Stories: Faculty

Immigrant Families, American Dreams - Julie Sze


JULIE SZE grew up in New York City’s Chinatown, where her father worked in the restaurant industry after emigrating from China. She attended a “striving immigrant school” oriented toward success in math and science, and was expected to go to college in preparation for a professional career. “This is very typical for a working class Asian immigrant family– it’s tied to the narrative of the American dream.”

Milmon Harrison

FROM THE principal’s office to a successful dance career to a seven-year college journey, Milmon Harrison’s path to being a professor was full of the unexpected. A New Orleans native, he grew up in Hunter’s Point and the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco before moving to Stockton and attending middle and high school in Lodi. That I would end up being a professor is so weird to me because even though I was a smart kid, I didn’t always do well in school. I was easily bored and would always talk to my friends.

Susan Rivera

Growing up in the industrial city of Gary, Indiana, Susan Rivera never dreamed that she would one day head a neuroscience lab researching cognitive development. “College was always part of my plan,” she says, “but as a means to an end. All you think about when you’re growing up poor is having a solid job.” Rivera’s parents had migrated to Gary from Puerto Rico so her father could work in the steel mills. The youngest of thirteen children, her family was loving and happy, but there was no money to spare, and no guidance for getting into college. “I had to do that on my own, and I was a little clueless,” she says. Fortunately, she ended up attending Indiana University – Bloomington, a top public research university.

John Terning

PHYSICS Professor John Terning grew up in Canada, the son of parents who emigrated from a small town in Norway where an eighth-grade education was the norm. His parents expected him to make the most of the free higher education offered by their adopted home country.

From Poverty to Poetry: Education as a Pathway to a Better Life - Joseph Sorensen


I GREW UP in San Francisco in impoverished circumstances.  Both of my parents were food-service employees, but by the time my two younger siblings were school-age, my father was an addict living on the streets and my now-single mother was on welfare struggling to raise three children.  School was a haven for me, but also a place where I could clearly see the differences between my own circumstances and those of my peers.  I was lucky to have close friends and caring teachers who believed that education was a key to success.  For me, that meant a

John Harada

GROWING UP IN EAST LA, John Harada attended Garfield High School -- made famous in the film Stand and Deliver  In that film, math teacher Jaime Escalante’s dedicated and unorthodox teaching approach results in his entire class passing the AP Calculus test only to be accused by the Educational Testing Service of cheating.