I discovered sociology at San Diego State University, inspired by Nicos Mouratides' stories of the Greek resistance and how a sociological perspective might offer a way of engaging in the world with purpose and clarity. After graduation, and a two-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve with an honorable discharge and conscientious objector status, I arrived in Berkeley. To be honest my interest was as much about having an adventure and finding myself, as it was about pursuing a particular intellectual focus or academic direction. My father had arrived at CAL as a grad student in 1939 to demonstrations against Hitler; I arrived just weeks after Nixon's resignation when everyone seemed to be searching for Patty Hearst. I was searching too.
I began to find my way with the support of new friends both within and outside the University. Berkeley's critical and historical approach to sociological issues provided me a framework to explore my interests, vague as they were in that first year.
It was a true privilege to work with David Matza, Bob Blauner, Troy Duster and Harry Edwards throughout my graduate experience. Their research and teaching pointed me toward studies of outsiders, race, ethnicity, social change, and power. David Montejano's course on the political economy of the Southwest planted a seed that would later sprout into my dissertation topic. It was clear that my fellow Chicano / Latino students and me had an opportunity to add new stories to the obra sociologica.
Apart from my graduate student life, I also worked as a waiter in Lafayette and Walnut Creek where the tips were abundant. One night I heard some Mexican ranchera music coming from a kitchen radio and discovered my dissertation topic - undocumented immigrants in the restaurant industry. I returned to San Diego, found work in a restaurant, plugged into the local immigrant networks and began my fieldwork. Soon afterward I joined a team of energized researchers at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UCSD, exploring the labor market impact of immigrants on the California economy. It was relevant work with a policy focus on a hot topic. Post-graduate work followed in the form of more research and lecture positions at UCSD and San Diego State.
By the late 1980's I was married with a young daughter and at a career crossroads; gratified by my foray into sociology but not happy with my options, and not interested in whining about it. As luck would have it I was asked to join the faculty of the Center for Creative Leadership, a unique research and training not-for-profit. For eight years I designed and delivered leadership development experiences for people from every field. A sort of praxis began to emerge.
Fifteen years ago I started an organizational development consulting business. I love being my own boss and helping decision makers facilitate change, find their focus and, sometimes, re-discover their purpose. Especially gratifying has been the opportunity to apply my background and experience to working with people of color in diversity/ inclusion and cross-cultural development initiatives. A book on Latino leadership is in the works.
I look back on my time at Berkeley with gratitude for the people and experiences that shaped my journey, and helped me gain the confidence to define success on my own terms - with perhaps just a bit of sociological imagination.