The Fresno State faculty has expressed difficulties in training black people
For alumnus Luis Flores, his freshman year at Fresno State was a difficult journey as he underwent physical rehabilitation and mental health counseling after a car accident.
The accident nearly killed Flores. He was twice flattened during an operation that left him paralyzed for months. Doctors told Flores he might never walk again.
“As you can imagine, it was very devastating, not just emotionally but in terms of my self-esteem and motivation. This affected my performance because I refused to ask for help. I have no sense of direction,” Flores said.
Flores was one of four speakers in the virtual panel hosted by the Fresno State Cross-Cultural and Gender Center (CCGC) on February 24.
The purpose of the discussion was to highlight the journey and challenges faced by people of color in academia and to celebrate diversity on campus. This was the second such panel hosted by the CCGC.
The panel included four faculty members and staff who shared stories and experiences of their journey in higher education during the hour-and-a-half Zoom session.
Panelists included Assistant Professor Everett Vieira, Assistant Professor Mario Banuelos, Research and Grants Analyst Edgar Parrilla, and Flores, Director of TRiO Student Support Services/Disabilities.
Estevan Parra Guerrero, the CCGC Coordinator, moderated the session.
The virtual forum served to encourage men in higher education to seek help and resources available to them at university that they may not be aware of and to contribute to the difficulties faced by men of color.
“I switched majors about three times and was unaware of the resources Fresno State had to offer even though I was a student with disabilities. I never look for a place to stay…whether it was my visible or invisible disability,” Flores said.
He credits Fresno State’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and special assistance programs for helping him pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology and eventually a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on marriage and family therapy.
“I can now say with confidence that there is no way I would have graduated without EOP. Going into therapy and rebuilding and being guided by counselors helped me regain a passion for helping others, which is a credit [being] the reason I studied psychology,” Flores said.
The majority of panelists were sons of immigrants and first-generation college students. Many of them had difficulty navigating the education system as they had few people to turn to for help.
Banuelos felt discouraged as he was often the only person of color, particularly in the field of mathematics and with little community support.
“Some specific challenges I’ve encountered [have] being the only black guy in the room, especially in math, [and] opportunities are overlooked. And the hardest part is probably struggling to find a community to support you,” Banuelos said.
Guerrero closed the virtual forum with his thoughts on the underrepresentation of people of color in science.
“Where’s the faculty? I thought this was a Spanish oriented institution. What does that even mean?” Guerrero said.
At Fresno State, 52.7% of students identify as Hispanic or Latino.
“I don’t see it in my mission statements… murals that represent art, symbols, images that represent my skin color, my ethnicity, my people. I don’t see that, and I was here on this campus as an undergraduate, graduate and now as a professional staffer,” Guerrero said.