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.