As the U.S. population continues to diversify, UNLV is leading the way in serving students from varied backgrounds. The makeup of the university’s student body was certainly a factor that drew Blanca Rincón, an assistant professor of higher education in the department of educational psychology and higher education, to Las Vegas.
Tell us about an object in your office that has significance to you.
In my office, I post up cards that I’ve received from students and colleagues throughout my time as a faculty member. These cards represent the lessons I’ve learned as an educator and the many lives I’ve shaped, and that have shaped me, throughout this journey. They are a constant reminder that I am a part of something bigger than myself and that the work that we do as educators matters.
Why did you decide to come to UNLV?
Several things brought me to UNLV. First, I am excited to continue to pursue my research on underserved populations in STEM fields, as well as the work on Latinxs in higher education. This is an interest I share with some of my colleagues who are doing important work around issues of equity in higher education. I also get to work with really bright students like Juanita Jasso. As one of a few Latina faculty members on campus, I hope to contribute to making UNLV a more diverse and welcoming environment that reflects the students it serves — representation matters!
What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you’ve worked or where you went to school?
There is no doubt that one of the defining characteristics of UNLV is its racially diverse student body. UNLV is one of the most racially diverse institutions in the nation. Before coming to UNLV, I had only worked at or attended historically white institutions. UNLV has achieved what most four-year institutions are still working toward—structural diversity. UNLV must now ask, what does it mean to be a minority serving institution (MSI)? How is the MSI designation reflected in our institutional mission and priorities, student services, and classrooms? What must we do to ensure that our commitment to provide access to postsecondary education for our Las Vegas community endures as we make strides toward Top Tier? This is my first time at an institution that is engaging with these types of questions. It’s an exciting time to be here!
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Azusa, California, which is nestled against the San Gabriel Mountain foothills in Los Angeles County. Azusa certainly has a small-town feel — with a downtown that spans about three blocks and its many festivals. It was a great place to grow up!
What books are on your bedside table?
On my bedside table, you will currently find, We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
What inspired you to get into your field?
My first teachers, my grandmother, and parents, instilled within me a love of learning and a desire to make the world a more just and equitable place. Higher education is increasingly becoming more stratified, even as it becomes more diverse. As a professor of higher education, I saw an opportunity to become a life-long learner and to use my talents to create more inclusive and responsive campus environments.
What is the biggest challenge in your field?
One of the biggest challenges in my field right now is probably the defunding of public higher education. This leads institutions to seek out other revenue sources and often results in an increase in college costs in the form of tuition and fees for students and their families. Rising college costs have real implications for accessing higher education and subsequent job opportunities, especially given that most new jobs increasingly require some form of postsecondary education.
Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I am a fabulous cook (or so I’ve been told)!
Finish this sentence, “If I couldn’t work in my field, I would like to…”
Be a coffee shop owner. I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee so I feel like it would be a good investment.