Tucked in a corner of the Campus Center, former Assistant Director of the Leadership Experiences and Programing Office (LEAP) Jennifer Guerra can be found reorganizing her new office in the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) and Ortiz Programs. Doe-eyed, friendly and enthusiastic, Guerra was hired as the new Director of the OEI over the summer.
Guerra received her Masters in Higher Education at Florida International University and received a minor in Spanish and a Bachelors in Animal Science during her undergrad at Cal Poly Pomona. “I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian before, but after interning at a vet clinic, I decided I loved animals, but the job was not for me,” Guerra said.
As Assistant Director of LEAP for the 2015 to 2016 year, Guerra oversaw all society-hosted events, the student lounge and helped coordinate Helping Hands Day. Now as Director of the OEI, Guerra hopes to promote a more inclusive community through social justice and education for students and faculty.
Luz Maria Galbreath was the previous Director of the Cultural Center and although the position was focused more on cultural backgrounds, the office’s work encompassed much more than just that. Now under this newly evolved title, the office hopes to further promote equity and inclusion among students of different sexual orientation, gender, nationality and religion.
“We strive to be a Hispanic-serving institution with a diverse student population, but what does that really mean?” asked Guerra. “Are we really doing justice because we have a student of coloror a lotof Latinos? Because that does not mean there is diversity. There needs to be that dialogue and conversation about our values, opinions and passions amongst everyone and I want to provide that space.”
“As a first-generation Latina born to a single Colombian mother, I did not know going to college was a big deal until I got involved on campus and used my work study to work all four years in Cal Poly’s cultural center,” Guerra said.
Guerra’s personal experiences as a person of color has influenced her passion for giving back to her community and providing families and students the support they need. She also hopes to be a role model for Latinas. “I want to show them that it is possible to be able to grow and eventually become an administrator and be in a leadership role,” Guerra said as she sat in her new office, wearing a handmade woven bracelet with the colors of the Colombian flag.
Guerra hopes to encompass inclusivity by doing more outreach and awareness about Whittier College’s LGBTQIA+ community and continue to work with our Trans Task Force to ensure that we have an inclusive and safe environment on campus.
She is also working alongside Vice President and Dean of Students Joel Perez to provide resources and support for male students of color to improve their retention rates. “I hope to reach out toCAAS [Center for Advising and Academic Success] and collaborate with other clubs and organizations to help provide better support for them,” Guerra said.
Guerra is also thrilled to hear ideas proposed by students. One student suggested the Office assist undocumented students and Guerra hopes to work on providing support to those individuals as it is important to many Poets. “We do not have the data yet on our percentage of undocumented students, but we need to bring awareness through trainings among admissions, financial aid, administration and eventually to students,” Guerra said.
As part of the Ortiz Programs, Guerra will continue coordinating annual traditional events, such as Dia de los Muertos, Latino graduation, Tardeada and Brindis. “I think Martin Ortiz, who established the Mexican-American student center, would want us to continue offering resources to our Latinos and would support us in advocating undocumented students as well,” Guerra said. “I want them to feel that this is a friendly campus and a place of cultural understanding and respect, regardless of nationality.”
One of Guerra’s favorite memories so far under her new position is hosting the Spanish language session for the incoming first-year Orientation for the first time. “I take from my own experience and that helped me really connect with the families,” Guerra said. “I know how hard it is for first generation parents and students to navigate college and just seeing them during orientation made me feel really happy because I want to let them know that they have support here at the College."