learn more about the dynamic business sector in Kenya and East Africa as a whole. As someone who is decidedly not a businessperson, how else would I have gotten such an opportunity?
The other huge plus of my work is the flexibility. Our family just moved to Nairobi this summer, but I can continue to write for publications in the US. I can say yes or no to projects depending on what else is happening in my life. I also have time to spend with our two young children and to explore this beautiful country that I find myself in.
How does your faith inform the way you think about or do your work?
One of the biggest conundrums for writers is the question of platform and personal branding: how much should you prioritize this? I have tried to use audience-building tools to the best of my ability (e.g. social media, email lists, etc.), but I am clear that God cares far more about my faithfulness and my heart for others than he does about my numbers. I want to focus my skills and gifts on telling God-honoring stories of hope, healing, and redemption, and in supporting organizations with a meaningful social mission. I also make it a priority to support other writers, especially those who are earlier on in their journey. There were so many people who generously opened doors for me when I was starting out in this industry, and I want to be a source of encouragement and assistance for others as they find their voice and share it with the world.