M.A. in Education, 2014
School of Education
September 1, 2012
Studies Higher Education Access, Engagement, and Retention
I am a second year graduate student originally from San Jose, California, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Educational Policy and Social Context. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. because graduate study will allow me to further delve into areas of interest that developed during my years as an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), where I completed a B.A. in anthropology with a minor in Spanish. Subsequently, I earned a Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology at San Jose State University (SJSU).
Although the process is challenging, pursuing a doctorate is a means to reach my goals of conducting research and mentoring first-generation and non-traditional students who aspire to complete a college degree. My primary research interests include the influence of formal (e.g., Student Outreach And Retention) and informal (e.g., friendship groups) student support services on academic success and the influence of peers in relation to student retention. These topics are linked to my larger question of university structural support.
I am drawn to these topics for deeply personal reasons. My parents entered college as first-generation, low-income students. Both followed the advice most often given to college students: “engage with the campus community.” The result was that the informal systems in which my mother participated fostered the completion of an undergraduate degree, while the formal organizations my father joined did not. Unfortunately, my father passed away in my freshman year and I had not yet developed the areas of inquiry that compel me to investigate higher education access, engagement, and retention. In retrospect, I see how my research agenda and interests have been shaped by my personal experiences.
While a graduate student at SJSU I had the opportunity to work for the Academic Support Program Increased Retention in Education (ASPIRE). Program participants are primarily low-income, first-generation, and non-traditional students who have limited access to resources required to successfully transition from high school to college. ASPIRE staff assist students with writing skills and address student anxieties regarding the college experience. The effect of limited academic skills on academic success – despite talent, drive and determination – was apparent. This observation further drove my passion to conduct research on retention in higher education.
As graduate mentor with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) the following academic year, I conducted a research evaluation project to assess the effectiveness of projects geared toward first-generation student retention. I explored formal and informal support networks and their impact on student success. My findings demonstrated that informal and formal support services are important and work differently based on individual student characteristics. In a subsequent study, in my position as a Program Developer with the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) at SJSU, I explored the relationship between student engagement with diverse student organizations and increased confidence in addressing diversity issues.
Since arriving at UC Irvine, I became involved in organizations such as the Diverse Educational Community and Doctoral Experience (DECADE), Chicano/Latino Graduate Student Association, Social Equality in Education Lab (SEEL), and planning committee for the Interdisciplinary Conference on Researching Equity. I also regularly participate in events hosted by the Graduate Division for students interested in graduate school.
This summer I consulted with Girls Incorporated of Orange County and will conduct a two-year evaluation project of their programs. I was also granted a fellowship by UC Irvine’s Graduate Division to evaluate responses from a Campus Climate Survey conducted in Fall 2010. Additionally, I continued working with Assistant Professor M. Estela Zarate on her research project regarding social capital.
I look forward to continuing to learn from and work with the talented faculty, staff, and student population at UC Irvine.