Latino men were encouraged to pursue graduate degrees at a symposium held at Cal State Fullerton Wednesday.
“The purpose of these kinds of events is to expose our student body to actual faculty that the students can actually relate to,” said Elizabeth Suarez, coordinator for the Chicano and Chicana Resource Center. “We don’t have a lot of Latino males going into higher education and going beyond the (bachelor’s degree).”
The symposium, titled “Road to a Ph.D: The Experiences of Chicano/Latino Faculty in Graduate School,” which was put on by the CSUF Chicana and Chicano Resource Center, featured three panelists who talked about their experiences as they navigated their way to a doctoral degree.
The panel consisted of Erualdo R. Gonzalez, assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at CSUF, Julian Jefferies, assistant professor of reading at CSUF, and Henry Puente, assistant professor of communications at CSUF.
By exposing Latino male students to faculty who went through the doctoral degree process, Suarez hopes these students will see that continuing their education and earning a Ph.D. is possible.
“Latinos in general are underrepresented in all areas, especially in the world of education,” said Puente. “(The symposium is) trying to enlighten people behind me… the new generations of Latinos.”
By providing this new generation with the obstacles and struggles they faced while working on their own doctorate degrees, Puente said he hopes to make life easier for Latino students who aspire to get their doctorates.
One main focus all three panelists hit upon was the importance of students having mentors to help guide them through the difficulty of earning a Ph.D.
“Mentors are extremely important in helping you navigate the field. They’re going to help you discover and figure out the mine fields that you have to avoid as opposed to running into them and getting blown up,” Puente said. “Mentors are going to provide you with a road map that will make it easier because the experience of getting a Ph.D. is very difficult. They make it a little bit easier than what it would be otherwise.”
After the panelists detailed their journeys and the obstacles they faced in their pursuit of their doctorate, the symposium was opened up to a question and answer segment for the small number of attendees.
“It’s hard to find a Latino professor or instructor that caters to your needs–it’s a very difficult thing,” said Juan Valdez, an anthropologist major and first-year graduate student at CSUF. “Once you approach this type of panel you feel optimistic. You want to pursue more goals and kind of have a new start.”
The symposium was a great opportunity for both the students and the professors, Valdez said.