Professor Gilverto Conchas is grateful for the many faculty mentors he had as an undergraduate at UC Barkeley; their dedication and encouragement have had a tremendous impact on his success. He, in turn, feels called to pass the same level of guidance to the students he mentors, helping them prepare the make a difference in their communities. Professor Conchas looks for students who are passionate about their research and works with them to develop their skills and realize their full potential. UROP is pleased to recognize Professor Conchas for the dedication, encouragement and support he brings to the undergraduates he mentors.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

Unlike many of my peers, my parents did not fully understand my chosen profession. For many years, my parents would inquire in Spanish about my schooling endeavors and, in particular, my doctoral work at the University of Michigan. “When will you be done?” “And, what is it that you are doing?” “Psychology?” “No,” I would reply. “I am studying S-O-C-I-O-L-O-G-Y.” Keep in mind that in Spanish, sociology sounds like psychology. “Hijo, y que es eso?” (Son, and what is that?), my father would ask. “Es el estudio de la sociedad y como instituciones afectan a la gente,” (It is the study of society and how institutions affect people,) I would explain. “Bueno, nomas con que seas para la raza!” (Well, as long as you are for our people!), my father explained. “Sí papa,” (Yes father,) I responded.

Although my father did not live to hear about my academic work as a sociologist and especially live to see his son as a Harvard Professor, tenured professor in the University of California, and as a senior officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, my teaching and my research represent my parents’ commitment and perseverance for equity and equality. My parents opened the door for me, and my undergraduate experience provided the social scaffolds to acquire and activate the necessary social capital to further expand upon the limited opportunities afforded upon the son of poor immigrant laborers.

I had many undergraduate mentors while at Berkeley and it is my utmost obligation to pass this along to the next generation of scholars committed to social justice; thus my impetus to mentor undergraduate students in research is fueled by the desire to increase the pipeline of scholars committed to their communities.

Thus far, I have mentored various students conducting research on first-generation college students, media representations of Latinx, African American Asian student and school success, social capital and student success, Latinx taco trucks, and debunking the Asian model minority stereotype.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

I look for students who have a genuine passion to learn the research process aimed at uncovering pressing issues impacting marginalized communities. I expect students to explore their full potential, begin to unearth their sociological imaginations, and aspire to become graduate students and obtain a Ph.D.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

I do not micro-manage but expect students to take an active role throughout the process where I become an advocate for their research interests. The main issue is for students to read the literature, understand the importance of a research question, how those questions are answered by appropriate methods, how to analyze data, and the eventual write-up.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

I benefited from undergraduate programs that provided the opportunity for a first generation Chicanx to pursue a successful career in academia. I have witnessed first-hand how many of the students I mentored are now enrolled in graduate school, some have their Ph.D., and are doing quite well.

Students begin to see themselves as capable of belonging in academia and becoming scholars. The hope is that students not only aspire to become scholars but to expect to earn a Ph.D. and succeed.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

Mentoring is reciprocal; both the mentee and mentor benefit. I see the importance of mentoring and have benefited from those who mentored me. I try to mentor the next wave of scholars who embrace equity and social justice. We all learn from this process.

I am very proud of the students I’ve mentored over the years and, in turn, how these former students are now mentoring students themselves. I still have much mentoring to do as well.

I believe that we must remember those who came before us, those who opened the door for us, and those who will come after us. Let us all make our parents proud and always be “para la raza.”

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

For many of us—first generation—our individual determination was not enough to complete college, obtain a Ph.D., and acquire tenure. I benefited from institutional processes that mediated my engagement and success. It all began with my parents’ hard work and the institutional agents along the way that paved the path for me.

Don’t be shy and seek out professors who share your research interests. Don’t do it alone, seek guidance and start your path forward on an illustrious academic career.

Research Interests: Sociology of Education, comparative race and ethnic relations, Latinx Studies, urban education, and community studies

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '18 Judy Tzu-Chun Wu
Nov. '18 Justyna M. Sosna
Oct. '18 Chen Li
Sep. '18 Shahrdad Lotfipour
Aug. '18 Zoe Klemfuss
Jul. '18 Patrick Rafter
Jun. '18 Kelli Sharp
May. '18 Gilverto Q. Conchas
Apr. '18 Ozdal Boyraz
Mar. '18 Amal Alachkar
Feb. '18 Andrea Nicholas
Jan. '18 Wenqi Wang