Los Angeles, I’m yours (for now)

“You need to leave California, Cindy… I know you don’t want to, but you’re going to need to, especially when you start looking for a job. There are no jobs here.”

I wasn’t thinking of my former advisor’s words when I decided to apply to a job in New York. Nor was I thinking of them in the video conference interview or day-long interview on site. And it didn’t come to mind as I waited to hear back from the review committee and weighed the pros and cons of a potential move. They came back to me after making my decision.

Five years after my advisor told me I needed to leave California and I pouted about it, I am finally leaving, now it’s with my little family.

On May 1st I made up my mind — like a lot of high school seniors waiting until the last minute to choose a college. Rather than submit a statement of intent to register I would soon sign an offer letter accepting a position at a university in New York.


I bought the hoodie after my interview. I figured even if I didn’t get the job, Xavi could build up his collegiate wardrobe. No need to only wear blue and gold.

It’s a big change for me and my family. We’ll be going from LA to an area with about 6% Latino population. I’ll no longer be in the land of 70 degree January days. My parents, siblings and most of my extended family won’t be a short drive away. I know they’re happy for me, but if Xavi was my grandson/nephew I’d be sad about no longer seeing him every other week.

Career wise it’s also a big change. I’ll go from a very selective public university that I’ve been at for 16+ years as either a student or staff member to a more selective Ivy League university that I’ll need to learn a lot about. I see myself carrying a map as I walk around campus, just like the tiny freshmen.

I’ll still be in STEM education for underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students, but with greater emphasis on the E in that acronym. My position will also come with more responsibility.


His face when he heard about the cold and snow.

I’m excited about this new opportunity but also fretting over the move. I don’t know anyone in Ithaca except my future co-workers. Sean, Xavi and I will leave an awesome support network (read: free babysitting from grandparents), extended family, lots of friends, co-workers and jobs we really like, our neighborhood and comfy apartment, and a church I’ve begun to feel at home at thanks to getting involved with the confirmation program.

I’ve only moved twice but I don’t think going from home to dorm and then dorm to apartment shared with college roommates really counts. It’s certainly much less daunting than a cross country move. While I’ve spent a lot of time in New York, it’s been in NYC or Long Island. Ithaca is 4-5 hours away from our New York City/LI friends and family. Last, we’ve been lucky to have the transition to parenthood smoothed out by having family nearby. I joked about the free babysitting, but that’s just one perk. It’s even better to see Xavi playing with his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and bringing a smile to Papá Chepe’s face with his silliness. On the bright side, Xavi will get to see his NY family more often.

I’m making a list of all the things I need to do (and eat!) in LA before we leave in June. We’ll certainly be busy, but mainly I want to spend the last few weeks at work leaving my boss, coworkers and replacement in a good position. At home, I want to make sure Xavi gets plenty of quality time with his LA family.

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Fall, football and family

Recently:

Happy birthday to my big brother, Danny!

I celebrated my big brother Danny’s birthday on Monday with the other siblings and our significant others. It was a chill dinner with lots of jokes and football talk.

While there we talked about Jenni Rivera’s passing. I wasn’t a fan, but was well aware of her family’s role in the banda scene and knew about her career (both the ups and downs) in music and TV. I do have friends and family members who were very affected by her death and are still grieving. Descanse en paz, Jenni.

Her death also brought up a critique from several Latino journalists about the lack of coverage of Latino artists. Gustavo Arellano’s 2003 profile is one of the few long form pieces in the English language MSM.

The internets were born here

I discovered the birthplace of the interwebs. It’s a short walk from my office.

Platinum wedding anniversary coming up in two months

I’ve worked with my parents, aunts and uncles on planning for Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s 70th wedding anniversary. Yes, seventy! The parties are always fun ’cause all my cousins show up and I get to play with their babies. Plus, the grandparents get all cute and affectionate with each other. It’s adorable.

This quiet bridge on campus adjacent to Royce Hall is one of my favorite spots on campus. I love that it feels like no one is around on a campus with more than 50,000 people. Last Friday night, Sean and I went to a great show by James “Blood” Ullmer’s Memphis Blood (blues) and Meshell Ndegeocello. Each set was amazing. (Losanjealous has photos: Meshells’ set, James “Blood” Ullmer.)

Sunny day at the Rose Bowl

Last month, I returned to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 10+ years. After I quit the band, I didn’t bother going to games. As an alum I’d watch and cheer, but wasn’t interested in making the trip out to the Rose Bowl. I hadn’t ever tailgated. I went twice in two weeks.

Back for the first time in 12+ years

I was late to the UCLA vs USC game, but it was okay because I still got to see UCLA beat USC for the first time since 2006.
I remember that!

The game was great, but the weather was awful. I still stayed for the postgame show with the band. Band geek p/v.

Tailgate with some UCLA alum

The next week I jumped at the chance to go my first tailgate ever for the final game of the season against Stanford. The tacos were yummy and I got to catch up with some old friends. The weather was great (hot!), but the game wasn’t great.

Sean's first tailgate

The game was Sean’s first tailgate too. He has an excuse since he went to a school without a football team.

Trombones lead the way after the drum majors

As we were waiting to enter the Rose Bowl, the band marched by. I almost cheered for the trombone line — my former section! — but kept my inner band geek in check. I was only in the band during my first two years at UCLA, but the experience was quite memorable. I quit after I got busier on campus (work, being a student leader, taking on a double major) and the football team started faltering.

Bass drums and sousaphones

Still, I can’t help but get excited when I see the gold capes and see the pregame show that hasn’t changed since I was in then band 13 years ago.

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Did not finish

Shadows

This isn’t about running*. This is about my education and career path.

I’m leaving my doctorate program.

I won’t complete the proposal process and the rest of the dissertation. I won’t walk another stage at graduation and get hooded. I won’t earn a doctorate in education. And no one will be calling me Dr. Mosqueda for the novelty of it before I tell them to stop because it sounds ridiculous.

This wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve been thinking it over for the past five months. I cried a few times and stayed up too late considering the pros and cons. I’ve done both simultaneously.

  • Pro: I can go out and find a full-time job and get started on that career thing.
  • Con: The job market sucks right now and higher education is definitely not recession proof.
  • Pro: I already have a good chunk of the proposal written. I just need to write an introduction and flush out chapters 2 and 3, literature review and methodology/theoretical framework, respectively.
  • Con: Once I propose and advance to candidacy, I still have to recruit students, interview participants, transcribe interviews, analyze the data, and write up my findings. I like interviews and analysis, but I hate transcribing. Paying someone to do it is not cheap.

And so on.

My decision didn’t come down to a rational and orderly list. I went with my gut (funny how that makes itself known when running too) and decided that leaving was my best option.

The PhD will be a DNF.

***

I cried as I composed the email to my advisor, La Jefa, letting her know my decision. Email was my only option as I couldn’t schedule a meeting with her at the time. La Jefa is a busy woman. Maybe it’s best, because I would’ve come out of her office with puffy eyes and a red nose.

La Jefa has been supportive and encouraging as I floundered in the past few years. Although she knew I wasn’t interested in a research career, she offered me a job on her research team. That was a huge plus as the position included fee remission and grad student health insurance.

She saw some potential in me when she took me on as a student eight years ago. I didn’t live up to that potential. I hate that.

***

We're facing more fee hikes this year. The CA budget sucks.

I don’t regret sticking around for so long. If I would have left when I first considered it in 2006, I would have never had the chance to make some great friends, serve in student leadership positions on campus, travel across the state advocating for better access and affordability with the UC Student Association, and do some important research with talented scholars. I also would have had a much a shorter stint at [Program]. Since I’ve been there six years, it’s been enough time to see a few cohorts go through the program, excel in their science courses, try research, and become young scientists. Basically, I wouldn’t have seen firsthand that [Program] really works.

I almost forgot I owned these books

If I would have left in 2009, the second time I considered it due to financial issues, I would have never had the chance to be part of a great research team. I got to present at conferences in Chicago and Toronto, went to Michigan a few times to hold focus groups, and learned a lot more about conducting a qualitative research study. I even got a publication in a top journal out of it (co-authored, of course). If I ever do want to finish my dissertation, I know my experience on this research team will be quite useful.

***

2011 GSE&IS Graduation

It’s commencement weekend. I saw photos on FB of friends getting hooded, waiting in line for the procession to begin, and celebrating their accomplishments with friends, family and their kids (in some cases). While I’m very happy for them, I felt a bit sad and envious. I should have been there. June 2012 was my degree expected term.

Even in the tough times, I thought I’d finish de panzazo (just barely, or doing the minimum to pass). I imagined myself writing that phrase in my dissertation acknowledgements or dedication. I’d get the degree, but I wouldn’t be a budding rockstar in the education research world like some of my friends. That wouldn’t matter to my family. They would still come out in full force like they did for my BA graduation. They’d be proud, even though I finished dead last.

There will be other opportunities to make them proud. I hope.

*I considering drawing out the obvious parallels between distance running and pursuing a doctorate, but I’m not up for metaphors and similes. While I’ve faltered in graduate school, I’ve managed to go from zero exercise to eking out a sub-4 marathon. Personally, the metaphor won’t work. I’m proud of my running accomplishments. Academics? Not so much.

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Class of 2002

Grad collage 2

This happened ten years ago. Exactly. Well, some of the photos are from Sunday June 17th, but you get to the point.

I didn’t write much about my thoughts on being the first in my family to graduate, being one of the very few Chicanas with a BA, etc. At that time I wasn’t so keyed in to the issues first generation and underrepresented minority students face in higher education.

Instead, I wrote more about Mexico’s performance in the World Cup and anxieties about starting a new job. I wrote a couple of recaps of the graduation ceremonies. They jogged my memory a bit and it’s fun to see how things have and have not changed.

Grad collage 1

From June 18, 2002, any updates are bracketed:

The apartment is full of flowers thanks to graduations. [My roommate Vane graduated too. She then moved back to the Bay Area.]

Mom has to exit the Durango through the passenger side, because when Dad crashed into a pole on Saturday at UCLA the dent made it impossible to open the driver’s side door more than a few inches. [I totally forgot this happened.]

I didn’t cry when I said my 1 minute impromptu speech at the Chávez Center [Chicana/o Studies] graduation. I was the exception among all the chillonas y chillones [crybabies]. [I was really proud about this. Papá Chepe gave me a 10 for my short speech because I didn’t cry.]

Isa and I agreed that we were annoyed with all the people thanking significant others at the graduation. [Our SOs were out of town/the country.]

I got some nice gifts and money. Lori did too. Tía Luisa has great taste. [My sister graduated from high school a few days before. We had a joint graduation party.]

Mando bought me a heart shaped balloon and flowers for graduation. If I didn’t know any better I’d wonder. [I wonder what happened to Mando. Off to FB.]

Valerie drew me in my cap and gown. She rocks. [I still have kindergarten Valerie’s art on my wall, but it’s faded.]

Hopefully this weekend’s graduates remember more about their commencement weekend than I did. Congratulations, class of 2012.

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Unexpected results

Research talk

I spent a good chunk of my day on Saturday talking to potential freshmen at a fair for newly admitted students. When I spoke to the incoming science students about applying for [Program], I always highlighted the impact on grades, retention in the sciences and participation rates in undergraduate research programs. The students would nod, probably overwhelmed with all the information and opportunities they’d learned about. The students perked up when I introduced them to current students and alumni helping us outreach. “How did [Program] benefit you?” I asked one of the volunteers.

All 10 students who volunteered throughout the day answered the same. It wasn’t grades and research was secondary even though they’re all in labs and some are going on to grad school in the fall. Nope, they all stressed the great friendships they developed with other [Program] students.

I love working with [Program], but at this point I don’t expect many surprises. Each year we do the same thing, it’s just a different set of students. I was wrong. I know our students develop friendships in the program. That makes sense since they spend several hours a week together and have a lot in common. We measure a lot of things and evaluate all aspects of the programs, but I don’t recall ever asking about friendships developed through [Program]. The researcher in me wants to study this and interview our students. The student affairs practitioner in me feels like we’re doing something right.

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