Karen Avila ’20 enrolled in Professor Milton Machuca-Galvez’ “Drugs, Gangs, and US Imperialism” class during her first semester of college. After a few months of knowing Avila, Machuca-Galvez nominated himself to be her mentor for the Rubin Scholars Program.
“I had a lot of people tell me about it but I never really had someone push themselves to get myself to apply to that, and make sure that I could take the classes,” Avila said.
As a Visiting Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies, Machuca-Galvez is the Head Coordinator of the Latino Studies Department.
“A lot of people say, you know, he is the Latino Studies Department. He makes sure that you know he covers his classes, he makes time for his office hours for people to visit him, I have so many friends who are really close to him and go to his office hours, he coordinates the budgeting for the department, so whenever like ENLACE [the Latinx student group on campus], needs money for an event, we know the Latino studies department … will help us.”
Unfortunately, as of right now, Machuca-Galvez’ contract is not being renewed for the upcoming year.
“He’s just like … he is the department and losing him it’s like losing the whole department. I don’t know, it’s frustrating,” Avila said.
Along with his central role in the department in general, Avila emphasized the important mentorship relationships Machuca-Galvez has crafted with students.
“My RA, she’s really close to him, and she’s had Thanksgiving at his house. You know, like just having that connection, it’s just so nice. And me not being able to know him, as close as people who I know now, upperclassmen — like juniors know him is really sad because I would want him to be my mentor. I recently had to switch my mentor and ask [someone else] to be my mentor, because, like, [Machuca-Galvez] doesn’t show up on the mentors list for Rubin Scholars. And that’s horrible,” Avila said.
These relationships expand far beyond office hours and holiday home visits.
“He definitely pushes you. He asks you ‘how are you,’ ‘how are you doing.’ That’s like his check-up on you. ‘What do you need,’ ‘what do you have to do,’ and ‘what are you going to do to get that.’ And he just like walks you through, talks it out with you, and you process it in your head, but then he makes you comfortable enough to say it out loud and ‘plan yourself’ out loud. I think that’s a really important role, [that he is] listening, providing kind of like a parental figure to a lot of us,” Avila said.
In addition to emotional and organizational support, Machuca-Galvez finds ways to provide students with inroads to research.
“With his own money, he would buy like pupusas, and he’d buy us drinks, in exchange for us helping him transcribe … his documents for his research projects, so also giving us like a little way in into his research, and involving us,” Avila said “Not just us being involved in his classroom, but way more than that.”
In response to reality of potentially losing Machuca-Galvez, Avila, in collaboration with ENLACE, has written a petition rallying for his contract to be renewed. While Machuca-Galvez is not a part of this process, many of his students are.
“We just finished drafting the letter, we’re in the works of that. A lot of people have just like been keeping it within us, just because he doesn’t want any part of it … So the main point [of the petition is that] as the Head of the Department of Latino Studies, he is the department, he offers a lot of support for his students, he is a shoulder to cry on, he is here to listen — he’s just there for his students,” Avila said.