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Professor Michel Estefan

Professor Michel Estefan is a 2022 Outstanding Mentor Award Recipient!

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Educational Background and Current Research

I was born and raised in Mexico. I received my undergraduate degree from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, an institution that had a strong commitment to social justice, particularly as it pertained to Mexico's poor and to its indigenous population. These values have played a central role in my educational trajectory and inform my research and teaching to this day. Most of my time and energy these days is devoted to developing research and teaching practices concerned with the educational success of first-generation, low-income, transfer, and/or racially minoritized students.

Did you do research as an undergraduate and how did you get started in your current field?

I did not do research as an undergraduate student, but wish I had. And I encourage all my undergraduate students to get involved with research as early as their first year at UCSD. My research trajectory had to wait until graduate school, in a Master's in Latin American Studies I studied at UC Berkeley. I took graduate courses in history, social theory, and pedagogy and had kind and encouraging professors in all three fields that guided me through my first experience collecting original data. It became immediately clear to me early in the project that there's no better way of developing your critical thinking skills and understanding how knowledge is produced than to have first-hand experience with the messy, on the ground process that empirical research entails. I believe having some experience with research is valuable even for students who may not be considering research as their career path.

Most Memorable Mentors

I feel grateful to say there are many, but the first four that come to mind are Victoria Bonnell, Margaret Chowning, Dylan Riley, and Cristina Mora. I met them all at UC Berkeley and each one played a central role in my intellectual trajectory. Victoria and Dylan taught me the importance of expressing confidence in your students, they modeled how to criticize other researchers' work in way that is rigorous, fair and constructive, and they taught me how to think about history in a way that is productively informed by social theory. Margaret and Cristina taught me that fostering a students' intellectual growth is best accomplished when you also support their well-being as an individual. The two go hand-in-hand.

Why do you enjoy being a mentor?

Mentoring allows me to engage students holistically in a way that is unencumbered by things like grades. It’s a space in which learning can be nurtured in a profoundly meaningful way, driven by a sense of camaraderie, empathy, and care.

What's the most useful piece of advice a mentor gave you?

To make sure that my research focused on topics I cared about. Empirical research tends to have relatively long timelines with many ups and downs along the way. What gets you through the challenging moments are your passion and interest in the topics.