Photo: Rachel Moran, 1st Latina Dean of Top Law School, UCLA Law
When Rachel F. Moran was in elementary school she overheard a teacher say, “Such a bright girl. Too bad there’s no future for her.” Even then she realized that her educational prognosis was wrapped up in perceptions of her Mexican ancestry. Moran, now Dean of the UCLA School of Law, has overcome many obstacles on her road to success. She details these, and the importance of connecting with mentors, in the just published 2011 Tomás Rivera Lecture.
Moran was the keynote speaker at the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) annual conference earlier this year. Her address at the conference is reprinted for the annual Tomás Rivera Lecture. The lecture series began in 1985, and is named in honor of the late Dr. Rivera, professor, scholar, poet and former president of the University of California, Riverside. Rivera also served on the board of Educational Testing Service (ETS). This is the third year that AAHHE and ETS have collaborated together to publish the annual lecture.
Moran was named dean of the law school in June of 2010, she becoming the first Latina dean of a top-ranked law school. She has an undergraduate degree from Stanford and her law degree from Yale, joining the Berkeley law faculty in 1983. From 1993-1996 she served as chair of the Chicano/Latino Policy project for the school.
From her elementary teacher, Mrs. Lola Clevenger, who saw the potential in young Rachel, to Dr. Edmund Deaton, director of a college summer program in mathematics, who helped her gain admission to Stanford University, Moran layers personal insights with the latest research and expert opinion on the pressing issues affecting educational opportunity for Hispanic Americans.
“Today, Latinos’ educational success continues to depend on early intervention, high-quality teachers, and systems of mentoring and support,” Moran says. “According to a study of a universal preschool program in Oklahoma, Latinos benefitted more than any other group from access to this early enrichment experience. For the effects to endure, however, it is key that preschool lead to a strong program of elementary and then secondary education.”
Moran details that while the Latino population is the fastest growing in the United States, it continues to lag in educational attainment. Between 1987 and 2007, the number of Latino students in public schools doubled from 11 percent to 21 percent, and the Census Bureau predicts that by 2021, one in four pupils will be Latino. In certain states the numbers are even larger. Yet many states have disinvested in the education of Latinos. This group is, by one measure, the most segregated student body in America, and there are fewer avenues for parents to participate in educational reform at the school level.
While acknowledging these and other issues, Moran told her academic colleagues, “There is much than can be done at an individual and collective level. As individuals and members of organizations, we need to publicize these issues through the outlets available to us. As leading academics, you have many ways to make your voices heard. But we also need to reach beyond the academy to raise awareness among members of the general public.”
“Each of you can be an ambassador for improving educational attainment among Latinos. You can talk to people you know,” she continued. “You can participate in organizations that address these concerns, and you can write op–eds and blogs on the topic.”