Dr. Lorelle L. Espinosa is a senior analyst with Abt Associates, a global policy research and evaluation firm in the Washington, D.C. area. At Abt, she evaluates the effectiveness of higher education and training programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Lorelle is a former SBCC student who came here with no idea that someday she would also serve as the director of policy and strategic initiatives for the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in Washington, D.C. “I wasn’t a college-bound type of student in high school,” says Lorelle. “My parents didn’t graduate from college, and my counselors and teachers didn’t encourage me to seek out higher education. However, I found in SBCC both professors and counselors that encouraged me to reach high. My professors were truly world-class in both their backgrounds and in their ability to engage students in a way that brought out my full academic potential.” Although Lorelle came to SBCC interested in both science and art, her most life changing aspect here was her involvement in EOPS. “I was a peer counselor for EOPS, which gave me a great deal of confidence and allowed me access to academic advisors and guidance on affording a college education.” She graduated from SBCC with an A.A. degree, transferred to UC Davis where she earned her B.A., then went on to achieve an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Her interest in diverse student populations began while working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, she served as Director of Recruitment and Associate Director of Admissions, where she focused on recruiting, admitting, and enrolling talented undergraduate women and underrepresented minority students into the university’s STEM disciplines. At IHEP, Lorelle emerged as a leading voice on U.S. STEM higher education. She currently authors a widely read blog for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education called “STEM Watch,” which addresses the national imperative of building and sustaining a diverse STEM pipeline. With a research background on the advancement of underrepresented minority students in STEM tertiary education, she is perhaps most known for her work on women of color in STEM.
“The great thing about SBCC and community colleges overall is that the offerings are broad and the students are on different trajectories so you’re able to gain exposure to a host of subjects and people, and you soon realize that you can be excellent in whatever you set your mind to,” says Lorelle. “The ‘transfer culture’ at SBCC is great. The students I met were also set on transferring, which motivated me even further. The professors have an expectation that their students will take what they learn and continue to seek out higher education at a four-year institution. I met and studied alongside some really bright students who also went on to do great things. I learned from them and they learned from me – it was a highly collaborative environment.”