Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

From first-generation student to inaugural HSI Grant Director

At her quinceañera photoshoot in 2004, Dr. Marina Serna Pulido ’16, ’23 sat outside of the Administration Building on the University of Redlands campus, convinced that college was unattainable.

“At that age, I was told there was no way college was going to happen for me,” Serna Pulido recalled. “I thought, ‘Yeah, this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to somewhere like the University of Redlands.’”

Twenty years later, Serna Pulido once again finds herself seated at U of R but this time it is at her desk as the inaugural Proyecto Dirección Title V HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) Grant Director. 

Raised in Redlands by a family that supported a strong work ethic, Serna Pulido, a first-generation Latina, was often discouraged by her high school counselors from attending a traditional four-year institution.

“The people at school knew that I was first-gen and that nobody in my family had been to college,” Serna Pulido said about experiencing generalizations made about her, which included being encouraged to follow in her mom’s footsteps and go to a vocational school. They continued by telling her that if she was accepted into college, her parents couldn’t financially sustain it. 

“They [my parents] were always super supportive about drilling into me that education was something I needed,” Serna Pulido said. If she chose to pursue a college education, her parents would “figure out how to pay for it.”

Rejecting the notions made by her counselors, Serna Pulido plotted a course that took her from an associate degree at Crafton Hills Community College to a bachelor's degree at California State University, San Bernardino, and finally to Redlands, where she completed her master's degree in higher education, and her doctorate in leadership for educational justice.   

Hispanic Serving Institution Grant

Awarded HSI status in 2021, Redlands received the HSI grant in Spring 2023, to bring new initiatives to campus for recruitment and to strengthen on-campus programs like Students Together Empowering Peers (STEP), Summer Bridge, and First-Year Journey. 

“I think a lot of people don’t know we are an HSI,” Serna Pulido said about the university’s status. “Everybody's going to learn what an HSI is and why that's good for the entire school, not just people who are Hispanic or Latino. It brings a positive perspective of being Hispanic and Latino, and that this is a welcoming place.”

Serna Pulido was introduced to the Bulldog community at the relaunch of the Cultura: Latinx/Hispanic Faculty and Staff group on May 8. The group showcased its mission of creating community spaces that build and promote Latinx/Hispanic culture through conversations between group members and the Bulldog community, a presentation on how to be change agents at an HSI, and a report from the HSI student retreat. In addition to Serna Pulido, notable attendees included University President Krista Newkirk. 

“It is with immense joy that I join you all today as we embrace and celebrate our diversity and recognize how our connection to each other fosters a welcoming and inclusive campus community,” Newkirk said. “Underscoring the significance is our Hispanic Serving Institution status, which has given us a platform to fully embrace our diversity and further amplify the energy in our interactions.”

Serna Pulido envisions a complementary relationship between her work with the grant and the group, which she says will help “enhance visibility and representation for Redlands.” Ready to bring a positive outlook and perspective of Redlands for those who may be looking in from the outside, Serna Pulido is aiming to reach everyone through her directorship. 

“I'm hoping to open the gates and say ‘We're here; we want you here,’” Serna Pulido said. “I'm hoping to get the students we have now feeling like, ‘hey, this is somewhere I don't just go to school - this is my place, I belong here. And that new students can come in and say, ‘This is a space where I can be authentically myself and where my culture is valued, or I can learn about my culture.’ That's what community is.”

Learn more about Redlands Hispanic Service Institution status.