Representation at Oxy

Representation and visibility are integral steps in the pursuit of equity. There are a broad range of stories at Oxy, filled with rich lived experiences that illuminate diversity among our community. The Intercultural Community Center would like to share some of these stories with you here.

Isaiah Thomas (he, him, his)

Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education & Housing Services and Student Conduct

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

I love working closely with students to shape their college experience to be one of the best experiences of their lives. I am particularly passionate about supporting students of color and helping them thrive at institutions where they may not see many people that look like them.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

I identify as African American, First-Gen, Low-Income, and Bisexual. I find that my Black identity is most salient to me, and something I think about often. I love working in college environments because I find that these spaces are diverse and intellectually curious as compared to non-educational work environments.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

Students can always email me at ithomas@oxy.edu.


Luci Masredjian (she, her, hers)

Director of Disability Services & Student Support / Student Success Adviser

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

I didn't know that I wanted to work with students who learned differently until I realized that students who are dealing with added barriers in their lives—whether physical, psychological, or connected with a learning difference or an experience of trauma—are exceptional. The students I have the privilege to work with are strong, wise, compassionate, and have beautiful and unique minds. To do what I can to support these students as they navigate barriers and work toward their true potential is the most energizing and meaningful work I can imagine.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

Woman. Armenian. First-Generation. Daughter of immigrants. Since I was a child, I've always felt that my life needed to have a significant purpose in order to honor all that my parents went through for me. Armenians in the U.S. are a small but mighty group, and the existence of our ethnicity falls on the backs of our ancestors who fought and fled genocide, to save our heritage, our language and our land. That's a lot of responsibility to live up to, but when you add the fierce, care-taking but take-no-mess-from-anybody Armenian Woman archetype, you get me and everything I hope to live up to. All of my identities lend themselves to my passion for supporting and advocating for students who are remarkable, but just need someone to fight for them until they find their way.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

Email me! masredjian@oxy.edu.


Marcus Rodriguez (he, him, his)

Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Life, Involvement & Community Engagement

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

Many years of working closely with community organizers and local artists inspired a career that focuses on student empowerment, civic participation, and creating spaces for cross-sector leadership development and transformative learning.

Student Affairs has allowed me to evolve my thinking, critically assess competencies, and stay current with student success markers. Daily and meaningful interactions with emerging and seasoned student leaders continue to encourage and inspire the work.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

Identifying as Xicanx has allowed me to navigate Los Angeles and the Student Affairs profession with a lens that centers community/identity building, equity and social justice.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

Please feel free to email mrodriguez6@oxy.edu.


Jenny Heetderks (she, her, hers)

Director of Counseling Services

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

I became a clinical psychologist because I passionately believe that mental health is as important as physical health, and that people should have equal access to mental health treatment. I work in college counseling for that reason—while there are many barriers to equitable access to therapy, the financial barrier is one of the most significant.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

I am a cisgender woman, and while this identity is most important to me, it is not without its struggles. There are many settings in which this identity is palpable to me, whether as an undergrad in a STEM field, or now in my leadership position as Director of Counseling. This identity has helped forge my commitment to social justice for minoritized identities. To that end, I specialize in treating sexual trauma and eating disorders, both of which disproportionately impact women and other marginalized identities. I am also interested in trans health.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

I love hearing from students! My email address is heetderks@oxy.edu.


Rob Flot (he, him, his)

Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

It's simple: I love working with students. Especially students who bring broad, differing perspectives to conversations and engagement.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

My identity as a Black male is often my most important identity. It has shaped how others define me (often in unhelpful or limiting ways), and how I've seen myself and experienced the world. As a Black male, I've faced barriers and opportunities due to my Black identity, which has taught me a great deal. I think one of the most helpful aspects of my Black identity to my professional experience is that I have been able to be in many spaces and places where my voice was the only Black voice present—and I've often been able to influence hearts and minds in useful and meaningful ways, and pave a path for others.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

deanofstudents@oxy.edu


Vivian Garay-Santiago (she, her, hers)

Associate Dean of Students & Director of Student Success / Student Success Adviser

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

I found my career in higher education because I followed what I loved and what brought me joy. I found that being on a college campus was exciting and intellectually stimulating and working with college students was meaningful and made me happy.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

The identities that are most important to me are that of Latina, daughter of immigrants, and Woman. All of these identities have allowed me to view the world from vantage points that differ from dominant culture and these insights have informed my values, my work with students, and have enabled me to tap into the compassion I try to bring to every interaction I have with students.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

These days, the best way to reach me is by email: garaysantiago@oxy.edu.


Erik Quezada (he, him, his)

Director of the Neighborhood Partnership Program

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

College access and success have always been a passion of mine as they directly relate to equity within education. My journey in higher education was not an easy one. It wasn't until I finished college that I realized it doesn't have to be that way—obstacles to higher education can be eliminated with the right people present in a student's life.

I think my ability to work with youth of all ages and support the personal journeys of high school and college students is truly a privilege. I reflect a lot about my journey and what would have made the difference for me. Many times it would have been someone with compassion and patience to help guide me.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

I have been reflecting a lot lately on my first-gen identity. I think it has always shaped the work I do personally and professionally, I think I am just so much more aware of it now.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

equezada@oxy.edu


Susan Young (she, her, hers)

Director of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life

What brought you to your current work? What do you love most about it?

I started working at Occidental while I was in a PhD in Practical Theology program at the Claremont School of Theology, with a focus in religious education. I was attracted to the position because I wanted to work with young adults.

I enjoy talking about the intersection of religious or spiritual belief and practice and social justice work. I also enjoy fostering student vocational discernment as well as helping students explore how their values, beliefs and commitments can inform their choice of career and commitment to social activism, justice and equity.

What identity (visible or invisible) or identities are most important to you? How have they shaped your professional journey?

My religious identity and my identity as a cisgender woman. My Christian faith and relationship with God guides all my important decisions. Prayer, discernment in community with others and commitment to peace, justice and equity have played an important role in all my career decisions. When I began the journey to enter ministry, I encountered significant challenges because of my gender and my feminist perspective of what it means to be a pastor.

While at Occidental, I think there have been times when students who are not religious or who have been hurt by religious communities have felt somewhat hesitant to connect with me until they get to know me better. I completely understand this and try to keep that in the back of my mind whenever I interact with students on an individual or communal level.

How can students reach you, if they'd like to connect?

young@oxy.edu