After struggling to find the support he needed as an undergraduate, Lucas is pursuing a degree in student affairs administration to become a leader who is focused on problem solving together with students, helping to set them up for development in ways that they might not yet be able to do alone.
Student Affairs Administration ’22, is aware that many people who choose to pursue a career in student affairs were inspired by an incredible mentor who helped them navigate their collegiate journey, but his motivation is just the opposite. Bouncing between five different undergraduate colleges but never quite finding the sense of belonging he was seeking, Lucas knew his journey shouldn’t be like this. Today, he is pursuing his MA in student affairs administration and plans to pursue a doctoral degree in order to support students in the meaningful ways they deserve and need.Lucas English,
“As an undergraduate, I always knew it should have been easier to access support, and the help I did receive felt inadequate,” remembers Lucas. “I want to be a leader who is focused on problem solving together with students, helping to set them up for development in ways that they might not yet be able to do alone, in the same ways that I was not.”
Intentionally seeking a graduate school setting unlike his rural hometown in New Woodstock, New York, Lucas found Portland to be enticing and he identified with the Graduate School’s values of social justice, equity, access, and inclusion. He describes those values as being sewn into the fabric of the program, as well as the graduate school itself.
“Both Professor Sifuentez and Professor Valles make the SAA program a welcoming environment, but, from the moment you begin, they let you know that you’re going to be challenged to think and work differently in order to successfully build a skillset with social justice, equity, and access at the foundation.”
Lucas has also finally found the support system that he has been searching for.
“My cohort is an incredible support system, an asset in navigating this environment, and overall has shaped my experience at Lewis & Clark into what I envisioned during my undergraduate career but never quite worked out. It’s been really crucial to my success that I have bonded with my cohort and I don’t believe that my time in the program would have been as successful without them.”
He believes that this program is exceptionally good if you are someone who might have gotten lost in undergrad because of issues you either didn’t understand or couldn’t get help with, and in turn pushes you to become an advocate.
“It truly helps you take your lived experiences, that might still be haunting you, and turn them around into power that you can use to help others and change the trajectory of your future students.”
Student affairs candidates also have the opportunity to conduct research alongside faculty members, and often form strong mentorship connections that last long into their careers. Lucas has leveraged the opportunities that the small cohort model provides and is currently conducting research with Program Director Brenda Sifuentez. Professor Sifuentez’s work is focused on Hispanic Serving Institutions in the Pacific Northwest–how an institution gains that designation, the resources that are then available to them, and how that in turn shapes the organization and how it serves its students and the surrounding community. He notes that they are planning to write together once the data collection is complete and hope to present at a conference in the near future.
“It’s exciting to me because I did not fully understand what research was before entering this program, and now I feel that I am contributing to a field I care deeply about thanks to this opportunity from Professor Sifuentez.”
Professor Sifuentez also was a key figure in what Lucas defines as one of his most memorable graduate school experiences: “In the college access elective that I took during my first spring semester, Professor Sifuentez helped open up a lot of ideas of how to better serve marginalized students still in high school, students who higher education was never meant to serve, and to be able to strategically open up opportunities in ways that their communities will be able to find value in and want to seek out.”
In Fall 2022, Lucas collaborated with Alvaro Torres, a fellow SAA cohort member, on a summer camp-to-college project that they hope to continue to strengthen and implement in the future. He credits the conversations they had in class with helping to build that foundation, and also with his desire to conduct college access research for marginalized students in the future.
Lucas has applied to doctoral programs at the University of Utah and the University of Arizona, and has been accepted to both. While he hasn’t accepted an offer yet, he says he finally feels the calmness he has always envisioned but had yet to experience in his academic life, thanks to excellent mentorship and compassion for his lived experiences.
“Coming to Lewis & Clark was absolutely the best decision I have ever made in my life and I wouldn’t change it!”