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Faculty Research Profile

Dr. Frank Torres

Dr. Frank Torres

Ph.D. in English from New Mexico State University

Professor Emeritus in the Department of English and Foreign Languages
at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

On January 20th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation. His famous words, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” were heard by a first-generation high school student that would grow to become a professor here at Cal Poly Pomona. Those words inspired Dr. Frank Torres to dedicate his life to service. “I think his speech inspired a lot of people,” Dr. Torres recalls, “a lot of my friends ended up volunteering for the Peace Corps, a lot of them ended up doing volunteer work, and, for myself, I wanted to change the world, just like anyone else.”

At first, Dr. Torres pursued the priesthood as his mode of service. During his time at the seminary, Dr. Torres realized that he was passionate about teaching and that he wanted to work with students. He found that “another way of helping people and of working with people was through education.” Dr. Torres soon started to pursue his masters in English from the University of Washington as a first-generation college student. While his parents were supportive of his pursuit of education, his mother, father, and grandmother never completed school above elementary level in Mexico. “My grandmother,” he smiled, “looked at me like I was wasting my time.”

As a first-generation student, Dr. Torres realized the importance and power of mentors. His mentors were “people who kept me on track, kept me on target, and they helped me all the way through.” During his time at Cal Poly Pomona, Dr. Torres founded the McNair Scholars Program on campus in 1999, a TRIO SSS program for faculty-mentored undergraduate research for low-income and first-generation or underrepresented students. While Dr. Torres has directly mentored both graduate and undergraduate students as faculty in the English department, he has influenced undergraduate research on campus for the past 17 years across disciplines through his role as director, now director emeritus, for McNair. Dr. Torres’s dedication to service has reached over 200 students, with 38 of those completing Ph.D. degrees and another 35 enrolled in Ph.D. programs through the McNair Scholars Program.

For all students interested in research, both at the graduate and undergraduate level, Dr. Torres has three bits of advice. First, whether picking a graduate program or a mentor for a project “you’ve looked into some of the faculty, you’ve talked to some of the faculty, [and] you’ve read their research articles.” Second, to pick not just one, “but, if at all possible, two, maybe even three mentors.” While having one main mentor is standard, Dr. Torres shares that his mentor “was terrific, but I also found other faculty that were also good that were doing what I was doing and they also had excellent advice.” Finally, to find other students who are “serious about finishing up their degree” so “they can encourage each other and keep in touch” and to not just network, but “party with someone, you know, who will drop a pearl of wisdom when you least expect it.”