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Toward a State Servingness Agenda: Bridging Research, Policy, and Practice

The Inaugural Convening by the HSI Research Colectiva

April 25, 2024
Program 9:30 am – 3:00 pm
UC Davis International Center

Reception 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm
UC Davis Conference Center

This event will discuss the future of California Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), which are colleges and universities that enroll at least 25% Hispanic/Latino students. This convening will feature research from students and college leaders across the three public systems, California Community Colleges, California State University, and University of California. By bringing together researchers, policy organizations, and policymakers, we aim to envision an agenda for HSI policy and practice in California. With 170 HSIs in California, the most in any state, it is imperative that the state plan for the future of these institutions and the Latino students within them.

For more information:



Registration and Breakfast
UC Davis International Center


Welcome Remarks


Pathways of (in)validation: Marginalized Students Navigating Resources at a Hispanic-Serving Institution
UC Santa Cruz CREA Undergraduate Team:  Lucas Alonso, Paulina Avila, Michelle Barajas, Janai Dagdagan, Andrew O’Brien,  Jennifer Ochoa Villegas, Erica Okene, Xitlaly Reyes, Leslie Rodriguez, Melissa Rodriguez, Amanda Sevilla


Finding Comunidad: Uplifting Our Voices to Unpack “Servingness” at Sacramento State
Student PAR Project
Amber M. Gonzalez and Maria Razo-Soto




Enhancing Student Experiences at CA HSIs Conversations
Mark and Rosy, Ixe Advising




Insights from HSI Research Colectiva Panel


Transformation Teams Leading for Change at California Community College HSIs

Cynthia Olivo & Flor Huerta (Fullerton College);
Angélica Garcia & Robert Holcomb (Santa Rosa Junior College);
Gina Garcia (UC Berkeley)

1:35pm-2:00pm Connecting HSI Research to Policy
Wil del Pilar (The Education Trust)


Advancing HSI Research, Policy, and Practice Conversations
Mark and Rosy, Ixe Advising




UC Davis Conference Center


Visit Malaquias Montoya and the Legacies of a Printed Resistance Exhibit (Optional)
Manetti Schrem Museum

Presenter Bios

Pathways of (in)validation Presentation 

Lucas Alonso
I’m a fourth-year Psychology student at UCSC, as well as a first generation student and a transfer student from Cabrillo Community College. My main research interests include learning about how historical and modern forms of colonialism have shaped post-secondary institutions and how students, faculty, and staff can work towards decolonizing education. I’m interested in our current research project because it opens up a space to discuss, analyze, and transform how UCSC cares for and supports its students, particularly students from historically marginalized communities.

Paulina Avila
I’m from Orange Cove, CA, majoring in Psychology and Sociology. My research interests include first-generation students’ development of resilience and motivation within educational settings, as well as how institutions can impact their academic success. Being a first-gen student myself has shaped my cultural identity and influenced how I navigate higher education spaces. However, there are still institutional barriers and unexplored factors that directly affect students’ academic achievement and motivations. I hope to address these educational gaps through research and create supportive learning environments. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking with my friends and exploring the Santa Cruz mountains.

Michelle Barajas
I am a fourth-year first-generation college student at UCSC majoring in intensive Psychology and minoring in Latin American and Latino Studies. I was born and raised in Stockton, CA and my research interests are inspired by my upbringing, motivated to be a voice for those who are marginalized. I am interested in the factors that affect the reduction of the recidivism rate among Black and brown communities in the U.S. I am also interested in how to make the institutional system more accessible and inclusive to those that it was not built for, encouraging student success.

Janai Dagdagan
I am a fourth-year Intensive Psychology student at UCSC. I am a first-generation student, a woman of color born and raised in San Francisco. My passion for research revolves around the many barriers to navigating institutional resources that people in my community and I faced while growing up, and my desire to enact change within these difficult systems. I have been fortunate to become involved in research that reflects these experiences, analyzing barriers such as the hidden curriculum, understanding students’ sense of belonging, or analyzing intersectional differences in college preparation.

Andrew O’Brien
I’m a fourth-year Psychology and Cognitive Science double major at UCSC. My research interests involve social psychology, more specifically, concepts surrounding criminal justice reform and the treatment of those within that system and any systems that dehumanize people. What brought me to this project was noticing how little effort my campus was putting into the well-being of students, especially students who weren’t fortunate to be able to bypass those barriers. It motivates me to look deeper into those institutions and identify where they can support marginalized students. I’m hoping to continue this research in the future.

Jennifer Ochoa
I am a third-year Psychology major with a minor in Latin American and Latino studies. I am a first-generation college student and a second-generation immigrant from Mendota, CA. My research interests lie in understanding marginalized students’ experiences within the public school system and higher education. Specifically, how institutional barriers undermine student success. My motivation behind this research project stems from my experiences and those of my peers in higher education. I hope this project will help shed light on marginalized students’ challenges and how we can better support them. In my spare time, I love going to the beach.

Ejovboke Erica Okene
I am a fourth-year transfer student studying Psychology at UCSC. I am from Los Angeles but I also lived in Nigeria for four years. My research interest examines the impact of adverse environments or events on biopsychosocial development and their intersections with race and gender. I am interested in this project because my personal experiences with campus support resonate with the perspectives shared by students, motivating me to explore how institutions can better cater to the needs of marginalized students who are trying to assimilate into institutions that were not built for them.

Leslie Rodriguez
I am a third-year Psychology student at UCSC and a transfer student from Cabrillo College. I was born and raised in Watsonville, California, and was a first-generation student until I helped my mother attain her bachelor’s degree. My main research interest is learning ways to improve academic success for students with disabilities. What brought me to this research project was the ability to find ways post-secondary institutions can effectively serve diverse students who are academically underserved. My goals for the future are to go to graduate school and continue research on educational equal access for disadvantaged and diverse students.

Melissa Rodriguez
I’m a third year Psychology student with a minor in Legal Studies. I’m from Fontana, California. I’m interested in developmental psychology, including how bilingual children learn differently from monolinguals, and in forensics psychology. Conducting research on our institution has been a privilege since understanding students’ different experiences has made me passionate about the research we do in CREA. My drive to dig deeper is knowing that my younger sister will soon be entering college and I want to help change the lack of awareness about HSIs and what that means to students.

Amanda Sevilla
I am a third year Psychology and Feminist Studies double major. I am from Los Angeles, CA, specifically South Central LA. I am a first-generation, low-income, Latiné college student who is interested in reconstructing institutions of oppression into ones of equity and equal opportunity. My research interests are deeply inspired by both my intersectional identities and my hometown. I am interested in bridging psychology and feminist studies together to research the impacts of childhood obesity and uncovering the capitalist drive to keep BIPOC unhealthy and dependent on a system that does not serve us. Fun fact, I love astrology!

Finding Comunidad Presentation

Conversation with HSI Research Colectiva Panel

Transformation Teams Leading for Change

Dr. Flor Huerta
Flor Huerta (she/her/ella) is the Interim Dean of Counseling & Student Development at Fullerton College. She has worked at Fullerton College for 25 years in various roles including Classified, tenured faculty and management. As a first-generation, California Community College transfer, she has centered her professional career dedicated to advancing initiatives to foster equitable practices, enact servingness to innovate and design support systems for student success. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, a master’s degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Career Development and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education.

Robert Holcomb
Robert Holcomb currently serves as Vice President of Academic Affairs/Assistant Superintendent at Santa Rosa Junior College, overseeing all instructional programs, learning support areas, and educational initiatives. Previously, Dr. Holcomb worked as an instructional dean, Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Director, and tenured professor, teaching coursework in English as a Second Language (ESL) over a nine-year span at Rio Hondo College, in Southern California. His academic interests include literacy development, second language acquisition, Latin American literature, and prose analysis. Dr. Holcomb holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Claremont Graduate University, a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Southern California. He is an active member of key professional communities, including the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Institution Educators (AHSIE), and California Community College Organización de Latinx (COLEGAS). Dr. Holcomb remains privileged to work toward equity in higher education with the support of his wife and four children.

Dr. Gina Ann Garcia
Dr. Gina Ann Garcia is a professor in the School of Education at UC Berkeley. Her research centers on issues of equity and justice in higher education with an emphasis on understanding how Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) embrace and enact an organizational identity for serving minoritized populations. She explores the experiences of administrators, faculty, and staff at HSIs and the outcomes of students attending these institutions. As an equity-minded scholar, she tends to the ways that race and racism have shaped institutions of higher education. See complete bio.

Connecting HSI Research to Policy


Rosy Escandón, M.Ed. and Mark A. López, Ph.D., Ixe Advising
Rosy Escandón and Mark A. López are the multi-passionate individuals behind Ixe Advising (pronounced ee-sheh).

With over 40 years of experience in private and non-profit education spaces, Rosy and Mark have made a significant impact in various educational settings. They are knowledgeable in addressing technology integration in classrooms, fulfilling diversity, equity, and inclusion needs, fostering professional learning communities, and developing strategic plans and organizational leadership within diverse education organizations and campuses.

Both Rosy and Mark have worked extensively with Hispanic Serving Institutions and Historical Black Colleges and Universities, and possess a deep understanding of inclusive excellence and education policy. Throughout their careers, they have led small to large-scale strategies and provided oversight for organizational, state, and federal budgets.

They are committed to education, equity and anti-racist policies and practices. They are guided by the wisdom of their ancestors and fueled by their passion for education.


Rena Martinez Stluka
Rena Martinez Stluka is the Director of Admissions and Records at Fullerton College. She has been with Fullerton College in various roles for 25+ years all in the Admissions and Records Office. Rena is a proud alum of Fullerton College and is dedicated to servingness to ensure that community college spaces are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible for Latinx students. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Management/Organizational Leadership.

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