UCR faculty discuss growth and continuation of diversity on campus

Thomas Holguin/HIGHLANDER

On Tuesday, April 18, in MSE 104 from 7-8:30 p.m. Delta Epsilon Mu, a professional co-ed pre-health fraternity for undergraduate students, hosted a special lecture event titled, “Breaking Barriers of Adversity with Dr. Lyons and Dr. Larive.” The event featured topics about diversifying UCR, improving education and advancing pre-health careers.

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Cindy Larive, began by speaking about the increasing diversity of UCR’s student population and how to improve education to advance UCR even further by utilizing the resources already available on campus for students.

She discussed UCR’s current achievements in diversity by providing many examples. Even though UCR is already nationally ranked fourth in diversity by Forbes, Larive commented that there was an even larger increase in student diversity for 2016 admissions. “We are up in all racial categories, with African-Americans leading the way with the highest increase,” Larive declared. She also explained how UCR’s graduation rate for students who received Pell Grants was higher than the national rate of students who received the grant.

Additionally, the graduation rate of African-American students at UCR was 70 percent in 2015 compared to the national rate of 55 percent in 2015. “For this achievement of being able to bring up graduation rates across all demographic comparisons, UCR was the national recipient of 2016 for the Project Degree Completion Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities,” praised Larive.

She attributed such achievements to “our welcoming climate on campus that helps students feel supported and able to engage with their faculty and their peers.” Larive also accounted for post-graduation success through “high-impact practices such as alumni being more engaged, students participating in undergraduate research and community service and faculty mentorship.” She encouraged students to utilize the Academic Resource Center, which provides workshops, tutoring and other facilities for students to achieve academic success.

The second speaker of the night was Senior Associate Dean for Education and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine Paul Lyons, who took the floor at 7:30 p.m. He spoke on his educational journey starting from high school to becoming a faculty member of UCR’s School of Medicine. He considered himself privileged in the sense that both his parents were college graduates and were financially stable enough to fund his college tuition.

However, Lyons dropped out of both his undergraduate and graduate schooling during his first year because he found that his fellow students and faculty were unsupportive, creating a toxic environment in which he could not foresee a future.

Despite these setbacks, he returned to school to finish both his degrees because “of the unbelievably powerful human connection that was possible between patients and doctors,” emphasized Lyons.

Lyons furthered the discussion by describing his motive for joining UCR’s School of Medicine. “I spent every living, breathing moment since I graduated from medical school focusing on the idea that medical education and the path to being a physician does not need to look like the path looked when I walked in. There is no reason it needs to be like that. It is unacceptable practice.”

He said his main goal as a faculty member at UCR is to focus on providing an opportunity that emphasizes the important role of faculty mentors. “If graduates had a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in their well-being,” he speculated.

Lyons also mentioned UCR’s focus on enrolling medical students that are holistically educated on all aspects of life rather than students who are merely booksmart. An environment, unlike his own medical school experience, where students would be working with and learning with people who they actually like.

The lecture concluded with Q-and-A about the general medical admissions process and selection.


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