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Cal Poly to Host April 7 Talk on Diversity and Excellence in Higher Education

Visiting Cal Poly Professor Gilda L. Ochoa will give a free public presentation titled “Unpacking Diversity and Excellence: Lessons for Institutions of Higher Education” at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Performing Arts Center Pavilion on campus.

Ochoa is the recipient of Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts Susan Currier Visiting Professorship for Teaching Excellence for winter quarter 2016. She is teaching two courses in the Ethnic Studies Department, “Cultural Production and Ethnicity” and “Chicana/o-Latinas/os and Education.” Her April 7 lecture will be the culmination of her time on campus.

Her talk will use lessons from her extensive study of high school students and her experiences at Cal Poly to explore how seemingly well-intended movements for diversity and celebrations of academic excellence can maintain the status quo and reproduce inequality in institutions of higher education.

Ochoa will discuss discrepancies between what individuals and institutions say and do to enhance diversity, inclusivity and equity. By exposing and exploring those gaps, her talk will highlight areas for individual and institutional transformation.

Ochoa is professor of sociology and Chicana/o-Latina/o studies at Pomona College, where she writes and teaches on Latinas/os, education, and race/ethnicity. She has received the Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for Excellence in Teaching at Pomona College three times, most recently in 2015.

She is the author of numerous articles and three books, including her newest book, “Academic Profiling: Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap,” which received awards for its focus on race and eradicating racism from the Asian American Studies Association, the American Sociological Association, and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. An article in the Huffington Post named this book one of 35 “must read” books for all educators of African American and Latino students.

Ochoa’s other books include “Becoming Neighbors in a Mexican American Community” (2004), “Learning from Latino Teachers” (2007), and “Latina/o Los Angeles” (2005), co-edited with her brother Enrique C. Ochoa, professor of Latin American studies and history at Cal State Los Angeles. Ochoa is beginning new research on sexuality and Latinas’ race-gendered experiences in schools.

She has worked in various after-school programs with students from sixth through 12th grade and has also taught K-12 educators. She speaks regularly at high schools and colleges and has collaborated with middle and high school teachers on various student-centered projects. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from UC Irvine and her doctorate in sociology from UCLA.

Ochoa is also available for additional community presentations and can be reached at

The Susan Currier Visiting Professorship for Teaching Excellence is a residential teaching professorship that recognizes superior teaching in the liberal arts, emphasizing the intersection between gender/women's issues and global justice/humanitarian concerns.

The professorship honors the late Susan Currier’s commitment to education. Currier served as an associate dean of Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts and as a professor of English. Contributions from Susan Currier; her recently deceased husband, Professor Max Wills; the Currier family; and private donors make the professorship possible.

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