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Student Spotlight: Daisy D. Alfaro

Daisy D. Alfaro, a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program, received the 2012 Graduate Student Leadership Award. Nominated by her colleagues and friends, Alfaro demonstrated leadership as both a scholar and a volunteer. Dean Stritikus praised her research on the contributing factors to Latino students educational success.

“Daisy’s research on the contributing factors to Latino students educational success is important and she has thrown herself into her own professional growth in this direction,” Dean Tom Stritikus said. “Daisy grew up in an LA community where many residents cannot pursue higher education, a fact that she works tirelessly to change by mentoring and advising students from the region. She calls it “paying it forward”, we call her an inspiration.”

daisy alfaro

Alfaro travelled to China in 2011 with the UW/MSU Fellowship for Enhancing Global Understanding. Climbing the Great Wall was a symbol of her progress and she took this photo to acknowledge the potential found within communities like Lynwood.

Under the guidance of Dr. James S. Antony, her dissertation examines the protective factors that influenced the P-20 trajectories of academically successful, low-income, first-generation, urban, Latina/o students enrolled at top law schools in the country. Alfaro’s research reframes the approach of examining the educational outcomes of Latinos, from one that has consistently documented failure to one that highlights success. This shift is rooted in the idea that much can be learned from examining the factors that promote successful trajectories. She hopes that this knowledge, can effectively improve the conditions in our communities and schools. Alfaro was recently awarded a dissertation fellowship from the Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program (GO-MAP).

Alfaro is from Lynwood, California. In 2001, she became the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She then went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Master of Arts from New York University. Throughout her educational journey, she has continued to mentor students and advise their parents about preparing, applying, and paying for college.

“I started doing this work because I know firsthand the need for it in my community,” Alfaro explains. “When I was in high school, I didn’t know about college or what I had to do to get there. If it weren’t for the Upward Bound program at CSU Long Beach, I wouldn’t be here. It is because of my family, my community, teachers, and professors like Dr. Jim Antony and Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, who believed in me, that I am here today. So I’m simply paying it forward.”

In the last four years at the University of Washington, Alfaro says that she has continued to encounter similar guidance that has helped her establish a sustainable program of research that has taken her to present her work at numerous research conferences, including a presentation at Southwest University in Chongqing, China. Alfaro is now beginning her fifth and final year of her doctoral program. She recently moved back to California, where she has a visiting graduate appointment under Dr. Amanda Datnow at UC San Diego.

“I am really grateful for the opportunity to be at UCSD.” Alfaro states. “But I am also very excited about writing my dissertation near Lynwood, the community that inspired my journey to the PhD. We get to write this last chapter together.”


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