I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree when I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2008. Growing up, my single father, a Mexican-American disabled veteran, worked as a neighborhood handyman. This occupation sustained our family at less than half the national poverty line. Though my goal upon entering college had been to become a doctor, my experiences as a Latina growing up in poverty quickly sensitized me to sociological dimensions of biology and medicine. I found a disciplinary home for my burgeoning critical perspective in Sociology. In my tenure as a University of California President’s Doctoral Dissertation-Year Fellow, I brought the disciplinary rigor of my social science background to bear on health inequalities research at the intersection of Sociology, History, Biomedical Sciences, and interdisciplinary Science, Technology, and Society (STS). These concerns continue to motivate my research into the unequal distribution of biomedical innovations around the globe.
As an instructor and a sociologist, I feel compelled to ensure that higher education does not reproduce structural inequalities by rewarding only limited skill sets. I seek to integrate students as persons into the learning environment, affording them opportunities to discuss how the experiences that have shaped them as members of diverse communities inform their educational goals and self-conceptions. I provide a welcoming environment for underrepresented students by fostering habits of empathy and reflexivity among all students. These goals are fundamental to my pedagogical philosophy, and complement efforts to instill disciplinary knowledge and higher-order learning habits.
My commitment to diversity extends beyond my formal role as an instructor. At the University of California, San Diego I worked as a bridge connecting graduate student and faculty mentors with undergraduates through diversity fora for structurally disadvantaged students hosted by the Undergraduate Sociology Club. Informed by my experiences as an undergraduate, I actively mentored first-generation college students and students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups who planned to attend graduate school. I provided information, support, and understanding as mentees forged their unique paths to graduate school. My mentees have been admitted to graduate programs at UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UC Davis. In 2015, I was recognized with an award for my mentoring efforts on behalf of these students as they completed their Senior Honors Theses. I continue to mentor first-generation students at Colby College and participate in diversity fora hosted by Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity. Many of the challenges first-generation students and students of color face in higher education generally are amplified by issues of representation in an elite small liberal arts setting. Colby College has thus positively challenged my own growth as a mentor and an academic committed to fostering diversity in higher education.