An excited, optimistic energy filled California State University, Northridge’s Orange Grove Bistro on Feb. 3 for the Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Pathways to the Professoriate kick-off event.
Ten CSUN juniors, who make up the program’s first cohort, took their first steps toward achieving their goal of earning their doctoral degree and becoming professors in the humanities and related fields.
HSI Pathways is a program that aims to transform the landscape of the professoriate by increasing the presence and visibility of Latino and Latina faculty members, particularly in the field of humanities.
“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students,” said Heidi Schumacher, HSI Pathways coordinator and humanities professor. “They will receive an incredible level of support as they strive toward their goal of earning their Ph.D.”
At the event, students were introduced to their mentors — CSUN faculty who earned their doctoral degrees — who will give them insight into the challenges of obtaining a doctoral degree and becoming a professor, as well as personal advice on academics and careers.
Mentors are invaluable to students on their path to a doctorate, participants said.
“I’m very excited for the support I will have and being able to know I can go to my mentor, [history professor John Paul Nuño], for help is really important,” said one of the HSI Pathways students, history major Elizabeth Calzada. “We’re like the guinea pigs, but in a good way. It’s nice to know we have this opportunity that’s never been done before.”
The program will serve 30 CSUN students over the next five years. Throughout their journey, the first cohort will receive financial support for GRE preparation, application fees, trips to academic conferences — including an opportunity to present a research project at the University of Pennsylvania — and potential funding to begin doctoral research the summer after graduation from CSUN.
While some of the 10 mentors were involved in similar mentor/mentee programs when they were undergraduates, many had to learn the ropes on their own.
“I navigated through grad school without a mentor, so when I heard about the Pathways program where we could mentor them early on, I wanted to be involved,” said Linda Alvarez, mentor and Central American studies professor. “There’s so much going on in grad school — applying, writing statements of purpose, research grants — my job is to help with all the technical stuff and get the nuts and bolts down.”
Alvarez’s mentee, Hermes Rocha, who is studying political philosophy, recognizes the importance of this program and said he is optimistic that the HSI program will be a crucial building block toward a career as a professor.
“My parents came here from Mexico and struggled a lot to get me here, so I can have these kinds of opportunities,” Rocha said. “I hope this program gives me the chance to start a legacy in my family and show them the United States is the land of opportunity.”