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El Centro Chicano y Latino's space at the Nitery Building is temporarily closed in alignment with current university action to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Graduate Scholars-in-Residence Program

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The Graduate Scholars in Residence Program, established in 1998, is a program aimed at fostering a vibrant intellectual community among Chicanx/Latinx students at Stanford. It provides graduate students from various disciplines with an excellent venue to meet one another and exchange ideas.  The program is also designed to identify graduate student mentors for Stanford undergraduates.  Each year, El Centro Chicano y Latino provides six doctoral students with a stipend and office space for the entire academic year.  In exchange, the Graduate Scholars are expected to spend time in their office space, give one research presentation and take part in an event aimed at encouraging undergraduates to pursue graduate studies.  For more information, please contact Margaret Sena.

"El Centro was critical to my dissertation writing process. It provided the academic and moral support to think through my research and complete my dissertation while navigating the job market."

Maribel Santiago, Ph.D. 

Graduate Scholar-in-Residence Alumna

Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

2020-2021 Graduate Scholars-in-Residence 

Marlene Orozco

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born and raised in Chicago but have been in the Bay Area for the past 14 years. My parents are both from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico and have but a 6th grade education. To date, my siblings and I have been able to attain higher education and professional degrees as a testament to their sacrifices and emphasis on education. I attended Stanford as an undergrad where I majored in Sociology and wrote an honors thesis – my entry into independent research. I was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, a program that planted the seed of the possibility of a Ph.D. I obtained a master’s in Education Policy and Management from Harvard and joined Teach for America thereafter where I taught 4th grade at Rocketship charter school for a few years.
I have come full circle at Stanford with my undergraduate honors thesis advisor now serving as my dissertation chair. In my current research, I study pathways of social mobility through entrepreneurship. My work seeks to change the narrative about the contributions of Latinos to this country. I conduct research at the business school with the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI). At SLEI, I lead annual data collection efforts to survey over 5,000 Latino entrepreneurs; we are also building a longitudinal panel of over 1,000 members. As a public and community-engaged scholar, I ensure that the research I conduct is accessible and translated for the communities with whom I work. My research has been featured in over 75 media outlets including BloombergMarketWatchForbesNBC NewsSilicon Valley Business JournalCNN en EspañolRadio Bilinugüe, and Telemundo, among others.
I am looking forward to my homecoming at El Centro where I can foster community among a supportive group of fellow graduate scholars and together, share our experiences with undergraduates. El Centro is the differentiator for so many Latinx students who need not navigate this journey alone. Bienvenidos a la comunidad – whether virtual or in-person, we are here for you.

Bryce Bagley

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Biophysics, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, which has the dubious honor of being the hottest major city in the United States. We spent our winters outside and our summers hiding in air-conditioned buildings. My father was the first in his family to go to college, and I'm the first to pursue a PhD. I've been fascinated by science since at least first grade, as I rediscovered a while back while looking through my old crayon drawings from the time, including one which stated "when I grow up, I want to be a scientist." When I started college I had essentially no idea how to get to that dream, except that I knew you needed a PhD. Thanks to some amazing professors who nurtured me both as a student and researcher, I'm fortunate enough to be pursuing my dreams here at Stanford as a PhD candidate in Biophysics.
My research is on machine learning for medical applications, and I develop and combine methods from all across the field - from rigorous algorithms to convolutional neural networks. I'm particularly excited about projects with the potential to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment, and actually plan to pursue an MD in the future and work as a physician-scientist in oncology.
It's my hope that as a Grad Scholar-In-Residence I'll be able to pay forward the gift of mentoring which I received as an undergrad (and now as a graduate student too!). I want to connect students with information and resources that will enable them to identify and pursue opportunities they're passionate about.
El Centro is the most welcoming community I've found in my entire life, and I sincerely hope you'll feel just as welcome here as I have.

Emily Ashkin

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Cancer Biology, School of Medicine 

I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I am of Jewish and Argentinean descent (¡Vamos, vamos, Argentina!). After watching my mother battle skin cancer multiple times, I became determined to study and understand her disease. I attended Rice University for my undergraduate studies where I majored in Biochemistry and minored in Anthropology. My time at Rice has made me who I am; I struggled a lot in my first few years of undergrad. I experienced immense self-doubt and imposter syndrome, constantly comparing myself to my peers who had much stronger backgrounds in STEM. I struggled to keep up in my classes while also trying to pursue my passion for cancer research, and I had trouble finding a community I could relate to. Nonetheless, I met strong mentors, friends, and professors who encouraged me to push through the noise and stay focused on my passions and my goals.
My overall research goals are to understand how cancer impacts the rest of the human body from a systemic perspective, starting with the immune system. The development of a tumor will impact how the rest of the human body systems function, either in response and in attempt to destroy the tumor, i.e. immune response, or specific changes that become altered by the tumor itself. How cancer impacts its surrounding environment is just as important as the intrinsic behaviors of the cancer itself.
Beyond academics and research, I enjoy spending my time mentoring undergraduate students by encouraging them to follow their passions and pursue graduate study. I currently serve as a mentor and workshop leader for Stanford ADVANCE, FeelingFirstGen, and Científico Latino to provide guidance to undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds who are applying to medical school and graduate school in biological sciences. Additionally, I enjoy painting, hiking, and meeting new people, and I am an avid Premier League fan (COYS!).
I am so excited to be a Graduate Scholar-In-Residence at El Centro this year. I was particularly drawn to this program to serve as a direct mentor for undergraduate students and to help build community bonds at Stanford. I want to help undergraduates learn how to pursue research and focus on their passions beyond the classroom. I also want to give back to my community; I want students to know that regardless of what we discuss (academic, social, or personal), I am here to listen and to help. And, if I don’t have the expertise to help, then I will personally help you find someone in the El Centro community or beyond who does. And I’m looking forward to sharing some Yerba Mate with you at the next Cafecito!

Jorge Meraz

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL and in the surrounding neighborhood of Cicero, IL. I have family roots in Durango and Michoacan, MX, and San Benito, TX. I attended public schools from K-8th grade before attending a private high school in Pilsen, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood located in the southwest side of the city. After high school I decided to stay in Chicago where I attended Loyola University and majored in Environmental Science with a minor in Chemistry.
I am a first-generation student being the first in my family to receive my M.S. and continue on to a PhD program. I am currently pursing my degree in Environmental Engineering where my research focuses on: 1) mitigating the release of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide (CO2)) into the environment by using them as food for bacteria that are able to make biodegradeable plastics and 2) figuring out a way to make enough of these plastics for NASA to be able to 3D print materials in space.
Going to graduate school was not something I knew or even though about, but during my junior year of college all of that changed. Just as I was leaving the country to study abroad in Beijing, China, I applied for a summer research internship through the McNair Scholars Program. The summer after my abroad experience my research internship began, and it was also the first time that I got the chance to visit Stanford. Before ever having set foot on campus, I knew nothing of Stanford, and was surprised to find out that places like this existed. Having interacted with Stanford graduate students and getting to know a bit about El Centro, I knew that this was somewhere I could see myself. A few months after visiting campus, I applied and found out that I was accepted — thinking for most of those initial weeks that they made a mistake. Fast-forward a few years and now as a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering I can tell you that this journey was meant for me.
My experiences in undergrad and grad school led me to be involved with Equity and Inclusion Initiatives (EII) team in the School of Engineering. With the EII team, I support programming of initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining students who are historically underrepresented within engineering.
El Centro has always been a home for me, from the first time that I moved to campus to this day. I love the community and the sense of belonging that I feel when I am physically there and even now as we continue doing programs virtually. El Centro provides a space where I can be myself and at peace — definitely a home away from home. Mentorship has always been present throughout my academic career. I’m excited that I can continue this work as a Grad Scholar-in-Residence and share as much about my journey and graduate school as I can!

Jen Marrero Hope

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Chemistry, School of Humanities and Sciences

I grew up in the deep South, in Slidell, Louisiana, a small city about a half hour north of New Orleans, and later Carriere, Mississippi, an even smaller town about a half hour away from Slidell. My relationship with Latinidad and my roots has never been a simple one. The public schools I attended in southern Louisiana and Mississippi were almost completely white. Aside from my mom’s family, I didn’t have access to Latino culture. My queerness also led to feelings of isolation and fear in the small town where I lived. Even though I couldn’t have pointed to discrete things and said, “This is what it means for me to be Latino,” my connection to my mother and her mother are fundamental to who I am—to my passion for helping others and my dedication to my found and chosen familia. My mimaw was born and raised in Puerto Rico and came to New Orleans by way of New York in her 20s. Her formal education ended when she was just 12 because she needed to work to support her family, and my mother’s education ended with her high school diploma. I think of them both often as I reflect on the privilege I have of feeling comfortable and capable in the world of academia.
I did my undergraduate work at MIT. I had no idea what I was getting into! I was a FLI student, a closeted queer, someone navigating chronic mental illness while balancing a workload more intense than any I had ever experienced, and I had such a hard time understanding how to get help! After graduation, I worked full time in research labs for a few years in the Boston area. I also began volunteering with The Network/La Red, an organization that serves survivors of partner abuse in the queer and trans communities. It was in this work that I finally got to experience the magic that is QTPOC space, and began to interrogate my own culture and history and privilege (work that I’m still doing to this day!).
My graduate research has spanned basic protein engineering and cell biology. I study a receptor called TrkA, which is crucial to early neuronal development and whose dysfunction can lead to disorders such as neurodegeneration and chronic pain. I’ve developed a robust system for activating this receptor with light, instead of its native ligand, which gives me fine control over when and where the receptor is active. This control, in turn, lets me ask questions about the impact of cellular context on signaling—does the receptor do different things in different parts of the cell?—that have been very difficult to answer using existing experimental methods. While I think my research is really cool, my favorite part has always been training new scientists and getting new folks, especially queer folks and people of color, interested in and excited about science.
While I have only tangentially interacted with El Centro, the space and the people in it have always been welcoming and I’ve wanted to engage more with the space. I’m approaching the end of my PhD, and I really hope that I can share some of the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years to demystify academia, help folks understand what grad school is like and whether it’s a good fit for them, and also talk shop about organizing and activism work!

David González

Doctoral Candidate, Emmet Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences 

I grew up in Nipomo, CA, a small town on the California Central Coast. My family roots are in Los Angeles and Kansas City. I did my undergrad at UC Davis; I'm second-generation in college on both sides and first in my family to pursue a PhD. My experiences growing up and experiencing pollution and environmental degradation made me want to study environmental sciences. I decided to do a PhD after doing work on the health impacts of mercury pollution in the Peruvian Amazon for my master's thesis, and seeing how the research was important for making policies to reduce harm.

I study how pollution from extractive industries, including oil drilling and gold mining, affects reproductive health and contributes to health disparities.

I've been involved with the Frosh Scholars Program since my first year at Stanford, and I'm serving as the program co-coordinator for the third year. Mentors in my life have been a source of support and guidance, and I wouldn't be where I am without them. I also enjoy being a mentor to younger students. Through the Frosh Scholars Program, we provide an opportunity for graduate students to learn how to be better mentors, and incoming frosh gain support and a sense of community.

I want to be a Grad Scholar-in-Residence to build community. Having a space where I can come in, get work done, and feel comfortable with peers/friends is very important to me as I enter the later stages of my PhD. El Centro has been a consistent source of support since I arrived at Stanford. I've made some of my most meaningful connections through El Centro. I've found it to be a space I can come to and feel comfortable, especially when academics and life in general get crazy.

Rubén Díaz Vásquez

Doctoral Student, Program in Modern Thought and Literature, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and migrated to the U.S. at the age of six. Despite navigating citizenship status and migrant obstacles, my family and loved ones have made a home in San Diego, CA. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, with a minor in English from Emory University. At Stanford, I help run the Critical Orientations to Race and Ethnicity (CORE) Workshop group and the group, Concerning Violence: A Decolonial Collaborative Research Group. As a Graduate Scholar in Residence, I am also helping to run the Frosh Scholars Program this year. I know how crucial advanced students, faculty, staff and graduate students were to my growth at Emory, and I hope to also create spaces for growth, well-being, and self-empowerment. As first-generation college and graduate student within my immediate family, I understand the difficulties of navigating a predominantly white university. I aim to help students experiencing first-gen imposter syndrome and other related issues find strategies to succeed and cope with all the baggage that comes with this experience. I hope to be a mentor that students can lean on as they realize their place within the university and their own communities.
To talk a little bit about what I hope to do with my work , I use decolonial theory and critical race studies to focus on addressing the colonialities within Chicanx literature and cultural production. Specifically, I want to make sense of the discipline’s simultaneous overt anti-US imperialism stance and Mexican anti-black, colonial paradigms. Considering the influence of Chicanx literature, how does this tension between empire and coloniality also shape the contemporary cultural processes driving the production of Latinidad? How do we amplify and uplift the anti-black and anti-indigeneity critiques waged upon Chicanx Studies and simultaneously use these to guide future scholarship concerning the issues and themes of importance for Chicanx thinkers and people?
I am also interested in the ramifications and lived realities of Chicanx theories (with regards to race, gender, class, mobility, politics) on Chicanx and non-Chicanx people’s everyday lives. Using ethnography and fieldwork methods, I am interested in inserting people’s voices into the interrogation of Chicanx cultural production.

Sergio Redondo

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Biology, School of Humanities and Sciences 

I was born in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, México and emigrated to Yuma, Arizona with my family at a young age. Growing up on the México-US border, I had to balance these two distinct worlds as I developed my personal identity, which made for a very interesting and unique experience that not everyone can fully understand unless they had a similar up-bringing. I completed my bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Arizona. My first exposure to research came through the McNair Scholars Program. This program helped me expand my passion for wildlife and conservation into the research realm in a conservation genetics lab. This really launched me on the path to graduate school because as a first-generation, low-income student it is rare for us to know about this academic trajectory.
I continued on to a Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology through the Frontier’s Program at the University of Michigan. This was my first opportunity to conduct international research, which I am forever grateful for. It helped me get a global view of conservation biology, and helped me see firsthand the most amazing natural landscapes. For my research, I studied the evolutionary history of red howler monkeys across the Peruvian landscape. Coincidentally, it was at one of my field locations that I realized the impacts that mining, deforestation, and mercury pollution were having on the environment. This propelled me into my current research, which aims to understand the uptake, transfer and toxicity of mercury within soil food webs and assess the downstream health impacts on above-ground species (e.g. bats, birds).
Through my continued work in the environmental health sector, I aim to inspire members of Latinx and other underrepresented communities to explore nature and to learn about the complexity and beauty that exists in the world. I believe that the leading global issues will be best addressed with a diversity of views, thoughts, and experiences, and this will only be possible if everyone is afforded equitable opportunities.
El Centro community and events have really supported me directly and indirectly throughout my tenure at Stanford. It really created a sense of belonging for me and had many opportunities to remind me of home, my identity and my roots. This has kept me grounded and sustained me, so I hope to be a part of the community that supports other students as well. I am passionate about developing initiatives that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and access for all URM communities in higher education and beyond.

2019-2020 Graduate Scholars-in-Residence 

A.J. Alvero

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education 

I was born and raised in Salinas, CA, but also spent 7 years living in Miami, Fl. I took classes at Monterey Peninsula College and Miami Dade College (community colleges) before transferring to the University of Miami where I earned a BA in English Literature. Afterwards, I spent close to a year working in restaurants around Miami before beginning work as a high school English Language Arts teacher. During my three years as a teacher, I earned an MS in Foreign Language Education (TESOL) from Florida International University where I was the first person in the history of the program to do an original study as a capstone project. This got me interested and excited about doing more research in education, so I applied to PhD programs and decided to enroll at Stanford. There are not many community college transfer students that end up in PhD programs, and even fewer Latinx scholars in my fields/topics of interest; I hope to share my insights and perspectives into larger debates with the goal of improving educational equity and equality.

I use data science to find patterns in college admissions essays written by Latinx students. I also challenge and theorize about the ways we use data in education, especially linguistic data.

I have participated in a variety of formal mentorship programs in campus, such as the EDGE Mentorship program and the GSE mentorship program. In El Centro, I have worked with undergrads to get them involved with research and hope to continue training the next generation of scholars.

El Centro is a place where I can truly be myself among people that share some fundamental similarities. We also care a lot about our communities, so much so that we are centering our PhD research with those communities. It's powerful being in the space but also a lot of fun!

Having a space on campus that significantly combines the undergrad experience and the grad experience is special; the fact that we share varying cultural bonds and connections makes the experience deeper. It's also a place on campus that we get to own.

David González

Doctoral Candidate, Emmet Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources  

I grew up in Nipomo, CA, a small town on the California Central Coast. My family roots are in Los Angeles and Kansas City. I did my undergrad at UC Davis; I'm second-generation in college on both sides and first in my family to pursue a PhD. My experiences growing up and experiencing pollution and environmental degradation made me want to study environmental sciences. I decided to do a PhD after doing work on the health impacts of mercury pollution in the Peruvian Amazon for my master's thesis, and seeing how the research was important for making policies to reduce harm.

I study how pollution from extractive industries, including oil drilling and gold mining, affects reproductive health and contributes to health disparities.

I've been involved with the Frosh Scholars Program since my first year at Stanford, and I'm serving as the program co-coordinator for the third year. Mentors in my life have been a source of support and guidance, and I wouldn't be where I am without them. I also enjoy being a mentor to younger students. Through the Frosh Scholars Program, we provide an opportunity for graduate students to learn how to be better mentors, and incoming frosh gain support and a sense of community.

I want to be a Grad Scholar-in-Residence to build community. Having a space where I can come in, get work done, and feel comfortable with peers/friends is very important to me as I enter the later stages of my PhD. El Centro has been a consistent source of support since I arrived at Stanford. I've made some of my most meaningful connections through El Centro. I've found it to be a space I can come to and feel comfortable, especially when academics and life in general get crazy.

Greses Pérez-Joehnk

Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Education

Greses Pérez-Joehnk

My story is part of the greater American immigration story where immigrants achieve things and surrender others. Part of me grew up in the Dominican Republic. Another side of me grew up in New York. Since that time, I feel as though I am from here and there. 

My mom, who believed that my education was her gift to me, worked 16-hour shifts in Brooklyn to pay for my college. Thanks to her efforts, I attended the Santo Domingo Technological Institute (INTEC) where I earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering. Later, I pursued two Master’s degrees, one in Environmental Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM), and another in School Leadership from Southern Methodist University (SMU). Before coming to Stanford, I was an elementary bilingual teacher and a science teacher mentor at a North Texas Museum. Prior to starting my career in education, I oversaw engineering projects within the construction and environmental and water resources industry. These experiences, along with being a first-generation college student and the first in my family to seek an advanced degree, motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. 

My research interests lie at the intersection of diversity, language and access for underrepresented communities, especially in the context of engineering and science. 

At Stanford, I focus my efforts on mentoring students from under-represented communities in academia and the fields of science and engineering. Currently, I mentor students through three different programs: the Graduate School of Education Mentorship Program, the Frosh Scholars Program sponsored by El Centro, and the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences Mentorship Program. 

Becoming a Graduate Scholar-in-Residence is the way to “pay it forward.” I would like to think that I’m currently a doctoral student because of my past work. But I know that it’s also because of the contributions of all those who provided me with “wings” to help me fly further and faster. This fellowship offers the unique opportunity to be part of a like-minded cohort of scholars who want to contribute their expertise and experiences in favor of the community. At El Centro, I found a community of alumni, professors, staff, and students that make this space feel like coming home to mi familia

Kim Higuera

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology

I grew up in San Diego, California, pressed right up against the border with Tijuana, Mexico. Both sides of my family hail from Sinaloa, Mexico. My mother is from southern coast of Sinaloa, and my father is from the northern, mountainous part of Sinaloa. I attended Duke University for my undergraduate studies where I majored in Sociology and minored in Latinx Studies and Public Policy. I'm the first person of my family in the US to go college. My time at Duke was bittersweet in that I feel like I really grew into myself there and yet also really felt the shock of being a first gen, low income, Latina student in a school where there were so many people with wealth and incredibly robust academic training. All of these experiences, as well as my own love for research (which definitely started in undergrad) really stoked my interest in getting my Ph.D.

I study immigrants in the US, specifically how contemporary immigrant families make sense of a new country, a new culture, and even new ways of relating to each other.

I think what drew me to mentorship was both selfless and selfish. Selfless in that I wanted to support other students through the (often rough) undergrad experience. Selfish in that mentoring gave me an opportunity to get out of my own head, and gave me a chance to interact with undergrad students who just seemed all the more excited to conduct research and engage with the material in the way that doctoral students aren't always.

I didn't have a community of Latinx people in my department, and I felt very isolated. Applying to the Grad Scholars program was a chance to meet people who might share my background. Plus, it gave me the chance to meet scholars who weren't all sociologists, and that was great! It's not fun to spend all of your time surrounded by a single discipline.

I think El Centro represents a home away from home, a place where I just feel like I can be and I don't have to constantly water myself down.


Melissa Mesinas 

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education

My family is from Santiago Zoochila, a pueblo in Oaxaca, Mexico. I was born and raised in Lynwood, CA, a small city in the greater Los Angeles area. I am a first-generation college student and attended Scripps College. I majored in Psychology and Hispanic Studies, and also studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain. My senior thesis introduced me to the world of research and my professors were the first people to encourage me to pursue a PhD and consider becoming a professor.

I research the relationship between cultural practices and development processes in transnational immigrant communities. Currently, I am collaborating with a Oaxacan philharmonic band to learn how the youth and adults participation in the band develops their learning, identity, motivation, and sense of belonging.

I have been mentored by many graduate students and faculty since I arrived at Stanford. Mentorship has played a great role in my academic endeavors and understanding of how higher education works. I would love to mentor students in the same way I've been mentored.

I wanted to join the GSR program to build community with other Latinx scholars from various disciplines. The program not only offers a great physical space that provides diverse student and research representation, but allows its scholars to engage with the community.

El Centro represents an inclusive community that promotes a diverse Latinx community at Stanford. I appreciate the warmth, community, resources, and people who make El Centro run!


Amanda Mireles 

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology 

Sanger is a small agricultural town in the San Joaquin Valley southeast of Fresno. It is a town where the luxury of reflection on social inequality is overshadowed by the struggles of families living below the poverty line. My experiences growing up in Sanger shape my intimate understanding of the barriers students, like myself, from marginalized communities face throughout their educational journeys. Although each stage of my academic career has presented challenges as a first-generation and low-income scholar, my lived experiences are what drive me to fight for equitable access to higher education. While an undergraduate at Princeton University, I studied sociology alongside minors in African American studies and Latino studies. Each course helped facilitate a new phase of discovery locating my personal experiences within larger structural and institutional perspectives. I loved learning and sharing what I had learned with my family at home. The opportunity to create and share knowledge with my family, friends, and community, many of whom have not be given the same opportunities I have, inspired me to pursue a Ph.D.

My research examines how social demographic dimensions of the changing landscape of U.S. higher education can become emerging sources of stratification in the labor market. Much of my current work in this area explores how the rise of women and underrepresented groups at colleges and universities shapes the status and value of the college degree as an educational credential. One important implication of this work is that educational progress made by groups historically underrepresented in higher education can result in new forms of status-based inequality.

At Stanford, I have been a mentor to undergraduate and graduate first-generation college students and students of color through various programs. As a graduate mentor for El Centro Chicano y Latino’s Frosh Scholars program, I have learned to maintain close mentoring and advising relationships with freshmen as they transition into an elite space very different from their communities at home. At times, my mentorship for Frosh Scholars has meant meeting with a student for coffee and encouragement after a challenging midterm. Other times my mentorship for underrepresented students has meant taking students to a local Latino grocery store to purchase foods that remind them of home. As a mentor, I have also hosted gatherings for my current and past Frosh Scholars to meet each other while helping to make Mexican hot chocolate and Mexican cinnamon sugar cookies. In all of these forms of mentoring, I strive to help students feel comfortable enough to share challenges and seek advice and support from myself and students that have had similar experiences adjusting to elite college spaces.

I am so excited to be a Graduate Scholar-in-Residence at El Centro this year. I had been coming to El Centro for Cafecito and many wonderful events since my first year of graduate school, but I was particularly drawn to this program for its commitment to creating a space where graduate and undergraduate students can learn from one another and share their experiences and knowledge. I feel so grateful to be part of this community. It means so much to me to be here to cheer on the successes of our undergraduate and graduate students at each step of their educational journeys.

For me, El Centro is a home away from home. It is a place and a feeling, and I am so thankful to be a part of this community.

Sean Peters

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Electrical Engineering 

I grew up in Yuma, AZ, a city right next to Arizona’s southwest corner bordering California and Mexico. My parents are both from San Antonio, TX, and my family heritage is Mexican. I did my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Rice University where I focused on waves, optics, and signal processing. I am the first person in my family to earn a degree in engineering, the first to study abroad, and the first to go to graduate school to pursue a doctoral degree. 

My research focuses on answering the following question: “can we use ambient radio noise, such as the Sun, as a source to measure ice thickness?” In my work, I’ve tried to answer this question by working to develop a low-resource passive radar that measures ice sheet thickness by exploiting radio emissions from the Sun, instead of transmitting its own signal for echo detection.

Beyond academics and research, I enjoy spending my time mentoring undergraduate and pre-college students by encouraging them to follow their interests and pursue graduate study. I wanted to be a Graduate Scholar-in-Residence to continue my work as a mentor. I want to help undergraduates understand their options for research careers and how they can secure funding. I also wanted to give back to my community; whether the issues we discuss are academic, social, or personal, I want students to know that I am here to listen and can help in whatever way possible. 

One of the aspects of the Graduate Scholar-in-Residence program that I think is unique is the small size of the cohort, and the opportunity to work with a dedicated group of peers throughout the entire year who help El Centro promote a culture of respect and inclusion. 

I appreciate that El Centro has served as a home away from home, a break away from my department where the imposter syndrome can develop, and a safe space where I can feel comfortable working and helping others. I love attending all of the different events that El Centro hosts, such as writing workshops, Cafecito, panels, and talks with invited speakers, as they serve as a way to stay connected and learn in depth about the issues our community faces. 

Brian Cabral

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education 

My roots take me back to Little Village, a Mexican neighborhood enclave in Chicago, where I was born, raised, and did my K-12 public schooling. Due to parental decisions, I also spent some of my childhood summers at a small town in Jalisco, Mexico. After high school, I spent four years at Oberlin College in Ohio for undergrad. Upon completion of my undergrad studies, I brought my talents to the West Coast for the PhD in Race, Inequality, and Language in Education with a Master’s in the Sociology of Education.

Going to college was never part of the original plan my parents set out for me. They constantly reminded me that education was important, but they never imagined any schooling for me or my siblings beyond high school. I took part in a three-stage interview process at the Posse Foundation in Chicago and ultimately got a full-tuition leadership scholarship that led to my matriculation at Oberlin College in 2014. While at Oberlin, I held various academic and work-related responsibilities, but the most salient engagement I had was academic research through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program in 2016. For the next two years, I conducted an independent research project of my interests that converged my interests in education and sociology. I was also able to use some of the knowledge and expertise I gained there to teach first-generation, low-income youth of color in Chicago the past two summers.

In 2018 I embarked on a new intellectual journey that brought me to Stanford. My research interests now focus on the interconnectedness of violence, marginalization, and identity formation for racialized student populations in public schools. I’m working on a project that looks at how Latinx youth make sense of their experiences at continuation schools and the practices they engage in that allows them to ‘redeem’ themselves.

Coming from Chicago and Ohio, I had no prior relationships with anyone in California. I found community at El Centro during my first year and witnessed how phenomenal the Graduate Scholars-in-Residence were last year. As a first-gen student trying to navigate graduate school at Stanford, I wanted to become part of this community and that is why I applied to become one of the scholars-in-residence. I’m very excited for the social and intellectual growth we will collectively partake in at El Centro this year.

I was also drawn to El Centro Chicano y Latino for its reputable act of mentoring graduate and undergraduate students. I have been mentored and have mentored throughout my entire educational trajectory, so those experiences led me to apply and co-direct the Frosh Scholars Mentoring Program at El Centro this year. Elite spaces like Stanford are never easy to navigate, but the beauty of El Centro and its programming is that no one – not undergrads, grad students, or staff members – have to go through this navigation alone.

"El Centro provides a sense of support and belonging. It was comforting to have a place where others would understand my background and life experiences. I felt heard and understood at Stanford because of El Centro."

Jesus Madrid
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Neurosciences, Stanford School of Medicine

"I consider El Centro my home on campus and am grateful for the space, support, and community the center offers to graduate students."

Vanessa Seals
Doctoral Candidate, Department of English