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UCLA Magazine Spring 2005
From Murphy Hall
Living La Vida 'Lorca'
Stress Fractures
What's at Stake
The Importance of Being Elma
House of Cards
The Quest
Through Women's Eyes
Dynamic Duo
Bruin Walk

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Spring 2005
The Importance of Being Elma

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Elma Gonzalez, around 1977

González as assistant professor at UCLA around 1977

“People have asked me how I made it, and I have wondered about that, because I wasn’t special,” González says. “There were a lot of kids I left behind who were smarter than I was, and they didn’t make it. I’m a very ordinary person, but maybe a little bit stronger, a little more persistent. You have to be persistent.”

Much of the impetus comes from family, she says. She considers herself lucky because her parents had a solid, stable marriage, and they had aspirations for her and her siblings. “You come out of such an environment with a very good self-image, feeling confident despite poor schooling in poor neighborhoods.”

It is UCLA’s good fortune to have González on faculty. As director of MARC, she has played a critical role in providing the incentive and support for undergraduates to pursue higher studies, thereby preparing them for possible careers in academe. Her success is evident: Students who have been through the program have gone on to graduate study at such top universities as Harvard and Yale.

“There is a well-documented shortage throughout the United States of both women and underrepresented minorities in university faculties,” says Judith L. Smith, vice provost for undergraduate education, who works with González to further UCLA’s efforts to create greater diversity in its student body and faculty. “Elma embodies this mission — it is her passion.”

In recognition of her work, González recently received the Academic Senate’s 2005 Distinguished Teaching Award for mentoring undergraduates in research. She acknowledges that only high-achieving students benefit from MARC, and that a large number of students from underrepresented populations are thereby excluded. But to “bemoan those who aren’t here or those left behind [is to] focus on the negatives,” she says. “You have to celebrate those who, despite all the odds, make it in a mainstream environment like UCLA.”

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2005 The Regents of the University of California