This week we caught up with Gabby Gutierrez-Serrano, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Education. Gabby received her B.A. from UC Santa Barbara in Chicana/o Studies with a minor in Education.
GGSE: What motivates you to pursue your research?
Gutierrez-Serrano: My own experiences as a Latina first-generation college student motivate me to better understand what factors contribute to our persistence and academic success. A substantial proportion of literature shows first-generation students are “disadvantaged” and less likely to receive a college degree, but very little research looks at the strengths we possess that foster our motivation to push through challenges and triumph. My goal is to uncover factors influencing students’ motivation to get this far in their college career in order to make college more relatable for future Latina/o first-generation students.
GGSE: I read that you along with other Ph.D. students were a part the New Heights Grad-Undergrad Mentoring Program. Are you still involved in this program? What were some of the successes and challenges of this pilot?
Gutierrez-Serrano: I was one of the graduate student mentors for the New Heights Grad-Undergrad Mentoring Program. Mentoring students with similar backgrounds and knowing firsthand about the challenges that Latina/o students face made working with Latina first-generation college undergrads was very rewarding. I was able to provide them with advice given my own experience as a Latina first-gen college student, and in turn, saw them acquire new opportunities. One of the challenges I encountered was being able to answer questions outside of my expertise; however, this did not discourage me from participating in this mentoring experience. Having these types of mentorship programs can foster high levels of motivation among ethnically-minoritized students and help them achieve academic success.
GGSE: Grad school can be a ton of work. What do you do for fun or to relax?
Gutierrez-Serrano: It’s nice to disconnect from the daily routine of school and work so I enjoy traveling when I have the opportunity. I like to step outside of my comfort zone and experience something new!