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UC first-generation faculty to students: You’ve got this and we’re here to help

First-generation UC Irvine faculty prepared to support students facing the same challenges they did include (from left) Davin Phoenix, Anita Casavantes Bradford, Manoj Kaplinghat, David Igler and Glenda Flores. Credit: Steve Zylius/UC Irvine

 

As the child of farmworkers growing up amid the citrus groves of Orange County, UC Davis law professor Cruz Reynoso would get in trouble for skipping out on picking fruit to catch up on his studies.

“My mother complained to the neighbors — look at how lazy my boys turned out. Instead of being outside working they’re inside reading books,” Reynoso recalled.

The only boy in his class — a segregated school for Latino kids — to complete high school, Reynoso not only went on to finish college, but to earn a law degree and ultimately become the first Latino justice on the California Supreme Court.

But he might not have done any of it without a mentor: a teacher at his school that gave him a hint of what he could accomplish.

“For one year, we had a young Chicano teacher at our school and I remember at that time thinking, if he’s a teacher, maybe I can be a teacher when I grow up.”

Now, Reynoso is looking to provide a similar spark of inspiration for his students as part of a program that connects first-generation college students to faculty who have walked in their shoes.

As almost 90,000 first-generation college students — 42 percent of the undergraduate population — arrive on UC campuses this fall, more than 900 faculty across the UC system have stepped up to show them they are in good company.

They include not only Reynoso but four UC chancellors and faculty from every background and corner of American society, who were themselves the first in their family to college.

“What we’re doing is saying, look at these models of success,” said Anita Casavantes Bradford, a professor of Chicano/Latino studies and history. She is the founder of UC Irvine’s First-Generation Faculty Initiative, which launched in 2014 and provided the model for the systemwide faculty outreach to first-gen students this fall.

Read full article about the initiative.


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