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Student Success 2024

Janneth Najera

Cal State LA graduate, Charmaine Chui
Graduating Cal State LA student finds passion in educational policy and leadership
Valley Village resident to complete master's degree in Chicana(o) and Latina(o) studies

College of Ethnic Studies

College of Ethnic Studies

Until she took her first Chicana(o) and Latina(o) Studies class, Janneth Najera never felt like her college courses and professors spoke her language. She was not referring to either Spanish or English, but rather the unspoken cultural implications already understood within the Latinx community.

“I would say things like my mom didn’t want me to move out of the house after I graduated high school,” Najera said, “and I didn’t have to explain that. My professors just understood what that meant and understood the challenges that came with that. And it was the same with my colleagues.”

“So, it just felt like home, both academically and on a very, very personal level,” she added.

Najera will receive her Master of Arts in Chicana(o) and Latina(o) Studies later this month from Cal State LA, where she has also been advocating for students as a member of the Student Success Committee for the College of Ethnic Studies and the Planning Committee for the Association of Ethnic Studies.

The Valley Village resident has reviewed and recommended policy, plans, and procedures to the college dean regarding matters related to recruitment, advisement, and retention; dealt with matters concerning college and departmental climate for students, student groups, and activities; provided periodic evaluation of student support services; and elected college members to subcommittees of the University Student Policy Committee.

In the fall, Najera will attend University of California, Berkeley, for a Ph.D. program in education, with a focus on policy and leadership. Her goals are to become a university professor, and eventually continue her policy work in academic affairs.

“I don’t see a lot of people of color, especially women of color, in decision-making roles,” she said. “I really want to understand how higher education serves students of color. First, I want to teach and gain a relationship with students and other faculty before I move on to my ultimate goal of academic affairs.”

Najera, 35, began her college career in 2007 as a psychology major at Cal State San Bernardino. She was one year away from earning her undergraduate degree in 2010 when her father was deported to Mexico.

Najera dropped out and became a “parent” to her sister Kimberly and brother Frank, who were five and 10 years her junior respectively, as their mother dealt with their father’s immigration issues. She refers to it as her eight-year sabbatical.

Najera supported her family financially through administrative positions at a number of colleges and universities. She and her wife, Sarah, would later put her siblings through college.

Upon Frank’s completion of his undergraduate degree, Najera returned to college and transferred to Cal State Dominguez Hills.

“They were a big inspiration,” she said. “We were done supporting my sister and brother financially. Okay, now I’m next.”

Najera wanted to power through two more semesters to complete her undergraduate degree in psychology, but her first Chicana(o) studies course changed her trajectory. She graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills in 2022 with Bachelor of Arts in Chicano Studies and a minor in women’s studies.

“I fell in love with the contents of the class, and how much I related to it,” she said. “My professor [Dr. Corina Benavides López] would introduce me as a future colleague, and it sparked a huge fire in me. This is where my passion was—in the Chicano Studies department, particularly dealing with issues in the educational pipeline for Chicano students.”

She is quick to credit her instructors, Dr. López and Cal State LA Assistant Professor Gabriela Valenzuela, and aspires to duplicate their mentoring efforts when she herself becomes a professor, perhaps even at a California State University campus.

After all, Najera is well versed in the language.

“That’s where my heart is,” she said. “I’m a product of the CSU. That’s where I received my undergraduate degree, and now my master’s degree. That’s where I can relate to the students—working class, caregivers, first-generation college students. I would love to teach at a CSU campus.”

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