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A New Chicanx Cohort: Profes in Borderlands, Punk Communities, & Healing Justice

By Sofia Robles

Off The Page Series


Education is one of the greatest opportunities a person can have and what most immigrant parents want for their children in the United States. It allows us to expand and immerse ourselves into conversations that challenge us and the powers that be. It’s no secret that most educators across the nation come from a certain background but after recent events, the door has opened to allow new perspectives and new voices to enter. Recently, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) has hired a new cohort of Chicanx professors to enrich the lives of both present and incoming students. As a Hispanic-serving institute, it is a campus filled with first-generation college students and the student body is over sixty-percent students of color with approximately forty-six percent identifying as Hispanic or Latinx.

From left to right: Dr. Manuel Galaviz-Ceballos, Dr. Marlén Ríos-Hernández, Dr. Nadia Zepeda

This new cohort has joined CSUF recently after California passed an Ethnic Studies requirement. Governor Newson signed legislation, known as Assembly Bill No. 101, on October 8, 2021 making California the first state to require all students to complete a semester course in Ethnic Studies to earn a high school diploma. Being a recent graduate from CSUF, I was able to take an anthropology course with Dr. Galaviz-Ceballos' instruction and gained a new perspective and understanding of my own culture while learning about other societies globally. Along with Dr. Galaviz-Ceballos, the new cohort is able to share their expertise on Chicanx culture, while addressing all Latinx communities, and social justice issues involving the intersection of people of color in the U.S.

To understand the impact these new positions have made on them and their roles as relevant role-models, I interviewed Dr. Manuel Galaviz-Ceballos, Dr. Marlén Ríos-Hernández, and Dr. Nadia Zepeda about their first year experiences at CSUF as well as their thoughts on their new endeavor as a first-generation professor.

How did you feel after completing your first year as a professor at California State Fullerton?

Galaviz-Ceballos: It just happened so it still doesn’t feel like it ended. I was reflecting on this not too long ago and I realized that yes, it’s my first year as a tenure track professor but it’s been 20 years that I’ve been in some sort of higher education institution. I first enrolled in Spring 2002 in community college and I don’t think there’s been more than an 8 month period that I haven't been involved in a university of some sort. I’ve gone through pretty much all the stages from being a community college student to now a professor and it's like it culminated in a place that I feel validated. That’s what I’m leaving with. All the work I’ve done in my past I’m starting to see pay off.

Ríos-Hernández: It was such a complex time to be hired. I had to go through the market during a global pandemic. I was also grieving as many people were and are. And so the completion of my first year was really a sign that I was lucky enough to live another year. When you teach things like Ethnic Studies in such a hard moment, even before everything that’s happened, it's always been hard to do this work so I guess my word would be gratitude. I was thankful for the students that I got that entrusted me with their intellectual journeys. I was thankful that for my first year was, as complicated as it was, on a larger scale was actually warm and generous on the ground up.

Zepeda: I thought it was a great accomplishment. I was really excited to close that cycle of the school year. It was nice to have that closing of the semester. It’s my first time teaching as a professor in a tenure position so it was beautiful in that way. I appreciated that even though we’re still living in a pandemic, I was able to participate in some of the commencements for my students. It was a culmination of a lot of feelings.

Did you have any expectations for yourself?

Galaviz-Ceballos: Yeah, I’m a recent PhD recipient and I was an adjunct professor at Chapman University which means I was a lecturer. I came in with broad ideas on how I could change the curriculum, the classes I’m giving at CSUF and I envisioned these classes that were rich with all these diverse voices and very diverse authors and I feel I fulfilled that. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to plan a class out, to plan multiple classes out, to lecture on this every week and have multiple lectures a week. I didn’t anticipate the challenge of actually doing this.

Ríos-Hernández: You know I didn’t. I didn’t because this is such a new new like what my postdoc advisor, Dr. Gaye T. Johnson (professor at UCLA in Chicana/o and Central American Studies at UCLA), would say, “We don’t know what the new new is. We don’t know what life was before and then there’s whatever is going to happen now.” I knew that students were going to have a hard time. I was mostly concerned about my students, what support students needed, especially my first years. My expectations were mostly around teaching and students.

Zepeda: I think for me, I came in as a learner. I know the institution kind of as a student but then moving as a faculty member, it's also learning a new language, a new culture, so I think my expectations were just to kind of learn as much as I could from the position and also get to know what kind of students are at California State University, Fullerton.

“They are all doing cutting-edge and critical work that goes beyond disciplinary boundaries,” said Dr. Patricia A. Pérez, Associate Dean for Faculty and Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies.

How do you feel to be a part of the new cohort of Latinx professors at California State Fullerton?

Galaviz-Ceballos: It’s an interesting moment because California passed an Ethnic Studies requirement which broadened the number of professors that are teaching. I was hired through the Anthropology department but this new law that went into play opened the door for people to come in and be part of Ethnic Studies. I feel there are a lot of local connections and local people with this new cohort. That’s what I appreciate about being part of this group. We all have ties to this area. It’s a rare experience and I feel fortunate to be part of this group.