Claremont Graduate University (CGU) prides itself on offering equitable educational opportunities and promoting diversity throughout its programs. One standout student, Jason Torres Rangel, exemplifies the university’s commitment to these values and highlights the importance of fostering an inclusive and supportive academic environment.
Rangel, an LA Unified School District English Teacher and adjunct at LA Trade Tech, was recently named Los Angeles and California Teacher of the Year (2022-2023) and is now running for National Teacher of the Year in 2023/2024. Despite his impressive accomplishments, Rangel remains grounded, focusing on his students and pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban Leadership at CGU.
Rangel’s academic journey is impressive, with a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College (2003), a master’s in Education from Harvard University (2004), and a second master’s in English from CSULA in 2021. His decision to pursue a Ph.D. at CGU was influenced by the university’s emphasis on diversity, equity, and social justice.
“I have appreciated that CGU places a high value on diversity and equity, making sure the student body has a broad range of experiences and identities; and covering a broad topic of social justice,” Rangel said.
In the Urban Leadership program, Rangel and his peers explore how education can create social equity and opportunity for disenfranchised communities. He is particularly interested in studying how teachers can navigate the tension between performing on high-stakes exams and teaching in ways that promote social justice and anti-racism. Rangel’s research focuses on finding new ways for English teachers to feel empowered and implement culturally affirming teaching strategies, helping their students feel empowered.
Frances Gipson, Director of Urban Leadership Ph.D. The program played a significant role in Rangel’s decision to attend CGU. Gipson’s personal investment in each student and commitment to social justice and equity resonated with Rangel’s own values. In addition, Gibson’s approach emphasizes the importance of relationships, interconnectedness, and understanding each student’s unique story.
Quamina Carter, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs & Dean of Students, emphasized CGU’s dedication to equity and student success. “We value a culture that embraces the open exchange of ideas, collaboration, innovation, and justice,” Carter said. “We do this by fostering a sense of respect across the campus while promoting research, creative work, and community outreach that impact social change.”
With 20 percent of CGU’s student population residing in the Inland Empire, the university is deeply connected to the local community. One recent example is the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies establishment, funded by a gift from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which serves vulnerable populations in the Inland Empire via health research and education. This center, along with other programs, focuses on the Allies of Dreamers Certificate, Student Affairs, Educational Justice, K-12 Education, Equity, Urban Leadership, Applied Gender Studies, and Transdisciplinary Studies courses, exemplifying CGU’s commitment to addressing the diverse needs of its students and the surrounding community.
Rangel’s story and the broader mission of CGU illustrate the powerful impact of a diverse and equitable educational environment. As he continues his academic journey, Rangel hopes to empower English teachers and students alike to embrace culturally affirming teaching strategies and preserve their authentic voices. His work inspires educators, students, and institutions to prioritize diversity, equity, and social justice in their practices.
As a testament to CGU’s commitment to diversity and equity, Rangel said, “CGU is a wonderful academic environment for welcoming diverse black and brown voices and perspectives. At CGU, your voice and experience will be welcomed and celebrated. Wherever you are, there are important topics to take on in the world. With a strong educational degree, you’ll open doors you didn’t even know you were there.”
Rangel’s passion for education was ignited by his undergraduate years when he explored various fields of study, including psychology, archaeology, and film. A transformative experience studying abroad in Kenya shortly before the 9/11 attacks further solidified his desire to serve his community through education.
“I came back to the United States and stepped into a service profession that I knew would strengthen my community,” Rangel said. With encouragement from a mentor at Pomona College, Rangel applied to Harvard, where he found himself among like-minded individuals in a supportive educational environment.
Rangel’s journey serves as a reminder of the impact that diverse and equitable educational opportunities can have on both individuals and the communities they serve. Furthermore, as an advocate for social justice, anti-racism, and cultural affirmation in education, Rangel’s work and the support he receives from CGU can serve as a blueprint for other institutions to prioritize diversity and equity in their practices.
Looking to the future, Rangel hopes that his work will benefit his students and colleagues and spark change within the broader education system. By addressing systemic inequalities and empowering educators and students to embrace their cultural identities, Rangel, CGU, and their community partners are actively working to build a more inclusive and just society.
In the words of Gipson, “Our Urban Leadership graduates are ready to take on the complexity of leading today, and in the future, with intentional curriculum and the strength of their co-visionaries in their cohort.”
With leaders like Jason Torres Rangel, the future of education looks brighter and more equitable, thanks in part to the strong foundation provided by Claremont Graduate University.
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