Alma Itzé Flores
TitleDoctoral Student, University of California Los Angeles
M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, 2011
My experience at UT was both rewarding and challenging. In retrospect, I was really young and because of this, I struggled to see myself as a graduate student or make sense of this new identity. It was the faculty, my compañeras/os, and the undergraduate students I worked with who changed this for me. Profesora Fránquiz and Profe Urrieta were integral in supporting me both emotionally and academically. I was also fortunate to have worked as a teaching assistant and graduate student researcher during my time at UT. These opportunities gave me the chance to work with some amazing undergraduate pre-service bilingual teachers and Latina/o youth in East Austin. Some of these undergraduates became close friends of mine who pushed me to persevere in the program. Profe Urrieta and Profe Foley’s class were especially impactful in terms of my research interests. My Master’s thesis, “Decolonizing Minds,” explored the experiences of Latina undergraduate students who were Mexican American Studies majors. I saw this work as my opportunity to speak back to the negative climate surrounding ethnic studies. I am a proud product of ethnic studies and had been involved in organizing at UT around the budget cuts that were largely affecting ethnic studies programs. I, therefore, wanted to honor the impact ethnic studies has on students through my thesis.
I decided to pursue my masters in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UT for three main reasons: the faculty, financial support, and location. As a former Ronald E. McNair Scholar at UCLA, I received a lot of critical guidance and support in helping me select the right graduate program for me. UT stood out to me in particular because of the faculty and location. I was really interested in working with faculty like Maria Fránquiz, Luis Urrieta, Jr. and Angela Valenzuela, to name a few. As a Student of Color, I was also looking for community, I wanted a program where I wouldn’t be the only Xicana and would also not struggle to find a greater Latina/o community beyond the institution. Fortunately, all three of these components came together for me when I was awarded the Ronald E. McNair Fellowship to support me in my graduate studies.
Life After UT
I am now currently a 2nd-year doctoral student back at my alma mater, UCLA, in the School of Education and Information Studies. I am in the race and ethnic studies division of my program focusing specifically on Chicana feminist education. My experiences at UT gave me the foundation and skills needed to continue on to a doctoral program. I am especially grateful that my experiences at UT helped me further develop my research interests and commitment to continuing to do work for social justice.
Advice for Students
My advice for incoming students is to get to know the faculty; the ones mentioned here really made me feel welcomed and reassured me that I not only belonged at UT but was needed there. I would also encourage students to get involved in the greater community, beyond UT. I found that there are a lot of great community organizations and spaces to get involved in Austin.