Empathy. Compassion. Care. Those are just a few words describing the essence of Dr. Pearl Lopez, a Grossmont College institution, EOPS counselor, instructor, and Academic Senate President.
“I care about the struggles of our students and I want to make a change,” she said. “I want to end the systemic element of racism by engaging in reforms made through an equity lens, stronger professional development, and improved training. We need to tear down the barriers that are placed in front of our students. I want a campus that focus on reaching out to students, rather than waiting for students to come to us for help.”
Dr. Lopez has been making an impact at Grossmont College for nearly three decades. She co-founded the Latinx Alliance. She obtained funding for the campus Dream Center, co-led efforts to reinstate the Puente Program, and co-founded the Latinx Heritage Month Committee. Teaching assignments have included the Summer Bridge program and courses at the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility for Women. Her dedication resulted in the 2016 President’s Leadership Award in recognition of distinguished service to students, faculty, and staff.
Her commitment to equity is ingrained in her persona; she grew up in the projects of El Centro and spent the first several years of her life living with her family of nine in a cramped, two-bedroom home.
Indeed, Dr. Lopez is the embodiment of how transformative community colleges – and Grossmont College in particular – can be. Dr. Lopez moved to Riverside and attended Riverside City College when her then-boyfriend and now husband enrolled at UC Riverside. Three years later, their paths took them to San Diego; he to San Diego State University for a master’s program, she to Grossmont College for an associate degree and a job as a student hourly in EOPS. Except for taking a year off while earning her master’s degree from San Diego State, Dr. Lopez – who later earned an Ed.D. in educational leadership from SDSU – has been working here since 1993.
Why an Ed.D.?
“It’s all about challenging myself,” said Dr. Lopez, who has stated that as a child, she often sat in the back of class afraid and insecure. “Honestly, I think the reason why I kept continuing through school – earning a bachelor’s degree, a master’s, and an Ed.D. – was to see if I could do it. I always tell my students, ‘Always push yourself to see what you’re capable of doing,’ and that’s what I did. A lot of people thought I got my doctorate because I wanted to go in administration and make more money. Although I don’t know where my career will take me, I didn’t do it for the money. I grew up in the projects and I have more money now than I ever thought was possible. My commitment is to the students at this college.”