Wherever she is – in class, on the soccer field, or at work in UCSB's Judicial Affairs office – you can bet that Priscilla Pereschica will be working hard at whatever she's doing, and that she'll be doing it well. Priscilla is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, with an emphasis on Educational Leadership and Organizations (ELO). A 2009 graduate of Fresno State, Priscilla currently works in Judicial Affairs, where she helps students navigate the judicial process. She is also an avid soccer fan, and has experience with both indoor and outdoor soccer.
Where did you grow up?
I’m from the Central San Joaquin Valley, which is a predominantly agricultural region. It is sadly considered to be the 10th least educated metro area in the country. My grandparents, Ismael and Maria Bugarin and Ursulo and Esther Pereschica, left Mexico and moved to the United States to pursue better opportunities for themselves and their children. They ultimately settled in the Central Valley and worked as farmworkers. I really respect their decision to leave their country, to leave their families, and to work in a labor-intensive job in the grueling heat for an opportunity to achieve prosperity.
I come from a large and close-knit family. I’m the oldest of four children. I have one sister, Erika, and two brothers, Martin and Ysaiah. Erika works with special needs children, Martin is fixing up a 1967 Mustang, and Ysaiah will be going to the Marines Corps boot camp soon. My parents, Frank and Sandra, were quite young when they got married and when I was born. My parents made many sacrifices to support me and my siblings and worked two jobs at times. Although they did not attend college, they understood the importance of a college degree and they emphasized its importance to us at an early age. My parents have always been hard workers and had the entrepreneur spirit. They built and owned their homes, my mom owned her own business, and my dad purchased a small ranch and farmed it in addition to his full-time job. They achieved the “middle class dream” through a lot of hard work.
Is there any particular event or events that had a big impact or influence on you and helped shape who you are today?
As the oldest, a lot of family responsibilities fell upon me, and I helped care for my siblings when my parents worked. My mom would lovingly call me their “second mom.” This responsibility continued into college, and I coordinated my school and work schedules around my siblings’ schedules. Aside from my family responsibilities, I worked on average 25 hours a week and was a commuter student. With a combination of all of those factors, I was unable to fully integrate into college or participate in extracurricular activities; however, I made sure to focus on my classes because I wanted to attend grad school. I believe that my experiences helped me develop into the woman that I am today. My parents have done so much to provide for me and my siblings, so I was willing to help.
What research projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on two research projects. The first is a qualitative project that was started by my former advisor. We interviewed graduate students about their knowledge and experiences of attending an Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). The second project is my own and it is quantitative. I’m examining survey data related to the academic integration experiences of Latino undergraduates at an Emerging HSI. I didn’t intend to do research within the HSI context, but I became very intrigued by the topic after getting involved in the first project. An HSI is an institution with a minimum of 25 percent enrollment of Latino undergraduates. Federal funding is available to these institutions and it may be spent on a variety of programs and projects. An Emerging HSI is an institution with a Latino undergraduate enrollment of 15 to 24 percent. UCSB is an Emerging HSI with a 24 percent enrollment of Latino undergraduates. I’m looking forward to UCSB’s transition into an HSI because I think it will be a momentous event in regard to Latinos' access to a research-intensive university. It’s exciting to do this research at the same time that UCSB is making this transition. I hope that there is a commitment to serving the students by ensuring that they are graduating and are encouraged to pursue opportunities beyond their bachelor’s degrees.
What has graduate student life been like for you?
I’ve enjoyed graduate school and have been involved on campus in multiple ways. I work in the Office of Judicial Affairs as a graduate student assistant and conduct officer. In my role, I help students navigate the university judicial process, investigate reports of student-involved academic and behavioral misconduct, and uphold the university’s policies and regulations. My boss, Stephan Franklin, has been very supportive of my professional development. I have received training on stalking, sexual assault, and restorative justice. I also serve as a hearing officer for Housing and Residential Life and have worked on an interdepartmental anti-couch burning campaign for the past two years. Our campaign has been successful and we have seen a decrease in the number of couch burnings in Isla Vista. I am proud to have co-coordinated a women’s self-defense training during the spring quarter and plan to coordinate a few more for this school year.
I am also one of the founding members of the UCSB Higher Education Action and Research Consortium (HEARC). HEARC was created by and is led by graduate students. Part of its purpose is to advance the dialogue and research of postsecondary issues. We meet several times during the quarter and invite faculty members, administrators, and researchers to discuss their research and work. We also provide professional development workshops for students. If you’re interested in attending one of our meetings or would like more information, please contact us at UCSB.HEARC@gmail.com or visit our Facebook page.
I am also a board member of LUNA (Latino/a UCSB Network Association). LUNA is newly established and it was created to promote the professional development of and the retention of UCSB Latino/a faculty and staff. I’m excited to be a member of this group and look forward to creating a stronger and more visible community. Access our Facebook page for more information about upcoming events and workshops.
Finally, I am also a member of several other UCSB groups: Professional Women’s Association, SRB Governance Board, and Security Camera Policy Committee. Graduate life has been busy both academically and professionally but I enjoy it. I have a great advisor, Professor Richard Duran, who has provided me with a lot of support and opportunities.
What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?
I have personal and professional motivations, but my personal motivations drive me the most. I am motivated to succeed for my family. I am grateful for the sacrifices and opportunities that my grandparents and parents have given me, and I want to give back to them. My siblings, boyfriend Steven, and extended family are also very supportive and encouraging so they also add to my motivation. Additionally, my hard work and sacrifices will benefit my future family. Overall, I feel that my success and degrees are beyond me. When I achieve, they achieve. My degrees are their degrees.
Lastly, I am excited that my research will contribute to the growing research on HSIs and how they can better serve their students. I look forward to the professional opportunities that my degree and work will provide me.
Who are your heroes/mentors?
My heroes are my parents and grandparents. I value their faith, strong work ethic, perseverance, sacrifices, and love and commitment to their families. I admire how they live for others and not for themselves. They inspire me to embody these qualities and make me proud to be their daughter and granddaughter.
I consider Dr. David Schecter, who was my political science professor from Fresno State, to be my mentor. I’m very grateful for his help, wisdom, guidance, kindness, and support throughout the years. During my senior year at Fresno State, he helped me secure an internship in Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s office, which turned into a staff position. He also helped me navigate the graduate school application process and wrote me several recommendation letters. He has really helped me at critical points in my life and I’m thankful to have him as part of my support system.
Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.
Overall, I’m proud of myself. I think I’m doing quite well considering that I’m a first-generation college student and from a small, agricultural, and undereducated area. I feel very blessed for the opportunities that have been bestowed upon me.
What do you do to relax?
I’m a firm believer in work-life balance, although I struggle to maintain that balance at times. Sometimes the grad student life makes it difficult to do but I think it’s important to strive for it. Some of the things that I like to do to relax are watch movies, hike, and go to the beach. I’m surprised by the number of people I’ve met who live here and don’t go to the beach. Take advantage of its tranquility. I also enjoy a night of dancing and having a drink or two. Even though I love spending time with others, I also value my alone time. I find peace and relaxation through solitude.
What is one thing (or more than one thing) that people would be surprised to know about you?
I played soccer for 13 years consecutively, was captain of my high school varsity team, and played five seasons of indoor soccer after I graduated from college. Two of my indoor teams won the championship, and one of the championships was won in a penalty shootout! I played in an outdoor league this past summer and sprained my ankle. I plan to resume playing once it’s healed. Outdoor soccer and indoor soccer are uniquely different, but both are incredibly fun.
I’ve been taking self-defense classes this past year through the UCSB R.A.D. program (Rape Aggression Defense Program) and Santa Barbara Krav Maga. I find it empowering to learn how to defend myself and exhilarating to strike the pads. I’m proud to admit that I can deliver a good, strong kick, which I attribute to playing soccer for so many years. I highly recommend that women take a self-defense course. It’s important to train your body and mind in the event that these skills have to be used. I hope that doesn’t occur but it’s important to be prepared.
What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?
I hope to have a job in public policy so I can continue working on higher education issues. I want to contribute to the success of underrepresented students by promoting access, retention, and opportunities to attend graduate school. As you can tell, family is very important to me so creating my own, large family will also be a focus of mine.
Do you have any advice for current grad students?
Grad school can be overwhelming and stressful because of the amount of work it requires, and it’s even more stressful if you have other commitments, so I recommend maintaining a support system of family and friends and establishing a proper work-life balance. My other takeaways are (1) don’t neglect your physical and mental health, (2) take advantage of your opportunities or create new ones, and (3) enjoy the experience. We live each day once so make the most of it.