Vincent Matthew Franco
Social Media Editor
The month of March is devoted to celebrating women and all their contributions throughout societies across the world. Here at the University of La Verne, from housing and residential life to the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning and Wellness, it is without question that the University is jam-packed with women hard at work adding to those contributions.
This large range is full of various women all doing their part to not only make La Verne an exceptional educational institution but also to help uplift other women around them.
Women like Jocelyn Arceo, the operations and logistics coordinator for the housing department, who is the go-to person if a student’s lightbulb goes off in their dorm room. Arceo pulls the necessary strings to make sure every room is ready and livable for both new and settled students.
“I don’t want them to hate where they live, especially if they already have to deal with classes and studying and tests and professors and all this stuff,” Arceo said. “You should at least have somewhere that you’re comfortable living, so I try my best to really help out in that way.”
A ULV alumna, Arceo is not only there to call maintenance for assistance on a room, but she also offers advice to students as they make that four-year journey through La Verne. As a 2020 graduate, she is a valid resource to them as she was in the same position not too long ago and as a former editor for the Campus Times, she was able to provide that support through her writing and storytelling.
“I think I definitely wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t have that,” Arceo said. “Because I’ve worked plenty of other jobs between graduation and now where I wasn’t able to do that, and I couldn’t do it, that’s definitely a really big thing for me is being able to provide some kind of genuine support.”
When she is not in her office sitting on her yoga ball chair working on her posture as she helps manage the school’s housing, she can be found promoting small shows, running merch tables, or working the door in venues around Los Angeles. With a job like this, she said it helps put her communications degree to work in the meantime.
Across the way from the housing office, in the LaFetra College of Education, is Director of the Center of Neurodiversity, Learning and Wellness Niki Elliott, who helps students of all grades with learning disabilities to be successful in school. Providing the tools needed to be resilient, as well as training teachers and professors to remodel their lesson plans to better suit those students.
Elliott first realized her love for this kind of work when she was teaching fourth and fifth grade. It was helping out students with learning disabilities, those impacted by trauma, and with medical or mental health diagnoses where she felt she was making the most impact. This realization led to her full commitment to special and inclusive education in the classroom.
Her recent work with Sylvia Mac, associate professor of education and director of the Center for Learning Innovation, titled “All are Welcome: A Window into the Experiences of Students with Disabilities at ULV,” presented at the Quay Davis Executive Board Room gave attendees a fresh point of view into the subtle ableism that La Verne still displays. Working to make sure that people’s voices are heard, like in her work with the center, is something that lines up perfectly with what she feels women’s history month is about.
“Not a lot of voice has been given equally to the amazing contributions of people of color, and to the fact that women really are the foundation of a healthy society,” Elliott said. “Birthing children and community and creating the conditions in which a culture can thrive.”
A celebration she feels should be year-round, Elliott takes the month of March to look back at how women have woven the fabric of society. Paying tribute to those who have contributed to community and family life as well as their contributions to the advancement of society, laying down the foundation for women today.
“Every day, we get a chance to see women speaking for themselves and representing their own work in social media and across YouTube and many of the different platforms that are making Women’s Entrepreneurship more visible and women’s leadership more visible,” Elliott said.
While Elliott makes strides in the classrooms, women’s soccer coach Lauryn Pehanich does her part by making advancements on the field. She first came to La Verne as coach in 2013 after playing professionally overseas in Germany, and coaching for her alma mater, Cal State Fullerton.
Her original goal was to coach a division III team for a little and eventually make her way back up to division I. But her goals changed after falling in love with the community and family that she found while coaching at La Verne.
“It’s the overall focus, at different divisions, there is money attached to playing sports, everything at the division III level, specifically the University of La Verne, is attached to the student-athletes excelling in what it is they love to do,” Pehanich said.
When it comes time to recruit new student-athletes, she highlights three points she aims to help them improve in. The first being in soccer, the second is to help them academically, and lastly their overall well-being as a human.
Through this way of helping those that she coaches, she is not only helping them on the field but also in the real world. And just like she does on the field, she also hopes to show her two daughters that it is possible to do what they love as a job and to remember that it has not always been easy for women to do so.
For someone who has played professionally, Pehanich still feels there is a long way to go for women in sports, especially when it comes down to visibility. She makes it a point to take out the team for lunch whenever a women’s soccer game happens. Doing her part to make sure these athletes, even with the disadvantage they face when it comes to broadcasting and overall financing, are still seen.
When it comes to being seen, associate professor of theater Alma Martinez has made it her entire career. A decorated academic and actor who has had roles in over 40 films and holds a doctorate in directing and dramatic criticism from Stanford University on top of other degrees. Currently on sabbatical, Martinez is spending time in Boston, where she is playing the role of “Tita” in a play titled “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles” that is being showcased at the Yale Repertory Theatre.
She is not only there to act but has also been giving lectures and panels at the Yale University School of Drama.
As one of the first Latina women to be enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Stanford University, Martinez is another example of someone who has set the pathway. She was the first of her family to attend college. Like many first-generation college students, Martinez had to figure things out on her own. Now as someone who has gone through multiple schools, as a student and professor, she tries her hardest to make sure students have the necessary resources to make their college experience easier.
“The more of us that there are, the more we really want to dig in and just help really diversify, and there’s still a kickback, we still aren’t able to come together in a seamless way with regards to our goals,” Martinez said.
Even with all the progress made, she still does believe that there is a long way to go when it comes to equality for women, notably in academia.
Vincent Matthew Franco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.