Fast 15 with Chris Molina: Code-Switching


Casey J. Cornelius (00:02):

Hey everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of the ForCollegeForLife podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius. I’m the founder and president of ForCollegeForLife, America’s leading college speaking agency, and I’m also the host of this podcast, which means I get to interview the folks who make us who we are, our speakers and consultants, and facilitators and authors, all the people who make us America’s leading college speaking agency. Today I have the opportunity to interview someone in this Fast 15 format who is doing such amazing work on a topic that is really, really resonating with audiences both student and professional all across the country. I get to know a little bit more about his area of expertise. So without any further ado and delay, let me go ahead and bring to the mic none other than Chris Molina. Chris, was that a okay introduction for you? Did I make, I feel like it’s the episode of the office where Dwight is announcing people. Should I announce you way more?

Chris Molina (01:04):

No. What if I just keep on coming on and off the Zoom? You just keep on reintroducing me. But no, Casey. Casey, I love our conversations. You know that sometimes we have to stop ourselves multiple times just to get off the phone. So I’m excited and you’re one of the few people that has actually seen me present to both students and professionals. So I’m really excited for the questions that you’re going to have for me today.

Casey J. Cornelius (01:28):

I love it. I love it. And Chris is right. First of all, we are talkers. There’s no doubt about it. Rarely do we get the opportunity to hit record on it like we’re doing today. But I will also say this, Chris is also one of the most introspective and insightful people that I know, and I know that this is a topic that is of particular interest to you both personally and professionally, Chris. So in a nutshell, could you talk a little bit to those who are listening about what code switching is?

Chris Molina (01:59):

Yeah, absolutely. So I can do it very quickly because I talk about it so often. I’m currently talking about it with students in Florida right now. But it’s essentially anytime that you change the way that you express yourself. And the easiest way that I explain it is for especially college students, they don’t speak the same way that they speak to their friends the way that they speak to their parents. They don’t speak the same way that they do maybe on a Friday night hanging out with their bros or their sisses the same way that they might speak at church on Sunday. So anytime that you not just change the way that you express yourself with your words, but any way, shape and form of expression. So maybe the way that you decide to do your hair, the way that you decide to use your mannerisms or what you choose to wear out of your house, anytime you change it up, you are code switching.

Casey J. Cornelius (02:53):

This is not want to sound like the old guy on this conversation, but we’re going to keep it a hundred here for just a second. And listen, we do the same thing. So right before we press record for this episode, we were talking, I would say differently, more relaxed as friends, as brothers, as colleagues than we do once we hit record. I even jokingly say, let me put on this podcast voice. Right. So I think I’m hearing you say, and I know I’ve heard you say this before, but this is not inherently a bad thing to recognize the fact that we present ourselves differently in different situations. Is that correct?

Chris Molina (03:31):

That’s absolutely correct. And I would even go further and say that the only time it’s bad that we can always point to and go that’s bad is whenever it is forced and forcing, not internally forcing externally. So before we press record, either one of us said to the other person, Hey, can you make sure that you have your professional voice on? Can you make sure that you change the way that you express yourself? If we would’ve said that to each other, that would be very, very, very bad forms of code switching because we’re forcing the other person to code switch. But I’m making a documentary on code switching, so I get to interview other people that do it at very high levels. I was explaining to Dr. Courtney McCloy about how I see myself like a tree. If you envision a Chris Molina tree, the trunk of that tree is what my knee jerk reaction when somebody says, who are you? Or how do you identify my Puerto Rican kid from the ghetto? That’s my knee jerk reaction. That’s the trunk of my tree. Ever since I graduated high school, there’s been a Marine Corps branch off of that tree. There’s been a Purdue University branch, a business major branch. There’s been a John Deere branch, there’s a speaker branch, there’s an author. You go on and on, there’s a girl dad branch. All of those are me. And now that Sergeant Molina branch sounds and expresses himself a lot differently. I was going to

Casey J. Cornelius (05:02):

Say, what does that voice sound like? No, I’m just kidding.

Chris Molina (05:06):

I rarely have to break that voice out nowadays, but that sounds very different than the Girl Dad branch, right? But they’re both me. They are very much me. Now, whenever you start that new branch, it’s going to sound different. It’s going to feel weird. You might feel a little fake. That is a part of code switching, finding your voice in this new place. And so it’s not bad. I wasn’t bad when I went to bootcamp in the Marine Corps and it was day one and I was trying to figure out what it is to be a Marine, to be a recruit in bootcamp. It’s not bad, but we do need to make sure that we’re conscious of these things so that we understand that we are code switching whenever we do certain things, and also more importantly, that sometimes we unconsciously force other people to code switch.


And whenever I explained all this to Dr. Courtney MCC Clooney, who is a brilliant black woman, I’m not explaining anything to her that she didn’t know. She looked at me and she said, Chris, you’re explaining the self complexity model. And I was like, are we about to do some therapy? She was like, yeah, let’s do some therapy. And what she explained very concisely was the self complexity theory says that the more parts of you that there are the happier that you will be in life. And so she’s like, Chris, you’re a girl dad right now. I know you do a lot of other things. We’re doing a part of the other thing that you’re doing, but if you only had your identity wrapped up in being a girl dad, being Ava’s dad, now at some point there’s going to be a break in that identity for one of you.


One of us is not going to be here. And if by some tragedy it happens to be that now I’m a dad and she or I’m just me and Ava’s not here, my daughter’s not here, and I have my entire identity wrapped into it, number one, it’s going to be devastating no matter what, but if I don’t have other identities to fall back into, then it’s going to be even more devastating. And so yes, code switching is not a bad thing in itself because it is a thing that we all do, but being conscious about all these little things about how that works inside of us and internally how it works whenever we do things that forces other people to code switch, all of those things we need to be conscious of.

Casey J. Cornelius (07:17):

I think there’s two parts of what you were just saying there that I want to peel back the onion on just a little bit. The first one is often the conversation around code switching goes immediately to language voice. I mean, we even did it here, right? But there’s more than that. You talked about hairstyle, clothing, dress, et cetera, et cetera. Can you talk about some of the additional layers and nuances of what code switching looks like?

Chris Molina (07:48):

Yeah, absolutely. And I might do it through a piece of research that came from Deloitte. So Deloitte did a study about covering, and for people who are unaware of what covering is, it’s like hiding who you really are. They were studying that at workplaces. And so covering is hiding who you are. Code switching is changing how you express yourself. Now, they did all the research and then they had percentages that reported certain demographics on how many people in that category in the demographics said that they felt like they covered at work. The highest group was L G B T Q. It was like 83, 80 4% said that they covered at work, they hid themselves at work, they hid their expressions at work. And the lowest, I thought it was going to be a much lower percentage straight white men was 45%. Nearly half of straight white men said that they covered at work that they hid parts of themselves at work.


So in between all those were all the other demographics. So it’s more than half. It’s a majority of people that go into their lives covering who they really are and the way that they might cover or change who they are because they don’t feel safe at work or they don’t feel safe wherever they’re going can be many different ways. One of the things that there are a lot of studies on is black women, their hair. A lot of times black women have to make that decision on if they’re going to straighten their hair for work, straighten their hair for college as well, because many different student organizations run themselves like a workplace. And the perception is that straighter hair is more, and I’m using air quotes here, professional, and it’s the exact same way for anybody that decides to try and use a professional version of clothing or attire from head to toe hats, coat jackets, slacks, shoes for people that maybe don’t conform to the norms in America, they want to wear something that represents their culture. A lot of times, whenever we decide to not coat switch and bring our authentic self or bring our culture into work or on campus, it’s looked down upon and it’s sometimes made fun of. And that is not just an assumption that I’m making. That also ties back to many different studies from many different research centers.

Casey J. Cornelius (10:25):

Folks, if you have not yet already, please make sure that you visit to learn more about code-switching and Chris’s other signature programs. Chris, I’m also thinking about this from the lens of the student leader and creating an organizational space in which authenticity and identity and belonging is prioritized. What bit of advice would you give to that student who’s listening to this episode about ways in which they can create an atmosphere, community, whatever it might be that is more open to people regardless or because of their lived experiences and identities?

Chris Molina (11:09):

Yeah, yeah, that’s a great question and two things to remember. I would say you have to say something. You have to do something. Two easiest ways to think about it. Number one, the say something is the baseline. That’s what we should be doing. We should in every way, shape and form express that we are accepting of other people and all types of people say those words. Now, I’ve been able to have conversation with Dr. Miles Durkey out of the University of Michigan, and he studies code switching at high school and in college levels, and an unintended result of one of his experiments found that it’s difficult for people to not code switch even when they’re told to not code switch. So simply saying, we accept all people is not enough. It’s the starting point, but it’s not enough. Now in order to do, what do you have to do?


What can you do? Well, as a previous student leader myself that has been at those tables, been in those areas where we are talking to people and we have a room full of people that might join our organization and we have to talk to them, we want to put on that face the exact same way, Casey, that you and I try to put on our podcast voice. We want to be more exciting. We want people to have, we want to make sure that people listening to this we’re pleasurable to their ears, but what we have to ensure that we are doing is showing who we really are, not just the parts of us that we think fit best. In my case for the business fraternity, that was my student organization, we have to make sure that we are also showing the parts of ourselves that don’t fit in the norm.


Because as a leader, once you start doing that, then that tells everybody else, oh, I’m okay being me here. I can show parts of me that maybe don’t fit into the norm. Because as student leaders, we have so much power, and if we just stay within the lines of what we think is acceptable, then we’re missing out on so many different people, so many different types of people. And you probably have people in your organization that don’t feel comfortable being themselves, and we’re just staying within the status quo. We’re staying within the lines. And not only is that just boring, to me, that is very weak leadership. So we need to push ourselves to ensure that we are showing parts of ourselves that maybe don’t fit in with the norm so that other people can see that it’s okay to be yourself.

Casey J. Cornelius (13:39):

This is awesome. Chris, as always, thank you for your insights on this, folks. If you’re listening to this and you’re a student leader on your campus, or you are planning leadership developments, or you’re trying to find ways to increase the sense of belonging and identity and authenticity in your organization or on your campus, please make sure. Please, please, please, you visit Again, learn more about him, his incredible story that there’s just so much to get into. We can’t even hit it all today, and the signature program on code switching. Chris, I always, always, always appreciate you. Thank you for sharing some time today,

Chris Molina (14:20):

Casey, thank you. I appreciate you and I can’t wait until our next conversation.

Casey J. Cornelius (14:25):

I agree. And folks, listen, the only thing that we ask is that you do the thing that you’re supposed to do with podcasts. Please make sure that you like and share and subscribe and rate and review, and also get this to the hands or the playlist or the ears of the people who need to hear it, and let us know the content that you want to hear next. Because our role and our job and our goal and our mission is to deliver the content that is most impactful for you. So until next time, please be well. Please be safe and we’ll talk to you soon. Thanks everybody.

Chris Molina (14:57):



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