Meet Our Team


Dr. Rodriguez
Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez, Founding Director, Center for Educational Transformation

Dr. Louie F. Rodríguez is the Founding Director of the Center for Educational Transformation and currently the Associate Dean and Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California Riverside. He is an educator, researcher, author, professor, and speaker in the field of urban education. His work takes a socio-cultural analysis of urban schooling and typically focuses on three keys areas: 1) students' voices and experiences in the school and community context, 2) critical ways to understand and use institutional culture to boost student engagement, 3) and engaging educational communities in institutional and community excellence.  The goal of this work is to shape educational policy and practice at the local and national levels.

Rising through the public school system in Southern California, Dr. Rodriguez found himself in community college (SBVC) and with the support of mentors and meaningful academic opportunities, transferred to CSU, San Bernardino.  As a college student at CSU, San Bernardino he became a McNair Scholar and became passionate about using research to understand and transform educational opportunities for historically marginalized students.  After completing a summer research internship at Harvard, he applied and was admitted to Harvard for graduate school where he completed two master’s degrees and a doctorate in Administration, Planning and Social Policy. Dr. Rodriguez has also served as a middle-school counselor/intervention specialist and later as a high school math teacher.  His dissertation focused on issues of educational equity studying the experiences of Latina/o and Black high school students in the context of high-stakes testing, zero-tolerance policies, and school restructuring.  While at Harvard, he held several leadership roles, particularly as co-founder and inaugural co-chair for the Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC), and served as a Teaching Fellow for eight graduate courses.  

Prior to UC Riverside, he was an associate professor in Educational Leadership and Technology and Co-Director of the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB).  Prior to his position at CSUSB, Dr. Rodriguez was on the faculty for three years at Florida International University in Miami where he continued his research on urban education issues. 

From his research, Dr. Rodriguez has published four books Small Schools and Urban Youth (with Gil Conchas) (2007), The Time is Now: Understanding and Responding to the Black and Latina/o Dropout Crisis in the U.S. (2014), Intentional Excellence:  The Pedagogy, Power, and Politics of Excellence in Latina/o Schools and Communities (2015) and PAR Entremundos: A Pedagogy of the Americas.  He has also published several peer-reviewed journal articles, blogs, and practitioner-oriented articles about Latinas/os in education, student engagement, and educational policy issues. 

At UCR, his current work focuses Latina/o/x excellence from the student perspective through the CREER Project.  Previously he explored issues of equity and access, specifically on the dropout crisis facing the Latino community.  At CSUSB, Dr. Rodriguez was the principal investigator of the PRAXIS Project, Participatory Research Advocating for Excellence in Schools.  This school/community-based project aimed to study and advocate for educational excellence by directly engaging youth, educators, and community-stakeholders in the process of empirical research to positively impact educational policy and practice at the local and national levels.  From this work he published A 10-Point Plan to Respond to the Dropout Crisis which consist of 10 policy-memos intended for educational policymakers, leaders, and educators. His work has helped guide school and district level policy and practice, particularly around student engagement issues in the Southern California area.

Dr. Rodriguez has received many honors including Outstanding Latino Faculty by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) in 2015 and an “Emerging Leader” designation in 2014 by Phi Delta Kappa International in Washington, DC.  In 2013-2014, he was selected to participate in the Inland Empire Economic Partnership’s (IEEP) inaugural Regional Leadership Academy (RLA).  In 2013 Dr. Rodriguez was named Outstanding Professor of the Year for Research in the College of Education at CSU, San Bernardino.  In 2012, he was selected as a Fellow for the Executive Leadership Academy at UC Berkeley and also as a Kika De La Garza Education Fellow with the United States Department of Agriculture.  In 2011 he received a Person of Distinction award by San Bernardino Valley College and was a Faculty Fellow for the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education.  In 2010, he was the recipient of the 30 Under 35 Award for Latinas/os and Native Americans for his service to the community by California State Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter and received special recognition from Assembly Member Manuel Perez for this service to the 62nd assembly district in California.  Dr. Rodriguez is currently working with the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP), served as past Co-Chair of the Faculty Fellows Program for the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), and past board member for the Hispanic Alumni Board at CSUSB.  He is a frequently invited speaker to address student engagement and educational equity issues for schools, districts, and communities.  

Karlygush Smith
Karlygush Smith, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Center for Educational Transformation

Karlygush Smith is an undergraduate student in Psychology.  Originally from Kazakhstan, she migrated to the United States at age eight after her adoption into an American family.  She transferred as a junior to UCR in the Fall 2017.  Currently, she serves as Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Center of Educational Transformation (CET) assisting in the Collaborative Research for Equity and Excellence in Our Schools (CREER) project.  She also serves as Undergraduate Researcher Assistant in the Adversity and Adaptation Lab assisting research in the impact of adverse childhood events on development and psychological health of children.  Before attending UCR, she served as co-facilitator of group therapy for individuals affected by intimate partner violence.  Karlygush plans to enroll in a Developmental Psychology PhD program after completing her undergraduate degree in Psychology.  She has research interests in the behavioral and psychological implications of childhood trauma on later development.”

Cindy Macias
Cindy Macias, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Center for Educational Transformation

Cindy Macias is senior transfer student majoring both in Sociology as well as Education, Society, and Human Development with a concentration on 
Community Leadership, Policy, and Social Justice. She spent most of her childhood in Compton until her family moved to Downey where she attended high
school. She enrolled in Long Beach City College and attended for two years. During her community college years, she was heavily involved with cultural
clubs and academic organizations on campus where she also held various positions. Currently serving as an Undergraduate Researcher for the 
Center of Educational Transformation (CET), she has assisted with the Collaborative Research for Equity and Excellence in ouR Schools (CREER) project. 
For Cindy, schools have always been and continue to be a place where she decides to spend her time and commitment. Cindy is interested in the ways in which schools
function to socialize Students of Color through policy, practice and/or pedagogy of educators. She has aspirations of returning to Compton, 
her hometown, to establish bilingual schools with a culturally responsive curriculum and educators dedicated to the students it sets out to serve

Dr. Gutierrez
Dr. Lorena Gutierrez, Associate Director, Center for Educational Transformation

Dr. Lorena Gutiérrez is an Assistant Professor of Teaching, Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education from Michigan State University. Her research highlights the ways Latinx migrant and seasonal farmworkers thrive in their educational pursuits in spite of the inequities they face in K–12 schools. In her three year ethnographic study, “Use my name, they need to know who I am!” Latina/o Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Youth at the Interstices of the Educational Pipeline, she examined the schooling experiences of Latina/o migrant farmworker youth in K-12 schools and a High School Equivalency Program in the Midwest. Her research contributes much needed asset based research on the schooling experiences and agency of migrant and seasonal farmworker youth in navigating their educational pursuits. Most recently, Dr. Gutiérrez was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside where she examined Latinx excellence in K-12 schools in Southern California’s Inland Empire with Dr. Louie Rodriguez and the Collaborative Research for Equity & Excellence in OuR Schools (CREER) research team. Dr. Gutiérrez’s research is rooted in learning with migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the Midwest, her own experiences in growing up bilingual in Colton, California, and the heritage of farm work that her grandfather cultivated in El Agostadero, Jalisco. 

Enrique Espinoza
Enrique Espinoza, PhD Student and Graduate Researcher, Center for Educational Transformation

Enrique Espinoza is a doctoral student in Education, Society, & Culture. Enrique is a native Southern Californian born and raised in Garden Grove, CA. He attended California State University, Long Beach where he earned a B.A. in Human Development and an M.S. in Counseling with a pupil personnel service credential. Currently, he serves as a Graduate Researcher for the Center of Educational Transformation (CET) assisting in the Collaborative Research for Equity and Excellence in Our Schools (CREER) project. Prior to coming to UCR, Enrique worked as a school counselor at Garden Grove USD where he also served as a mentor in the district’s Latinos Unidos program for the advancement of Latinx students in higher education. Enrique has a research interest in the intersectionality of Gender and Race in Education, studying educational practices that limit opportunities for Students of Color. Additionally, he is interested in studying the help-seeking behavior and coping strategies among male Students of Color in addressing racial and gendered stereotypes in schools.

Yajaira Calderon, Ph.D. Student and Graduate Student Researcher, Center for Educational Transformation

Yajaira Calderon is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Education, Society & Culture program in the GSOE. Born in Santa Ana but raised In Riverside, the Inland Empire is the community she calls home. Yajaira attended UC Riverside where she received her Bachelor's degree in Anthropology with an emphasis in Cultural Anthropology. She has been with the CREER Team since it’s early development and is now a graduate student researcher for the team. She is most passionate about finding ways to improve educational experiences for Students of Color in the Inland Empire. She hopes to one day serve as an educational leader in her city where she knows she will make a direct impact in the lives of Chicano/Latino students just like her.” 

Francisco J. Ramirez Rueda
Francisco Ramirez Rueda, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Center for Educational Transformation

Francisco J. Ramirez Rueda is a UCR undergraduate majoring in Education and Sociology.  He is originally from Lake Los Angeles, California and is a former Student-Athlete on the UCR Men's Soccer team and member of the Latino Union.  He has held various leadership positions including involvement with Students For Education Reform (SFER) as the Co-Chapter Leader at UCR and has served as an Academic Intervention Peer Mentor.  He is also the Founder of The Dreamers Soccer Clinic established in 2016 which encourages and motivates youth to dream big and pursue higher education. The goal of The Dreamers Soccer Clinic is to develop youth into young leaders by supporting and providing access to academic and athletic resources.  Francisco is also an Undergraduate Research Assistant for CREER and aspires to obtain a PhD in Education, become a professor, continue doing participatory action research & civic engagement work with our youth.

Elisa Huh
Elisa Huh, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Center for Educational Transformation

Elisa Chang is currently a 4th-year undergraduate pursuing two B.A.’s in Education and Psychology. Having been a resident of the Inland Empire for the last five years, she attended both Riverside City College and Moreno Valley College prior to transferring to UC Riverside. She’s currently working in the Collaborative Research for Equity and Excellence in Our Schools (CREER) project as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Center of Educational Transformation (CET). Elisa’s research interests are in the intersectionality of race in education—more specifically, how schooling as an institution socializes students and perpetuates inequalities among students of color and marginalized communities. She aims to do further research on student-teacher relationships, the role of the teacher in developing student agency and voice and bringing a more humanizing approach to teaching and learning.