This month's Spotlight on Alumni features Eden Cortez, who graduated from the College Student Services Administration program.
What attracted you to the College Student Services Administration (CSSA) program?
When I was searching for graduate programs in the Pacific Northwest, I specifically looked for programs that cater to my needs as a practitioner. OSU's CSSA program meet that requirement. CSSA offers a curriculum focus on practice-based experience, which gives students the opportunity to further their experience in the field of student affairs and academic affairs.
What was your undergraduate major?
I graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.F.A in digital arts and a minor in business.
What has some of your previous work experience been?
I worked for three years as a community college academic advisor. During this time, I taught a range of class such as academic success, financial literacy, and scholarship search and essay writing. Also, I organized and implemented career and transfer fairs, first-year orientation programs, learning communities, campus visits to four-year colleges and university in Oregon. But the bulk of my work was dedicated to advising students before and during the transfer process to four-year institutions of higher education. During my last year, I served as a member of the Diversity Advisor Committee (DAC). DAC focused on addressing issues of diversity on campus and recommended possible solutions to the campus president.
How did you get interested in this field of study?
When I was a undergraduate, I joined several student organization focused on promoting higher education in communities of color. It was this experience that helped me discerned my interest for student affairs, but it wasn't until I started to work as an academic advisor that I fully realized that I was an a position of serving those who have been historically marginalized. It was at this moment that I knew that student affairs was the right field for me and that I needed to further my education in order to continue to advocatefor equitable educational opportunities for students. I saw student affairs as a noble profession, but mainly as a field that is, at some levels, susceptible to social justice.
What do you enjoy or find most beneficial about the CSSA program?
I love learning and the instructors in the CSSA program facilitated a holistic learning environment where my peers and I shared our expertise and knowledge in specific functional areas.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I was born in Mexico City and spent most of my childhood in Medford, Oregon. Growing up in southern Oregon, where sentiments towards Mexicans are negative, I experienced discrimination, racism, and segregation in elementary, middle, and high school. These experiences shaped and influenced my academic goals. After graduating from high school, I attended community college. After taking a few Chicano/Latino classes, I soon realized that my academic experience growing up were common experiences for many Latinas/os. It was this realization that empowered me to transfer to a four-year institution and graduate. The injustices I experienced also propelled me to advocate for underserved and marginalized student populations and to continue my education beyond a bachelors degree. Currently, I'm a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah. My research focuses on establishing K-16 pathways for underserved student populations and on the social stratification of Latinas/os in community college. Through my research, I plan to provide models that strengthen the college pipeline for minority students as early as kindergarten and to address the inequalities that many Latinas/os face in community colleges. One of my career goals is to serve students as an administrator at a community college. In other words, I plan to become a community college president.