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San Diego State University

Faculty-Student Mentoring Program

Isidro Ortiz, Ph.D.
Professor of Chicana & Chicano Studies


Dr. Ortiz standing proud with student
Nadia Merino at the 2008 gaduation

I have been mentor in the Faculty/Student Mentoring program since 1991. However, my role as a mentor for student extends throughout my 30 year teaching career. My mentoring has been grounded in understanding of the findings of the scholarly literature on undergraduate retention and success. It also builds upon my extensive experience in research institutions as a teacher, scholar and mentor. Many of the students that I have mentored have been first-generation college students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds. Most have aspired to pursue graduate or professional study. I am very pleased that these students have been able to persist and graduate at SDSU; upon graduation many have pursued advanced study at institutions such as Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Columbia University, the University of Michigan, SDSU, as well as other institutions. The students’ achievements also include designation as CSU Sally Casanova Scholars and receipt of fellowships such as the California Senate Fellowship.

Although I am unable to personally interact face to face with these students as often as I would like, I am fortunate to have been able to sustain my relationships with the students via email or phone. Our relationships are characterized by respect, support, and commitment to excellence and achievement. To many of these students I am known as “Dr. O”, an appellation that was developed by some of the students in the mentoring program. Moreover, I continue to regard the students as part of my extended family.

I am grateful that during my twenty three year tenure at SDSU I have been repeatedly recognized by the university and students for my teaching and mentoring contributions. The recognitions include the SDSU Academic Senate’s “Excellence in Teaching” award, “Outstanding Faculty” award by graduates in Chicana and Chicano Studies, and faculty honree by several recipients of the SDSU “Quest for the Best” award. In 2006 I was also recognized as “Local Hero in Education” for my mentoring contributions by KPBS and Union Bank. The recognitions attest to my commitment to promoting student achievement and excellence.

My recent mentoring has focused on transfer students from local community colleges. The goals of my mentoring include: enabling the students to successfully adjust to academic life at SDSU; educating students about the nature of a research oriented university, the nature and purpose of scholarly research, the role and significance of mentoring and the paths to success in higher education institutions; facilitating the integration of students into the academic life of the university, providing opportunities for students to acquire research experiences and to access programs that will enable them to develop research skills, and experiences, as well as obtain support for research; promoting the development of the traits, habits, abilities and knowledge necessary for the pursuit of graduate study and careers as teachers and scholars in institutions of higher education; and, developing a commitment to community and university service on the part of students.


Student: Mark Dawson, Ronald McNair Scholar and CSU Sally Casanova Scholar


Mark Dawson is 27 year old transfer student from Southwestern College. A first-generation college student, he began his studies at SDSU in August 2008 and participated in the Faculty/Student Mentoring program with Dr. Isidro D. Ortiz as his faculty mentor. Mark summarizes his experience at SDSU as follows: “I am having a great educational experience. It has been very challenging, but great things come out of adversity.” According to Dr. Ortiz, “Mark was an asset to the program. He brought enthusiasm and a commitment to achievement and excellence. He epitomizes an academically engaged and academically invulnerable student.”

Mark’s is a Social Science major. After graduating from SDSU he aims to enter a Sociology or Ethnic Studies PhD. program at Berkeley, Stanford, or UCSD. His ultimate goal is to be a professor of sociology and contribute to academia by advancing knowledge about minority groups and the inequalities that they face everyday in America.

In addition to successfully completing his studies, Mark achieved two major honors during the 2008-2209 academic year. He was selected as a scholar in the SDSU Ronald McNair Scholars Program and designated as a Sally Casanova Scholar in the California State University Pre-Doctoral Program. The first program “prepares talented in the pursuit of a doctoral degree in higher education.” Under the program twenty five students are selected to receive stipends to conduct research with faculty mentors, write research papers, and present their work at conferences. Throughout the summer of 2009 Mark will be conducting research on educational inequalities in San Diego under the supervision of Dr. Kyra Greene, Assistant Professor of sociology.

As described by the CSU, The California State University Pre-Doctoral Program is “designed to increase the pool of university faculty by supporting aspirations of individuals who are : current upper division or graduate students in the CSU, economically and educationally disadvantaged, interested in a university faculty career, U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and leaders of tomorrow.” Students, like Mark, who are “chosen for this prestigious award are designated Sally Casanova Scholars as a tribute to Dr. Sally Casanova, for whom the Pre-doctoral scholars are named.” The students are exposed to unique opportunities to explore and succeed in doctoral programs” under the supervision of faculty mentors. Mark will explore the opportunities under the supervision of Dr. Isidro D. Ortiz. Mark was one of only 70 students selected from an applicant pool of 258 CSU graduate and undergraduate students.

In addition to his academic talents, Mark also possesses a talent for cooking. To pay for his studies, he has worked as a professional chef at several restaurants, creating distinctive menus on at least two occasions. Today, he enjoys cooking for family get-togethers and other events. A clue to Mark’s talent is found in part of his email handle--“madchef.”


Dr. Ortiz

Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies

Office: AL-357
Mail Code:6034
p. 619-594-1256
f. 619-594-3195



Apply to Work with Dr. Ortiz

Download an application here



Mark Dawson