Eddy Ruiz, Office of Multicultural Affairs director, has a goal of paying it forward in his line of work and said he was inspired to do so by a mentor in college. “When I was starting off in college, I didn’t know what I was doing. But I had a professor and he saw something in me that I didn’t and he believed that I could do well and that really made a difference,” Ruiz said. “In high school, college wasn’t even on the radar, wasn’t even suggested. He took a chance with me and became kind of like a mentor.”
Ruiz has been OMA director for the past two years. Previously, he was director for the Student Success and Innovative Education program at the University of Maine.
Ruiz, a California native, did not begin his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkley, until he was 21. He received his bachelor’s degree in history.
Before that, he worked in construction. Ruiz grew up in a low income Hispanic family and was a first generation college student.
After his undergraduate degree, Ruiz earned two master’s degrees– one from the University of Oklahoma and another from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. at UCLA.
“I wanted to have the best education, the best resources and attend the best institutions that I could in order to give back in the best way possible– to serve other students and just to give back in the same way that professor did to me,” Ruiz said. “He gave me the tools to help me succeed and I feel it’s my obligation to reciprocate it.”
Ruiz said OMA’s purpose is to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, but specifically students of color.
“I have students that visit me almost everyday and they just enjoy it,” Ruiz said. “We talk about anything from personal problems, school, (to) what they did over the weekend. Sometimes I act as a parent, sometimes as an advisor, what ever I need to be.”
Ruiz said being able to have that kind of relationship with students has been very fulfilling.
“I know that not only I, but my staff are making a difference. And for people to be able to come into your office and share the things they do and sometimes cry in your office, it makes you feel good that they feel they have someone they can express those feelings and emotions to and they chose you to talk to,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said his goals for the future as OMA director are to push multicultural students to excel and go against the normative beliefs. His second goal is to work on making the campus more culturally aware and inclusive of all students– regardless of background.
Iris Alatorre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org