Vasquez Among 25 Women Lauded for Contributions to Higher Education

March 2, 2022
Marissa Vasquez

Marissa Vasquez often likes to repeat the quote “lifting as you climb.” Indeed, the credo of legendary feminist and racial justice activist Mary Church Terrell succinctly cuts to the heart of the matter. 

Vasquez, an assistant professor in San Diego State University’s Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education (ARPE), traveled the community college pathway herself as a student. As such, she views her work to empower underserved and underrepresented community college students as a personal responsibility. 

“Being an educator — especially one from this community, being raised in Chula Vista — I recognize the role that I have here in this institution,” said Vasquez. “We talk about being public intellectuals. I know that my role as a faculty member doesn't just stay within SDSU, it impacts the larger community.” 

A national publication has taken note of that impact. Vasquez is one of 25 women spotlighted by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as part of the magazine’s 11th annual Women’s History Month special report recognizing women’s contributions to higher education. 

Read the profile of Vasquez in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

“I feel honored to be a part of it,” Vasquez said of the recognition. “When I learned about this, I went back and looked at who was highlighted in prior years and it’s a group of amazing women. I definitely can't wait to see who else is on this year’s list.” 

Vasquez is associate director of SDSU’s Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL), which offers research, strategies and solutions to help community colleges create more inclusive environments and enhance the success of minoritized students. She and co-director Frank Harris III lead CCEAL’s qualitative research, interviewing community college students and faculty nationwide about their experiences. 

The work is increasingly making a dent. 

“At times it felt like the data we collected would just sit on the shelf and no one would do anything — campuses were simply checking off the box,” she said. “But the climate has shifted, especially as institutions have begun acknowledging the need for disaggregated data to advance equity efforts.” 

Vasquez’s impact extends beyond CCEAL. Last year, she launched the SEMILLAS Research Fellowship program, which engages community college students of color in the basics of social science research. 

“I have a responsibility to pay it forward,” she said. 

This is the second time this year the national publication has highlighted the contributions of an ARPE faculty member. Assistant professor Eric Felix was named an Emerging Scholar in January.

This story was originally published on SDSU NewsCenter.