Monthly Archives: February 2015

Q & A with Chancellor’s Graduate Intern, Arnold Sanchez


Arnold Sanchez is a second-year doctoral student in the Education Department at UC Santa Cruz. His research focuses on immigrant students in education with a particular interest in quantitative constructs of belongingness. In the summer of 2014, Arnold was selected as one of six doctoral students to participate in the Chancellor’s Graduate Internship (CGI) Program for the 2014-2015 school year. The CGI Program is a prestigious internship granted to doctoral students whose research seeks to advance the University’s efforts to provide a supportive and transformative learning experience for students. We recently interviewed Arnold to learn more about his research and efforts to support the University in fulfilling their commitments as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). 

Ethan: Could you start by discussing your current research as an intern with the Chancellor’s Graduate program?

Arnold: As an intern, I am responsible for creating a quantitative benchmark that determines where we are as an institution in terms of fulfilling the needs of students that are “non-traditional college students.” The scope of my work looks at institutional data and tries to determine patterns within student groups that can help the University make informed decisions. A specific subset of the “non-traditional college student” population includes Hispanic students. Recently, UCSC was designated as an Hispanic Serving Eligible Institution by meeting a twenty-five percent Hispanic undergraduate population benchmark. However, UCSC has not received an official Title V grant, which will provide the University the financial resources to support the educational needs and aspirations of these students. My current work focuses on creating the equivalent of a report card for the university by examining how the University has done in the past few years in terms of serving Hispanic students.

E: What preliminary findings have emerged for you and your research team?

A: One of the first things I started looking at was retention data. We wanted to see if there were patterns in the data and asked questions like: Who is leaving? Who is not coming back? And why? We began focusing on “near finisher stop-out” cases, students who were close to graduating but either left the university unexpectedly, or whose degrees were not confirmed. We wanted to know what factors discouraged these student from returning to school. One of the things that accounted for a large part of “stop-out” cases was a basic lack of  valuable information. Additionally, we found that stop-out cases disproportionately included first-generation college students, students of color, and students who reported experiencing micro-aggressions. We also found that many students did not know how to navigate the institutional bureaucracy, for example, how to locate resources and how to navigate university systems. In contrast, transfers did well. We suspect that transfer students had learned to navigate institutional resources at their community college and this allowed them to succeed at UCSC.

E: What are some of the unexpected challenges that you have encountered in your work?

A: One lesson I have learned is how difficult it is to acquire data. It is a process within itself–a lot of paperwork and training. I have to be really patient. I thought the data was going to be somewhere in an external hard drive, and I was going to go at it and produce report after report, but it didn’t work that way. The first couple weeks of the internship was focused on trying to acquire institutional data and to begin mapping the data universe on campus. Where is it coming from? Where is it stored? Who’s storing the data? How can it be retrieved? UCSC has a data system that I had to understand from scratch. Currently, I’m waiting for a clearance on another data set that will allow us to flesh out a report on Hispanic student performance.

E: I’m wondering if you could comment on how your applied work compares or contrasts with what we are learning in our graduate courses.

A: Graduate school prepares you broadly in theory. When I am doing this work, I have to be very practical and think about the immediate implications of the students we are studying. A lot of this work is not what I would submit to a journal for publication. It is work that is very specific, that has to have immediate implications, that has to inform practice. But quantitative analysis is an art form as well. We need to understand where the data is coming from, how to clean the data, how to determine what is relevant. My work is more practical, but I believe that it should still be embedded within a theoretical framework, of which my graduate coursework has proved an invaluable role.

E: What do the next six-months of your program look like?

A: I have to produce segments of reports that will come together in a final report. Along the way I’m having check-ins with my supervisor, Pablo G. Reguerin, who is at the forefront of giving me the support and services I require and linking me to the people who can provide access to the data. We work closely together because he is the gateway to other institutional services and resources that allow for this work to take place. Looking ahead, I’m excited to continue my collaborative work with the Academic Resource Center and the UCSC’s data warehouse personnel.

Mid-year Reflections

We recently sat down with three doctoral students who are midway through their first-year of graduate studies at UC Santa Cruz. As they embark on careers dedicated to improving the quality and accessibility of schooling, we wanted to provoke their ongoing efforts toward self-discovery by asking: what is the single-most revelatory discovery or new understanding that you’ve encountered thus far at UCSC? Here are their responses:

Salvador Huitzilopochtli: The first paper of the first quarter of my first year in this program was unnecessarily difficult to write.  I was nervous and full of insecurity.  My mind was working much harder than necessary under the self-imposed pressure to produce a ‘brilliant’ work.  However, my disposition toward the work has since changed.  I have embraced the work of reading, digesting, and writing (not necessarily in that order) and find myself freer to be productive.  I realize that I am prepared, I want to be here, and that I really enjoy intellectual endeavor.  I look at my professors, peers, and advisor and realize that I am exactly where I belong.

S.N.:  During the first half of my quarter, I ignored the world outside of my readings. Then one day, I subscribed to a news blog and education-related current events started to flood my inbox. As I began to catch up on the current state of affairs, I was reminded of my conviction for social change and why I chose a doctoral program in Education as opposed to any other field or discipline. Like Freire says, “we cannot be pedagogues with these traits (hope, love, conscientizacao, and freedom) if we are not indignant about the existence of conditions of oppression” (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008). Often we ignore news stories to prevent becoming angry or depressed. We forget that the “future is not predetermined [and] anger should be partnered with critical hope that we have the capacity (and responsibility) to act to change oppressive conditions” (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008).

Sarah Rapp: Our schools and educational system are not neutral or objective: what is taught, how, and to whom always springs from a particular ideology.  More often than not, stakeholders in schools are so immersed in the normed policies and practices that the meanings behind them are not questioned or explored.  Educational research can help to illuminate the backstory, and then (hopefully) guide us all to more nuanced and helpful conversations about schooling.

Getting to Know Diana Duan, Visiting Scholar

at a Tibetan village near my hometown ChengduDiana Duan is a visiting scholar who comes to us from Suzhou University of Science and Technology in Jiangsu Province, China, where she is Professor of Interpretation and English. Her past research has focused on the teaching of interpreters, with an emphasis on pedagogy and short-term memory. She also works as a freelance interpreter. Diana’s stay here at UCSC is made possible through the Jiangsu Government Overseas Study Foundation, which has a competitive selection process, and is sponsored by the Chinese government.

Originally, Diana had intended to use her fellowship to study at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to continue her studies on interpretation research within the context of international relations. However, after meeting UCSC Professor June Gordon in July 2013 – during Dr. Gordon’s visit to various cities in China – Diana decided to take a broader look at the issue of education. She applied to be a visiting scholar at UCSC and arrived at our campus in September 2014.

Since arriving at UCSC, Diana has been busy finding opportunities for both intellectual and personal development. Her research interests have also branched out into several new areas: worldwide alternative education, international student presence, and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Diana came to UCSC intending to develop a better understanding of the quintessential American curriculum, and feels that what she has actually discovered is that no such curriculum has existed. She sees CCSS as breaking away from the American tradition of curricular diversity, and understanding the outcomes of this transformation is an important part of her research. Diana notes that within the Education Department, she has especially enjoyed discussing the pros, cons, and context of Common Core State Standards with first year student, Heather Schlaman. (Heather is a first year PhD student who comes to us from Roseville Joint Union High School District, where she served as Assistant Principal.)

Not only has Diana networked with the UCSC community by attending a variety of seminars and lectures, she has also found social opportunities to interact with the UCSC community of scholars and friends by participating in activities sponsored by International Students, Inc. Through this program, she came into contact with a local artist who is currently giving Diana watercolor lessons, which has been a special highlight of her UCSC experience.

If you haven’t had the chance to meet Diana, do so soon! She will be heading back to Suzhou University at the end of winter quarter. You can contact Diana through her personal email address: dianaduan1@hotmail (dot) com.

Fun Facts about Diana

Favorite local food: Avocados (Avocados are available in Suzhou, but they’re expensive!)

Last movie watched: Interstellar

Something special about her city: Suzhou has a 2500-year-old history, and is called “Venice of the East” for its extensive canals.

Experimenting with watercolors in Santa Cruz:

my first serious watercolor painted under the guidance of my friendship partner 90-year-old Ms. Dorothy

Visiting the Badlands in Wyoming:

a snapshot at the Big Badlands in Wyming

Contributor: Mecaila Smith, Second Year PhD Student