One of the College of Education’s newest professors of professional practice, Mayra Olivares-Urueta, comes to TCU after a career in student affairs and a passion for how community colleges fit into conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion. We asked Olivares-Urueta a few questions about what brought her to TCU, her research interests and more.
What brought you to TCU?
The professor of professional practice positions are to be filled with people like me, who have the education and experience in the field. Aside from the thrill of being in the classroom and helping to mold the next generation of higher education professionals and scholars, I want to infuse a love and appreciation for community colleges. A large number of minoritized students who enter higher education do so in community colleges. We need to learn about these institutions and about how their students experience college and university to ensure we are removing barriers to their educational and personal success.
Tell us about your research/research focus. Is there a particular question you’re trying to answer through your research?
Since my doctorate, I have been focused on studying issues of access and success for Latinx students and historically marginalized populations. Additionally, I am also very focused on advancement of Latinas – who are mothers – into executive roles in higher education and specifically in community colleges. The other research interest I have right now is student’s basic needs and ensuring colleges and universities address them because of their impact on student success.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I love to travel! I have a love/hate relationship with running, but since it makes me feel so good to complete a run, it’s definitely an activity I prioritize. Socializing with family and friends is also a must – and sleeping. I love any day when I have the chance to recharge my energy with a nap.
What’s your favorite thing about being a Horned Frog?
Thus far, I am learning to love the energy, compassion and dedication I have seen in students – the most important Horned Frogs I know. They are intentional and purposeful in their engagement in courses. We discuss subjects which really push us all out of our comfort zone. Because they know that there is learning in the discomfort, our awesome Horned Frogs engage anyway—they stay committed. My students show me that Horned Frogs really heed the call to Lead On even when it’s not comfortable or easy.
Anything you’d like to add?
I am proud Mexicana-Tejana who is a first-generation immigrant. I successfully and proudly completed English as a second language and developmental education (math and English). I am the oldest daughter of a widowed mother and the first in my nuclear and extended family to have a doctoral degree. I am many identities which are “not supposed to make it,” according to the research. My goal in life and through my work is to help minoritized people combat the deficit talk that exists about us, reject and rid ourselves of internalized oppression and achieve in spite the systems of oppression we have to overcome (while also working to tear them down). I hope our minoritized, systemically and historically excluded Horned Frogs will see themselves in me and know they can reach higher than anyone, even they, ever expected.
Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.