Staff Research Profile
Ms. Laura Ayon
Masters in English
Director of the Reading, Advising, and Mentoring Program (RAMP)
at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Laura Ayon helps hundreds of students on Cal Poly Pomona’s campus every year as the director of the Reading, Advising, and Mentoring Program (RAMP) through both the grant program administration to freshman and sophomore students, to the tutorial services RAMP offers, to the grad test prep the program provides, to her simply being there to listen and aid students in any way she can. Ms. Ayon knows the value of advising and mentorship from her own path through education to her position now as the director of a TRIO Student Support Service program.
Ms. Ayon studied sociology at Pomona College. As a first-generation, low-income student, she found herself enjoying being at a small, liberal-arts college. She also found herself working for Upward Bound, a TRIO program that is directed at low-income, first-generation high school students. She then started conducting research the summer between her junior and senior year with the McNair Scholars program, yet another TRIO program, “focusing on students who were also parents.” She wanted to do research on “single-parent experiences in college and the type of resources and support they had” on both private and public universities. While Ms. Ayon had a great experience both working for and being the beneficiary of TRIO services, when it came to applying to graduate school, she shares that being a first-generation student affected her because her lack of “prior experience and prior knowledge followed” her on her applications.
Her parents, with the education level of third grade or below, rarely understood Ms. Ayon’s struggles and thought that, as a single mother, she wouldn’t graduate with her bachelor’s degree let alone move onto graduate school. “At my Chicano/Latino graduation,” she states, “A professor asked my dad if he thought I would make it. He said no.” While she recognizes that her “parents have always been supportive…they understood that I was a good student,” she also felt that “they didn’t understand how hard it was to get into the schools I got into.” She notes that once she did graduate, her parents “were proud and celebrated with me, but it’s a different world. You don’t really merge the two [as a first-generation student]. Except on graduation – then your family step foot on campus with you.”
Soon Ms. Ayon found herself enrolled in the English MA program at Cal Poly Pomona while simultaneously working as an advisor for RAMP. Dr. Massey, professor emeritus of the English and Foreign Languages (EFL) Department, “served as more than a mentor” to Ms. Ayon “because she made it possible for [Ms. Ayon] to keep going.” Because Ms. Ayon was a full-time worker and a part-time student, the MA program took her four years which “is a long time to be supportive.” During her time in the program, Ms. Ayon worked on her thesis project, titled Who Needs Reading Anyway? The process was “familiar because [she] did a thesis as an undergraduate.” With strong mentorship, support from her workplace, and prior experience in research, Ms. Ayon received her MA in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Composition.
In addition to being the director of RAMP, Ms. Ayon is also a part-time lecturer for the EFL Department and a mother of three. Her eldest daughter has started college, and Ms. Ayon understands the difference in her first-generation experience and her daughter’s college experience. “College,” she states, “is ingrained in [my kids].” During her research, and through her own experience as a first-generation college student growing up, she also remembers that “there was no bookshelf growing up” and that “first-gen kids don’t grow up with books in the house.” Ms. Ayon’s house now is full of books, so many that Ms. Ayon’s “sister teases that we keep the library in business” and that she’s “run out of room on the bookshelf” in her home.