Moises Orozco Villicaña, director of enrollment management at the iSchool, was featured in the Fall 2019 issue of Perspectives, the magazine of NAGAP, which is the Association for Graduate Enrollment Management. In the interview, "A Candid Conversation on Increasing Enrollment of Underrepresented Students in Graduate School," Orozco Villicaña described his personal motivations for pursuing higher education, his experiences working with underrepresented students, and some of the challenges associated with the recruitment and retention of students of color. He also presented on this topic at the 2019 NAGAP Annual Conference earlier this year.
"As a first-generation student of color at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I received support and validation from faculty, staff, and graduate students," Orozco Villicaña said. "My parents never pursued a formal education beyond elementary school, so I always assumed that obtaining a bachelor’s degree would be the pinnacle of my post-secondary education."
After completing his BA in sociology, law, and society, with a minor in education from UC Santa Barbara, Orozco Villicaña earned a Master of Education and PhD in educational policy studies from the University of Illinois. He credits his "cultural navigators," or institutional members who help students understand the rituals, customs, and rules of higher education (Strayhorn, 2015), with encouraging him to pursue an advanced degree. The experience strengthened his commitment "to ensure that students of color receive the validation and support vital to obtain an advanced degree."
According to Orozco Villicaña, one of the biggest hurdles to recruiting underrepresented students is the cost of an advanced degree, and more needs to be done to help offset the cost through fellowships, scholarships, and assistantships. He also stressed the importance of creating a "welcoming space for students of color that empowers them to thrive in the program."
In May 2019, he celebrated the graduation of the first cohort he recruited to the iSchool.
"In this type of work, it is easy to get caught up in enrollment targets and a perpetual state of planning for the next recruitment cycle, but attending a commencement ceremony reveals the true purpose of our work—to ensure that the students we recruit fulfill their educational aspirations," he said.