Last month, ESU welcomed Dr. Santiago Solis as the new vice president of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence, formerly the Student Affairs department. Even though he’s only been in his position for a short period of time, he’s already prepared to advocate for his students.
According to Dr. Cornelia Sewell-Allen, the assistant vice president of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence, the department is dedicated to making everyone feel at home while they’re away from home.
“Campus life captures everything that makes the student experience, so it could be academics, it could be counseling services, it could be what’s the football games, and club sports, and rec, and wellness,” said Dr. Sewell-Allen. “Inclusive excellence speaks to that holistic experience.”
The department wants to capture the big picture and look past college, Dr. Sewell-Allen said and that the department is dedicated to creating the foundation for a successful institution, and it starts up the chain with people like Dr. Solis.
Dr. Solis is a first-generation Mexican-American who has some hefty accomplishments. After graduating high school he spent a great amount of time trying to figure out how to get into college, what he should study, and what was affordable for him.
He worked full time and attended East Los Angeles community college, where he earned his associate’s degree.
Through mentors at his college, he learned of a free campus tour trip where he visited different schools, and this is when he encountered UC Berkeley, which left a lasting impression on him.
“When I visited UC Berkeley, it was very exciting because when the bus was driving down Telegraph Avenue, which is one of the main streets toward the campus,” Dr. Solis said, “the students were protesting and rallying, and they were demanding more diverse faculty.” This is where it all begins.
He soon recognized Berkeley as his future home, and constantly found himself at the library learning about the school from books.
Dr. Solis graduated from Berkeley with a degree in history, where he took many electives on ethnic studies. He went on to achieve his masters at Brown University, and a doctorate at Columbia University.
“I did not know what an Ivy League school was. I actually remember looking it up in the dictionary,” he said.
His hard work and opportunity lead him to a school in Washington Heights, New York City where he taught special needs middle schoolers.
This was done through a partnership with a group of artists, from a non-profit called Artist Space, and they created a year-long project where the students would create picture books based on their life.
His skills in addressing social class issues, as well as diversity issues, were honed through his teaching.
The job is very personal and emotional to Dr. Solis. This is a student body advocate, and he is holding his platform with the highest esteem. His goal is to reach out to students, work with them to help create opportunities, and give them the support they need to be successful.
“For me, that student’s voice has to be a very important central part of any conversation that we are having,” Dr. Solis said. “One thing I don’t agree with or appreciate is administrators, faculty, or staff making decisions without students being very much a part of those conversations.”
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