MESA History

Table of Contents:
  1. Past Heads
  2. Founding of Mesa
  3. Past Heads Biographical Sketches and Links

Past Heads

Reynaldo Martinez
Reynaldo Martinez, PhD

Co-Founding Member

(biographical sketch)

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Leslie Sandra Jones, PhD

Co-Founding Member

Past Head: 2017-2018

(biographical sketch)

James Martinez
James Martinez, PhD

Co-Founding Member

Past Head: 2018-2019

(biographical sketch)

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Linda de La Garza, PhD

Past Head: 2019-2020

(biographical sketch)

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Phenix Culbertson

Past Head: 2020-2021

(biographical sketch)

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Terrence Sullivan, PhD

Past Head: July-Sept. 2021

(biographical sketch)

Suriel
Regina L. Suriel, PhD

Co-Founding Member

Current Head: 2021-2022

(biographical sketch)

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The Founding of MESA

In the Fall semester of 2014 Valdosta State University announced an internal grant competition for innovative initiatives to improve undergraduate student recruitment, retention, and completion. Four VSU faculty members, Drs. Leslie S. Jones, Regina L. Suriel, James Martinez and Reynaldo Martinez decided to work together to develop a proposal that would support the success of VSU undergraduate Hispanic/Latinx students. 

In the afternoon of January 7, 2015, these four faculty members met to share ideas and thoughts about what might be proposed to meet the selection criteria of innovation, impact, immediacy, scalability, and adaptability with a supportive establishing budget to conduct proposed activities. After a short time spent brainstorming, the group decided to propose the establishment of an institution wide organization open to all VSU faculty, administrators, and staff to work for the welfare and success of Hispanic/Latinx undergraduate students. The group worked together to develop the rationale and the presentation of supporting institutional data to establish the need for the organization. They also detailed the goals and activities in which the organization could engage. Near the end of the proposal’s development, attention turned to proposing a name for this organization. Dr. Reynaldo Martinez suggested the name “MESA” to reflect the goals of the organization and identify the organization with the Hispanic/Latinx culture. MESA is an acronym for “Mentoring, Engaging, Supporting and Achieving.” With the group in full agreement, the proposal was submitted. To our disappointment, the proposal was not selected for funding by the university. 

Not to be deterred, Drs. Jones, Suriel, Martinez and Martinez decided to move forward on their own to establish MESA. By the end of January, the group worked together to develop the MESA Constitution that established the organizational mission, goals, membership, structure, leadership, operations, and fiscal policies. Once the “final draft” of the MESA Constitution was completed, Dr. Reynaldo Martinez sent an email message to all VSU administrators, faculty and staff announcing the establishment of MESA, its goals, and inviting all who were interested in joining MESA to attend an organizational meeting on February 17, 2015. 

Over 20 VSU faculty, administrators, and staff attended the organizational meeting. Many others sent regrets that they could not attend but wanted to be involved. During that first organizational meeting, the MESA Constitution was adopted, a leadership team was elected, committee chairpersons were selected, and priority activities were identified. MESA was ready to create and implement programs and activities to Mentor, Engage, Support, and help undergraduate Hispanic/Latinx undergraduate students Achieve. 

One of the priorities was for VSU to grant MESA official sanction as a legitimate institutional organization. This process was arduous and frustrating because there were no VSU policies in place to recognize an organization whose membership crossed faculty, administration, and staff members. Exactly what needed to be done to legitimize MESA was unknown. A MESA budget line to hold organizational funds was established under the Office of Student Affairs so the organization could collect and disburse funds. Working with VSU President Richard Carvajal and Interim Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Gerald Williams, MESA received its official recognition as a sanctioned VSU organization on April 3, 2017. VIVA MESA! 

By Reynaldo Martinez 

 

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Past Heads Biographical Sketches and Links

Reynaldo Martinez, PhD

Leslie Sandra Jones, PhD

Linda de La Garza, PhD

James Martinez, PhD

James Martínez is a professor of education at Valdosta State University. He was elected Head of MESA, 2018-2019. A growing Latino scholar, and as a Chicano who lives in the space between the hyphen in “Mexican-American” (Martínez, 2016), Dr. Martínez prefers the term Chicano to imply being “neither from here, nor from there” in reference to the United States and Mexico (Martínez, 2020).  
 

Dr. Martínez received his doctorate in Education and Sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. James was a teacher and sports coach for almost two decades in rural, inner-city, and urban profile public schools. His teaching and research interests are racial/ethnic inequality, critical pedagogy, critical race theory, differentiated multicultural education instruction, youth gang risk factors, education innovation, and immigration reform. 

References: 

Martínez, J. (2020). Stripped of My Mother Tongue. In Thorsos, N. J., Martínez, J., & Gabriel, M. L. (2020). Losing the Mother Tongue in the USA: Implications for Adult Latinxs in the 21st Century (pp. 223–244). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers. 

Martínez, J. (2016). Motivations of a growing Latino scholar in U.S. higher education. In Obiakor, F. E., & Martínez, J. (2016). Latin@ voices in multicultural education: From invisibility to visibility in higher education (pp. 1–14). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers. 

Phenix Culbertson

Terrence Sullivan, PhD

Regina L. Suriel, PhD

Regina L. Suriel is an Associate Professor of Science Education in the Department of Teacher Education at Valdosta State University. As a previous bilingual high school science teacher in New York City multicultural schools, her research centers on increasing the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students in science through effective and socially-just curricula. Her current work addresses the integration of culturally responsive pedagogy and scientific models. She also supports effective mentorships of Latinx faculty in Institutions of Higher Education and has published works in this area. At VSU, she is the lead chair of the Mentor, Engage, Support and Achieve (MESA), an organization that supports CLD students on campus, and is an active member of the college of education Diversity and Inclusion committee. Dr. Suriel actively engages with professional organizations to mentor and support fellow CLD scholars. At the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, she founded and has served as chair of the Latinx Research Group (LaRIG) and is a co-founder of Science Educators for Equity, Diversity and Social Justice (SEEDS). 

 

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