Building a community for men of color to feel welcomed, supported, and connected may be difficult to find on a college campus; but Francisco Gomez seizes the challenge and continues to provide this space for men at Whittier College. Gomez, the Acting Director in the Office of Equity and Inclusion at Whittier College has seen much success with the Brotherhood Leadership Program. He has received opportunities to continue using not just the OEI as a tool for students, but he has continued to use the Brotherhood Leadership Program for the benefit of male students of color.
Francisco Gomez grew up in the heart of the San Diego Padres and a city filled with places to visit like Old Town San Diego, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, beaches, and more. Yet, he decided to attend UC Davis as an undergrad aiming to become a veterinarian, then he transitioned into attending the University of San Francisco for his master’s. According to Gomez during an interview, UC Davis was predominately white, which contributed to his imposter syndrome, “I felt like I was not enough and a lot of my faculty and program advisors were white as well and could not connect with my experiences.”
A specific memory Gomez recalls within our interview that led to further damage to his sense of belongingness within his academic environment was when, as stated, “I was struggling with my STEM classes, I went to my academic counselor for support and she was very invalidating, instead of providing support and resources she recommended that I switch majors to a Humanities major. This really impacted me as it showed me the gaps that exist in higher education, specifically for students of color.”
Gomez has experienced first-hand the stigmatization of being a student of color attending a predominantly white campus, which led him to enter Whittier College and be a part of the Office of Equity and Inclusion on campus. He started his career at Whittier College in January of 2021 where he joined the OEI and OSE as an Assistant Director and pursued this position even further leading him to be the Associate Director for OEI. Now, with much progress, Gomez is the Acting Director for the Office of Equity and Inclusion where he oversees student staff, the programming for the office, the Brotherhood Leadership Program, cultural graduations, training and presentations, and members of the BIAS and CARE Team.
A significant part of Gomez’s influence on Whittier College’s students is through the use of the Brotherhood Leadership Program. The Brotherhood Leadership Program is described as an orientation program for first-year and transfer college students who identify as men of color. Gomez expresses his goals with the program, “to create a space for students who identify as men of color to come together and have the support they need to be successful at Whittier.” Concerning Gomez’s own experiences he began “[w]itnessing how institutions in higher education fail to provide adequate support for men of color. This led to many of them dropping out or being dismissed from college.” Which Gomez says, was almost his situation. These experiences we can then say fueled Gomez to assist men of color at Whittier College, so they do not experience the hardships of being a person of color and feel as if they do not have any support or faculty rooting for them.
To Gomez’s surprise, the program and OEI have seen much success and growth thus far. He expressed, “I have seen growth in students joining, we currently have 15 new students who joined this program this year, and they have built an amazing community with each other. I have also seen growth in awareness about the program with faculty, staff, administration, and students which is a success as we want the program to grow.” Regarding the impact of the program, Gomez stated that he has seen the students now highly involved on campus whether they are in clubs or join athletic games, organization events, and more. Gomez says, “[t]hey are committed to creating a culture of inclusivity and belonging on campus, which as the advisor makes me very happy and proud.”
Some students provided testimonials regarding their experiences with the Brotherhood Leadership Program, a recent graduate revealed anonymously, “[a]s a first-gen Latinx college student, I didn’t know what to expect once I got to Whittier College, but I’m always grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the BLP. I was able to find a community of men of color on campus, and I appreciate the brothers I gained from it.” Another future graduate of 2023 stated, “[t]he BLP helped me get a head start in my college career. I’m a first-generation student attending Whittier College, and at times it can feel like I’m walking with a blindfold on because I don’t know what to expect of this journey. The program has helped lessen that experience since it provides me with resources and information about campus and the importance of achieving a higher level of education.”
Gomez is far from done concerning his efforts to be supportive of the community of men who seek to find comfort, security, and support in their college encounters with other students and faculty. The students and outcomes are what keep Gomez pushing forward to continue providing services through the Office of Equity and Inclusion at Whittier College. He touches on the reasons for his staying in an enthusiastic manner, “[t]he students are the best part of the job. I love working with students and enjoy getting to know folks and their journey that has led them to Whittier College. I have stayed in the OEI because I love the work we do in service of students and the larger campus community; we have the privilege of supporting students from the moment they start school to their graduation. I know more impactful things will happen, and I welcome everyone to be part of it!”
Gomez is calling out to the men of color at Whittier College; for the men who are first-generation college students, the men who wish to feel more connected to campus, faculty, and students, and the men who feel their voices have been belittled. Gomez speaks to these men, “I want to extend an invitation to everyone to attend an OEI event, or just stop by the OEI anytime. We want to get to know you!”
To get in touch with Francisco Gomez, you can connect with him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit the Office of Equity and Inclusion, which is located at Whittier College’s Campus Center, Building B and Office 163, which is located on the first floor for more information regarding the OEI and the Brotherhood Leadership Program.
Photo Courtesy of Office of Equity and Inclusion