Alumni Spotlight

Kathy Villalon B.A. ’06, M.A. ’10

Undergraduate Major: Sociology

Undergraduate Minor: Comparatives Cultures

Graduate Major: Education

Activities: MeChA, CORE, Inter Club Council, Sociology Honors, Anthropology Honors

What first attracted you to Whittier College? Small classes and personal attention from professors are what attracted me to Whittier College. I'm glad I went to Whittier. I would not have had it any other way.

Why did you choose to study your major? My first semester at Whittier, I met sociology professor Les Howard in my Introduction to Sociology course. Howard’s class inspired me to pick sociology as my major. His class was eye opening and spoke to my personal experience. Howard became my advisor and made sure that I was on track. It was the sociology community that kept me there and pushed me to graduate in four years.

After getting my bachelors in sociology, I pursued my master’s degree in education at Whittier. My experience as a graduate student was very different from my undergraduate experience. I was a full-time teacher and took classes at night when I wasn’t working. I had support from the staff in the education department and met great professors. I took numerous courses and met great friends who I am still in touch with. There was one professor in particular that looked out for me then and now continues to do so, professor Ivannia Soto-Hinman. Soto-Hinman helped guide my critical education, provided research opportunities, and convinced me to pursue a Ph.D in education. Soto-Hinman never doubted my capabilities and to me that is priceless. She is a great educator and mentor.

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What was your favorite class? At Whittier, I learned many things, as is expected from one entering a four-year college. However, my experience was different from that of other Whittier students, as I was a commuter student. Being a commuter student provided me with a different perspective on college life and allowed me to critically view the social happenings of social life as a student. Looking back now, I am glad I was not an on-campus student, as someone recently told me, all these experiences gave me a sense of facultad or grit.

I was politically involved with Chicano issues as well. MeChA was my home. In this space, I felt comfortable with other students and was able to have conversations I could not have in other spaces. There was a deep sense of community in my MeChA experience. It helped me get through college and encouraged me.

My favorite classes were my history courses. A few of those classes were with professor Jose Orozco and focused on Mexican History. In these classes, I was able to get a real understanding of Mexican history and better understand my ‘’historicization’’ process.

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? My first job after Whittier was working in France as a French assistant, thanks to professor Marie-Magdeleine Chirol. I taught English in La Fleche and it was a wonderful experience. I met many new people and was able to travel across Europe.

Currently, I am working on a Ph.D at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in educational policy studies. Whittier provided me with a great undergraduate liberal arts education, having the close connection to professors and small classes was an essential part of my education. If it had not been for my education at Whittier, I would not be prepared for this part of my academic career.

What advice would you give to future students of the Department of Education when they graduate? Look at everything you do as a learning experience. Find something you are happy doing, look for spaces where you feel comfortable, and make sure those spaces constantly challenge you.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because... the experiences and lessons I learned at Whittier have helped create my ambitions and path in life.

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