Ballerina in Charge, Lourdes Lopez

LinkedIn

Lourdes Lopez was already a serious dance student at the prestigious School of American Ballet before she realized she could pursue a career in the art form she loved. It was while preparing a school report on what she wanted to be when she grew up that she found an article on famed New York City Ballet dancer Jacques d’Amboise.

“Until I read that article, I never believed that I could actually do what I do for a living,” remembers Lopez. “I don’t think we deliver the message as a nation that you can support yourself as an artist.”

Not only would she become a principal for the New York City Ballet, where she worked with legendary choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, it also led to a varied post-ballet career. Lopez was still with the company when she was offered a job as a cultural reporter for WNBC-TV in New York. She took a leave of absence which became permanent in 1997. “No one dances forever,” says Lourdes.

Lopez went on to serve on the faculties of New York’s Ballet Academy East and Barnard College, became the executive director of the George Balanchine Foundation, and co-founded Morphoses, a contemporary dance company, with Christopher Wheeldon.

Now Lopez is the artistic director of the acclaimed Miami City Ballet since taking over for its founding director in 2012. She’s made it one of her missions to ensure that all south Florida school children can see a future for themselves in the arts.

Lopez understands what they’re up against. Born in Cuba, Lourdes emigrated with her family to the United States in 1959 and started dancing at the age of five. A Ford Foundation scholarship made it possible to study dance in New York City full time.

“I never thought I could do what I was doing, there was always something that I had to be better at when I was dancing,” admits Lopez. “One of the things that I love about dancing is that it’s never perfect and you’re constantly trying to achieve this goal.”

The rigorous world of ballet prepared her well to lead a company as dynamic and diverse as the Miami City Ballet. Though she’s one of the few women to hold the top position in a national ballet company, she keeps this singular achievement in context.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

A Latina Google Strategist’s Views On Authenticity, Embracing Your Identity And The Power Of Instagram

LinkedIn

Dannie Fountain is known as a builder, whether she’s rebuilding her own identity or building a brand, she has a reputation for how tightly she can weave a story that just feels right.

While the skill set was there during her teenage years it was her freshman year of college that challenged her ability to put them to the test.

“I was adopted at 16, changing my identity all over again, and removing my ability to access the historical information that had been shared, because I no longer had access to their source – my mother’s anecdotal nuggets,” explains Fountain. “My identity changed once again during my freshman year of college. Through some health-related decisions, tough conversations, and a DNA test, I discovered that the wholly-British descent I’d been raised to understand was actually pretty off.”

The unexpected medical tests led to Fountain discovering that she was Latinx and deciding to melt into an identity that had always belonged to her.

Now as a strategist at Google and as an independent marketing consultant, Fountain uses her storytelling skills to support brands and their larger missions.

Below she shares how she champions inclusivity in all the spaces she inhabits, what advice she has for other Latinxs, and how she balances both her corporate job and side hustles.

Vivian Nunez: What made you join the team at Google in addition to working for yourself? 

Dannie Fountain: Truthfully, I wasn’t looking for a job when the Google opportunity happened. I was surviving (nay, thriving) in the rollercoaster of “feast and famine” that is entrepreneurship and I truly was in love with my life. When the Google opportunity first cropped up in my inbox, my reaction was one of imposter syndrome – who am I to believe I’m important/talented/brave/strong/cool enough to pursue an opportunity like this? But Google has this kind of kinetic power, one that won’t let you say no. So I pursued it, and the more I pursued it, the more I fell in love. Now, nine months later, I can truly smile when I say Google is my corporate home and the first place I’ve ever worked where I’ve unapologetically brought my whole self to work every single day. 

Nunez: How have you navigated the transition to an in-house, full-time job? 

Fountain: I’ve always been a “side hustler” in some form of the word – whether it was running my marketing consulting firm while in college or running my second business while maintaining my first. But this transition from freelancing to working at Google was an interesting one. Before I came to Google, I was on the road nearly 24/7 for speaking engagements and work. Not only was I coming back into a space where I had a boss again, but I also was going to have an apartment of my own for the first time in nearly 2 years.

The transition was smoother than expected in some ways (i.e. I have fallen in love with having a commute again) and harder in others (I didn’t actually stop traveling as much and so I still feel like I’m on the road all the time). Having coworkers and the resources to do all the things I’ve dreamed of doing is incredible – I love the opportunity for casual collision that sparks these moments of innovation that profoundly change the way I think about marketing. I’m beyond grateful for the access and opportunity I’ve gotten in the nine months I’ve been at Google. But at the end of the day, I’m a Googler and still a freelancer, so really not much has changed.

Nunez: How important is it for you that others understand that you are proudly Latina?

Fountain: In some ways, I feel so much shame for identifying as Latina. My grasp on culture and history is limited. My grasp on language is weak. My appearance is that of a white woman. It took me taking an actual DNA test and seeing the results with my own eyes before I’d actually start checking the “hispanic or latino” box on things, let alone verbally speaking that identity aloud.

But I also recognize my privilege. I know that I have the power to walk into a room and be presumed white and there is so much responsibility in that presumption. There’s this profound sense of urgency to make it unequivocally clear that [Latinx] is who I am, all in, 100%

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

How This Latina Brought Her Dream For Quiero — A Latinx Talk Show — To Life

LinkedIn

The conversations on QUIERO the Show, a Latinx talk show web series, are centered on the Latinx experience. Priscilla Garcia Jacquier sits opposite her guests, the likes of Alexander Dinelaris, Emma Ramos, and Michelle Veintimilla, as she builds a conversation on their experiences pursuing their truest passions.

“The show is about tools for success, so I like to think through people’s lives and how their experience could help other people,” explains Garcia-Jacquier. “Sometimes that means that they’re at the top of the game, sometimes that means that they’re just starting out, but their hustle is on point.”

The series has a complete first season with 10 episodes currently available on YouTube with plans to film season 2 this summer in Los Angeles.

“It became clear that I wanted to build a platform that would both help people’s hearts and also give them the tools necessary for success — LatinX success,” shares Garcia-Jacquier. “LatinX hunger gets confused into a sort of ‘grateful immigrant’ narrative that I have really become tired of. No, we’re not here working away our gratitude every day and thanking the borders for letting us through in humble submission. We are here to build, to create, to empower, and honestly, to have an economic impact.”

Quiero’s first season is the result of hustle and pure determination — filmed in Garcia-Jacquier’s New York City bedroom with equipment her and her team already owned. Season 2 is a dream supported by a community of individuals who supported their Kickstarter campaign and understood the vision, and the need, for a series like Quiero.

“As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned it’s going to take time and that I have to make direct asks,” shares Garcia-Jacquier. “Somehow, I’ve approached a lot of exchanges surrendering my instinct and allowing others’ expertise to overpower my gut. I’m learning that I need to follow my instincts and be very direct in the asks that it requires. It’s the only way that people meet you halfway.”

Below Garcia-Jacquier shares the behind-the-scenes of building a web series, leaving behind her 9-to-5 for her own passion project, and the advice she has for Latinx.

Vivian Nunez: When did you know it was time to quit your job to focus on your passion projects? 

Priscila Garcia-Jacquier:I have been assisting at the highest levels of entertainment since I was 19. My mentors’ projects have always been the most important tasks for me and I took to their lives as if they were my own. That’s what you’re supposed to do, that’s what being a Hollywood assistant means— that’s how you learn and absorb. I have loved every step of the way. However, this year, it became increasingly difficult to leave my projects at home, even for the day. I felt a pull to prioritize them, to prioritize myself. I think some people do figure out a way to work and apprentice and still go home to their projects with their whole heart. I admire those people. That was not the case for me. If someone else’s project is in front of me, I will completely surrender into it. It’s easy to lose sight of the importance of your own script when the one at work stars a major celebrity. I’m 26 now and I wasn’t okay with that anymore. I realized that the only way to really create a boundary for myself was to start working for me.

Nunez: What inspired Quiero? 

Garcia-Jacquier: A year ago, I was feeling stuck and frustrated. I felt bogged down by the work I wasn’t creating and felt pressured to produce. I sat down with myself and I thought— what can I produce right now? What can I bring my team together to start making tomorrow? In the meantime, I was really thinking about the things that actually interested me and how I actually liked to spend my time. It turns out that I’ve always been a self-help junky and consume the medium relentlessly. Lewis Howes, Marie Forleo, Gabby Bernstein, Oprah, are all people whose content I invest in and whose lessons I apply. I allowed myself to start thinking about it— what if this isn’t just your hobby? What if part of your interest is that you want to… do that? I sat down with my EP and kind of whispered this crazy idea to her that I wanted to start my own talkshow. That my favorite part of any job is always the connection. Who will have a meaningful impact on my life next?

Nunez: Why do you think a show like Quiero is necessary? 

Garcia-Jacquier: I made Quiero because I needed Quiero. Quiero is my way to fight the harmful narratives about LatinX that have arisen from our current political climate. But Quiero is also my way of learning about the community— we’re very misunderstood, both inside and outside of the community. We all come from different countries, with different cultures, and very different Spanishes, and then we arrive here and are expected to be the same. Not to mention that my experience as an LatinX immigrant differs greatly from someone who is first, second, or third generation. We have to be open in saying that we are here and we are building a new culture. To be Latino American is a new and different thing. I’m curious about that thing, I want to partake in building what that means— but we have to be open about it, all while highlighting our success. That’s Quiero.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Lime is the first bike share to reach a Native American community

LinkedIn
up close picture of lime bike logo on a basket of bicycle

Over 119 bike-share systems now exist across America, and with the rise of dockless bikes, more and more communities are gaining access to these crucial mobility tools. But if you look at the map, you’ll see that the spread of bike-share services has left out an entire population: the more than 570 Native American tribes in the United States.

Today, Lime (formerly known as LimeBike) took the first step toward providing access for a Native American territory. The dockless bike-share company will launch in the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, as part of a larger northern Nevada regional partnership that will also bring bikes to the University of Nevada, Reno and a handful of cities. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony is situated not too far outside the cities of Reno and Sparks, and tribal leaders told Lime that they’re looking forward to the opportunity to reduce automobile traffic and boost mobility for residents.

If this launch is successful, Lime could look to expand to more remote reservations that have been overlooked in the bike-share boom.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

This Latina Built A Community To Encourage Other Latinas To Travel The World

LinkedIn

There was no way for Olga Maria Czarkowski to know that the condition that she was once bullied for would become the driving force behind her biggest passion project — Dreams in Heels — but she’s thankful it did.

“I was born with a leg condition whereby my Achilles tendon is shorter than average. I cannot walk with my feet flat on the ground; I can only walk on my tippy toes. Thus, heels are much more comfortable for me,” explains Czarkowski. “This experience made me stronger and taught me never to judge others based on their looks and inspired me to turn something negative (as being bullied) into something positive, my brand.”

Dreams in Heels is a lifestyle blog that Czarkowski started 5 years ago as a way to give a home both to her personal story and every day adventures. Since then she’s amassed a dedicated following that spans across her blog and her travel-centered community, Latinas Who Travel.

“Once I launched the group through word of mouth, people started to join and say how much they dreamed about finding a group like this, a community for them to connect with other Latinas who have the same passion for traveling the world, or wish to travel, and want to learn from others who are already doing it,” explains Czarkowski.

Through her brands, Czarkowski aims to connect Latinas with each other and with the possibility of exploring the world on their own terms.

Below she shares her entrepreneurial story, traveling advice, and how she’s overcome her most challenging moments.

Vivian Nunez: How would you describe your trajectory as an entrepreneur? 

Olga Maria Czarkowski: I think it all started when I realized how much I did not like working in a traditional office setting and not being myself. I really was craving freedom, openness to create and just do more. Then it all started by my exploring all of the areas of interest to me (like fashion/beauty, charity work, organizing events, social media marketing, traveling, writing, photography) and then finding something that combines all of the above.

I think that it is okay to explore, to evolve, and to transition into different careers or niches. When you cannot find what fuels your passion, oftentimes you need to be creative and reinvent yourself. I do feel proud of each of my steps and of everything I’ve learned along my journey. For me, it is all about the journey, even if I’m still a work in progress.

Nunez: What is one of your biggest lessons learned when it came to starting a brand based off of your own personal story? 

Czarkowski: I think for me, there are a few lessons that I’ve rolled into one: Learn how to say no, know your worth, charge for your time and separate your business from your personal life. I had to learn all of these the hard way.

Oftentimes, when you start a brand off your personal story, people try to mix personal with business; they ask for favors, they do not value your time and try to get things from you as a person rather than a business. As much as it is nice to help others, you do need to realize your worth and remember how hard you had to work to start a brand and maintain it.

Nunez: What advice do you have for other Latina storytellers and entrepreneurs who are looking to start a movement/brand based off their own stories? 

Czarkowski: My best advice would be that personal branding and social media are key to being successful. Throughout the years I’ve dedicated myself to building my personal brand/image and also my social media network. You always need to be aware of what you share online and offline. In addition, it is more important to convey who you are, where you are going and your mission to others. A strong personal brand can help you transition to different careers

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Spanglish is here to stay — and it’s good exercise for your brain

LinkedIn
young people talking

At the Lower East Side Preparatory High School in New York, it’s not unusual to hear different languages flowing in the classroom — in one sentence.

Mira, mira guey, I don’t understand la tarea,” — “Look buddy, I don’t understand the homework,” says one young boy to his classmate.

“Are you tarado?” — Are you dumb?, his friend shoots back, laughing.

This has been a part of America’s dialogue since the nation’s start — the mixing of two languages in a conversation, whether it be Spanglish (Spanish and English), Chinglish (often Mandarin and English) or another combination.

The use of Spanglish or other language combinations has been seen by many as a sign of laziness or poor language skills. In recent years, however, scholars have found there is sophisticated brain work behind code-switching, or CS, the linguistic term for switching between two languages in one conversation.

“There is widespread agreement that CS is patterned, i.e., not random,” said Almeida Jacqueline Toribio, of the University of Texas at Austin, who has been studying bilingualism since the early 1990s.

In fact, Toribio’s research shows that even those who are not completely bilingual or proficient in both languages still follow logical, grammatical rules when they code-switch.

Arturo E. Hernandez, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston and author of “The Bilingual Brain,” has found that what English-Spanish code-switchers do when they speak is similar to what people do when they multitask — for example, driving and talking on a cellphone at the same time.

“Everyone is born with this task-switching gene,” he said.

Perhaps this will pave the way for a different view of this common practice, though scholars like Toribio acknowledge that’s not how many see it.

“CS remains a stigmatized bilingual behavior, viewed as a failure on the part of speakers to ‘control’ their languages,” Toribio said. Some see it as a lack of competence or even poor manners, she added.

Among the millions of Americans who are bilingual and bicultural, there is a lively debate about switching languages.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

New Research Reveals Community Involvement is Important to Hispanics’ Overall Well-Being

LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., — A new nationwide survey conducted by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) concludes that Hispanics who are involved in their communities find it personally gratifying and empowering. Interestingly, a majority (78 percent) agree that community involvement is important to their well-being and almost half (42 percent) consider themselves community leaders.

This new body of research — You Get What You Give: The MassMutual 2018 Financial Wellness and Community Involvement Study — examines the intersection of community participation and financial well-being and strongly demonstrates that community involvement strengthens confidence in financial security.

“Our research revealed that community involvement has financial and gratifying benefits,” said David Hufnagel, Latino market director, MassMutual. “Our company commitment is to help our communities secure their future and protect their loved ones.”

The study highlights how Hispanics feel confident about their current financial well-being and have supported other members of their communities during financial stress. In fact, more than half (57 percent) report that they have supported someone in their community in a time of financial stress and 36 percent have been supported by others in their community during a time of need.

Hispanics clearly are involved in a range of community activities. Most are involved in a community with their family (86 percent), friend group (70 percent), school related (66 percent) and children-related activities (62 percent).

Visit massmutual.com for tangible tips for those interested in becoming more involved in their community as well as educational materials and tools to explore ways to build financial security, including an option to connect with a financial advisor.

Methodology

PSB conducted the research online between September 7 through September 28, 2017, using a nationally representative sample of 10,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and above. 1,077 identified themselves as Hispanics.

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit massmutual.com.

###

Ten Questions Never, Ever To Ask At A Job Interview

LinkedIn
Work Attire Tips

You must bring questions with you to every job interview.

Here are three good questions to ask your interviewer:

1. How does this position contribute to the department’s — and the company’s — success?

2. What will a successful first year in this job look like? What will your new hire accomplish?

3. Who are the internal and external customers of the person in this job, and what do those customers want?

You will come up with more questions to ask as you research the company you’re going to be interviewing with. You’ll develop questions about the position, the company’s goals, the manager’s communications style and much more.  New questions will pop into your mind during the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — it’s the best thing a candidate can do!

At the same time, there are certain questions never, ever to ask at a job interview. Ten of them are listed below.

1. What does your company do?

You can say, “I know Acme Explosives manufactures stick dynamite for the coyote market — but I’d love to hear your perspective on the organization and its mission.”

You can’t show up at a job interview not knowing what the company does. That’s what the internet is for!

2. Do you have any other positions available, apart from this one?

Right now, you’re sitting in an interview talking about a specific job. Don’t ask about other positions unless the interviewer says, “I don’t think you’re a good fit for this job.”

If you feel that the job you’re discussing is not a good fit for you, you can say so — but until you’ve reached that point, keep the conversation on topic and remember that no one can force you to take a job if you don’t want to.

If they make you an offer and it doesn’t excite you, you can inquire about other available positions then. Cross that bridge later!

3. Which bus comes to your building from the east side of the city?

It’s up to you to figure out public transportation. Every public transit authority has online maps and schedules. It’s not the interviewer’s job to know every bus and train route, and this type of low-altitude question doesn’t brand you as a professional.

4. Do you use ABC Software here?

If they care about your proficiency with a particular software program, they will ask you. If you ask whether they use ABC Software and they don’t, you’ll be hanging in the breeze. The interviewer will say, “No, we use XYZ Software — are you proficient in that?” and you’ll have to say, “Nope.”

There’s no advantage to asking, “What kind of software do you use here?” in the early stages of your interview process.

5. Do you drug test applicants?

This is the biggest red-flag question you can ask. Even if you’re just asking out of curiosity or because you eat a poppy-seed bagel every day and you’re worried about the poppy seeds messing up your drug test results, don’t ask  the question!

If they drug-test applicants, they will tell you that when it’s time for you to take the drug test.

Cut back on the poppy seed bagels, just in case.

6. Are you interviewing other people for the job?

You can safely assume they’re interviewing other people. Also, what difference does it make? If it’s the right job for you at this moment in time, they’ll make you an offer, and you’ll accept.

Don’t worry about other candidates they may be considering. Focus on yourself!

7. If I don’t get the offer this time, how long do I have to wait to re-apply?

I include this question on our list of “Don’t Ask” interview questions because I have heard it from applicants’ lips so many times.

Everyone can understand how nerve-wracking the job search process can be.  Don’t make it worse by asking your interviewer what to do if you don’t get the job!

8. Are you going to talk to my former employer?

Any employer who’s considering hiring you is going to conduct some type of employment verification process. That process works through your former employer’s HR department.

Unless you listed your former manager as one of your references, prospective employers are very unlikely to talk to your old boss (or even to learn your former boss’s name).

Don’t put questions about your relationship with your ex-boss in their minds by asking, “Are you going to talk to my former employer?”

9. Does your company offer tuition reimbursement? How much is the deductible on your dental plan? How many vacation days will I accrue in the first three months? Does your health plan cover contact lenses?

It is a bad use of your precious face-to-face interview time to ask questions about the specifics of the company’s benefit plans. Ask for a copy of the health care program documents and read them when you get home.

You have a real person who works for the company in front of you — pick their brain about the work, the mission, the challenges, the opportunity and the culture.

Don’t turn your poor interviewer into a walking, talking employee benefits encyclopedia!

10. How long is your new employee probation  period?

This is another unnecessary and potentially alarming question for a job applicant to ask at an interview.

You can ask, “What is the waiting period for health benefits?” or, “What is your 401(k) eligibility schedule?” but don’t ask about the probationary period specifically.

If you do, it sounds like you’re anxious about making it through your probationary period. In reality, the probationary period for newcomers isn’t all that significant unless you work in a unionized environment that gives workers more protection after they’ve finished probation.

For everybody else, a major slip-up on Day 100 of your employment will outweigh the fact that you’ve completed your 90-day probation. Don’t give your possible next boss reason to wonder,”Why does this person care so much about the probationary period?”

Ask for a copy of the company’s handbook instead of asking this question — and read it cover to cover!

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

You Got the Job—Now What?

LinkedIn
Job Interview

Great—you got the job! A lot of people in this situation might think, “Now I can relax, cruise a while, and rest on my laurels.” Actually, your work is just beginning.

Ford R. Myers, career coach, speaker, and author states, “Having worked with thousands of executives who have successfully secured new positions, in my opinion, there are six priorities that you should focus on during the first 90 days of any new job.” These include:

  1. Establish positive relationships with your new colleagues. Be honest, open, friendly, reliable, and clear. Be outgoing and introduce yourself to coworkers (don’t wait for them to approach you).
  2. Develop a reputation for producing tangible results. Immediately, start a “success file” and track your accomplishments and contributions. Make note of the positive feedback you get from others in conversation and in writing—from clients, managers, clients, colleagues, vendors, etc.
  3. Communicate plans and progress to your superiors and to your team. Become known for setting challenging goals and completing projects on time and on budget—with measurable results.
  4. Begin building your own in-house contact network. Cultivate good relationships with everyone, including the employees above and below your level. Get to know people’s names. Reach out to the mail guy, the security guard, the IT guru, your manager’s executive assistant—everyone. You want business friends and supporters in a 360-degree arc around you.
  5. Review and fine-tune your job description with your manager. Sit down during those first 90 days and create an “individual development plan” for yourself and your role, which includes your short-, mid-, and long-term goals. This is critical to ensure that the job you landed becomes the job you love.
  6. Maintain a healthy balance between your work life and your private life. Don’t “go overboard” with enthusiasm for your new job. Family time, hobbies, and “recharging your batteries” are all part of your long-term professional effectiveness and success.

“You must focus on garnering respect, visibility, and credibility during your first 90 days on the job. The precedents you establish during this period will tend to last for your entire tenure at that organization. So, this ‘thumbprint period’ is critically important to your long-term success,” Myers adds.

Source: Reprinted by permission of Ford R. Myers, a nationally known career coach and author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring.

UCLA Faculty Who Were First in Their Families to Go to College Help Others Like Them Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt

LinkedIn
UCLA Student and Grad

Gerardo Ramirez remembers his first day of college as one filled with conflicting emotions. He was eager and excited to be starting his freshman year at California State University, Northridge, but at the same time, he was apprehensive and anxious, and feeling a lot of pressure.

“The entire week before, I had nightmares that I couldn’t find any of my classrooms,” recalls Ramirez, who was not only navigating the physical campus but also entering the strange, new world of higher education as the first in his family to go to high school and college.

“I felt worried that I wouldn’t be able to do something as basic as find a class,” he says, “and that uncertainty in my abilities was a common concern for me throughout my undergrad years.”

Ramirez is now an assistant professor in UCLA’s Department of Psychology and one of approximately 100 UCLA faculty members, all former first-generation college students, who are participating in a new effort to offer support and encouragement to prospective and current first-generation UCLA students. More than 30 percent of UCLA undergraduates fall into that category.

Helping first-generation students feel connected

The UCLA First Generation Faculty Campaign is part of a broader effort to raise the visibility of first-generation faculty members across the University of California. At UCLA, the campaign is operating in collaboration with the First to Go program, which focuses on the retention and success of UCLA students.

“This campaign is intended to demystify the faculty rank for students and lets them know that behind the podium are many people whose roots are very similar to their own, and that a similar prestigious end is possible for them in whatever career path they are pursuing,” says Patricia Turner, senior dean of the UCLA College who was a first-generation college student who grew up in Sag Harbor, New York, where her mother cleaned houses and her father ran a farm in nearby Bridgehampton.

Originally from Virginia, neither of her parents completed high school.

First-generation students commonly face unique challenges when coming to college, says Turner, including pressure to improve their family’s economic situation, a narrow understanding of academic and professional opportunities, and lack of mentors.

Turner, who attended State University of New York, Oneonta, and UC Berkeley, says that highly competitive schools like UCLA can be especially intimidating for first-gen students who sometimes believe that professors at UCLA, one of the world’s leading universities, couldn’t possibly relate to them on a personal level.

“Academic success is linked to students believing that they belong to the institution,” says Turner, noting that more than 90 percent of first-generation students at UCLA graduate. “Students need to feel connected, and the response we have received to this program reinforces my belief that our faculty members are deeply committed to the undergraduate experience at UCLA.”

It’s especially important for first-generation students to complete their studies and inspire other prospective first-generation students because of what a college degree can mean economically to their future, their families, communities and society. According to a study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce published in 2014, those who have bachelor’s degrees earn on average $1 million more than high school graduates over the course of a lifetime. In addition, Ph.D. holders earn $1 million more than bachelor’s degree holders.

Inspiring others to succeed

Being in college won Ramirez respect among his siblings and other family members, many of whom looked to him as an example of what is possible with hard work and dedication to academics. He also was able to offer them one-on-one counseling — something many lower-income high school students often don’t receive — and guide them on college admission requirements and financial aid and application deadlines, among other details.

As a college student, Ramirez avoided mentioning his first-generation status, but as a UCLA professor, he proudly shares his personal story with his students at the beginning of each quarter.

It’s this kind of support and perspective that inspired fourth-year cognitive science major and first-generation college student Denise Peralta to apply for graduate school after she completes her bachelor’s degree in June. “He (Ramirez) was the only professor to encourage me to go straight into a Ph.D. program. I wasn’t confident that I was ready, but, after hearing his story, I understood why he was pushing me, and I thought I could do it.”

Ramirez also opened her eyes to the importance of being involved in undergraduate research and helped her explore opportunities both at UCLA and other institutions. Peralta currently works in Ramirez’s research lab and hopes to one day teach math at a middle school similar to the one she attended in East Los Angeles. Her career aspirations are driven by a desire to foster a love of math and learning, and to serve as a positive role model.

“I want my students to see someone who looks like them, who came from the same neighborhood or one like theirs — and show them that success and a bright future are within their reach,” Peralta says. “I want them to say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And first-gen college students also need this kind of encouragement. This campaign gives us that.”

Advice from those who walked a similar path

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Paul Kroskrity became a first-generation college student after growing up in Long Island, New York, and later in Connecticut. He joined UCLA’s Department of Anthropology as a professor 40 years ago and served as chair of the American Indian Studies Program for 26 years. He believes that UCLA and the UC campuses in general are the perfect place for these efforts to flourish.

“The reason why this [First to Go] program is so good is that we have a really high quality institution, but we also admit students that are more diverse than those at the average university,” says Kroskrity, adding that UC campuses are an engine for social mobility. At other universities, he says, it’s not unusual for students who are the third or fourth generation in their families to attend college.

Kroskrity, who graduated from Columbia University and Indiana University, encourages first-generation students to get engaged, stay involved and not allow themselves to be constrained by self-imposed barriers or self-doubt.

“If you start limiting yourself by your own sense of what you are not capable of, or what you don’t know about, or how awkward you feel because it’s something new, you just don’t get the full experience,” says Kroskrity, whose mother didn’t complete high school and whose father was limited in his career because he lacked a college education.

“Take academic risks, talk to people that you might not have considered speaking to before, including your professors,” the UCLA anthropologist advises. “Reach out to people and get the full value of this experience. UCLA exists for them. You are not going to get these four years back, so use them in the best ways possible.”

Source: newsroom.ucla.edu

 

 

 

Here’s how NASCAR’s top female engineer is giving back to her native Puerto Rico

LinkedIn

In the über-macho, rough-and-tumble world of race car driving, the top female engineer in NASCAR is blazing quite a path and using it to give back to her native Puerto Rico.

“When I went to the university it was mostly guys, so the fact that I’m in a job where it’s mostly guys seems normal to me,” said Alba Colón, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Program, General Motors’ most visible racing program.

Colón oversees the engineers who test the engines and designs for the NASCAR drivers. “I fell in love with drag racing and I didn’t realize at the time that I was the first female, the first Latin American,” said Colón, who describes herself as a “worker bee” who is aware of her pioneering role.

“Every day I go to my job and I think, people are looking because you are representing something that is not the usual thing,” she told NBC News. “I take this job with a lot of pride.”

Colón is a graduate of the prestigious engineering program at the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez campus, in the western part of the island. UPR-Mayagüez has long been known for its science and math degrees and is a hub for U.S.-based recruiters.

General Motors hired Colón in 1994 as a data acquisition engineer, and since 2001 she has been with the company’s NASCAR cup series.

For years, Colón has been closely associated with recruiting and retaining graduates from her alma mater in Puerto Rico to come work for General Motors. After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, this role taken on even more importance.

Young people in the island, said Colón, are “very anxious” to get jobs, summer jobs and internships lined up.

“They are very smart and hard workers. They don’t have a lot of resources compared to other universities in the states, but they take the same classes and they have to find how to make things happen with the little resources that they have,” said Colón. “Those are skills we look at, that passion to make things happen.”

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.