Getting to Know Dr. Rodrigo Lazo
Graduate Division welcomed two new excellent members to the staff back in November, as Dr. Rodrigo Lazo joined the division as its new associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, while Jaymi Smith now serves as the new associate dean for student success.
The two additions will surely provide a great deal of support for UCI’s graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. UCI Graduate Division decided to catch up with Dr. Rodrigo Lazo and find out some of the things he’d like to accomplish for our graduate students.
Lazo comes to Graduate Division with 17 years of experience at UCI, serving as a professor in the English Department, and was the associate dean of the unit from 2007-2010. Before Lazo’s appointment at Graduate Division, he served four years as associate dean of Humanities. From 2016-2019, Lazo directed the Humanities Core Program, a year-long introduction to the humanities for first-year undergraduate students.
After more than 15 years as a professor, Lazo finds the most rewarding part of academia is interacting with students and helping them with their research and writing. In 2012, he received an award from the UCI Associated Graduate Students for his contributions as a mentor.
Prior to coming to UCI in 2004, Lazo taught at Miami University. He attended Columbia University’s School of Journalism and worked as a reporter at the Miami Herald.
UCI GD: Obviously you’ve spent a great deal of your professional career serving the students of UCI. What made this role in the Graduate Division so intriguing to you?
Lazo: I personally believe that serving in administration is one of the biggest ways we can give back in higher education. Not only that, but I think with my unique background I have the ability to give back to our graduate students in a very pointed way. They have very different needs and I look forward to listening.
UCI GD: What are some specific ways you’re going to be able to serve our graduate students in your new role?
Lazo: First of all, I’m going to listen and listen on a very personal level. After that I can also promise to offer transparency and I’ll do my best to share everything I know about a specific issue. I’m concerned about the amount of growing stress among the graduate student population and it’s not fueled by just one thing.
UCI GD: What are the main differences between a typical graduate student and a typical undergraduate student?
Lazo: There are a lot of differences, but I’d say one of the biggest differences is the intellectual growth that happens with a graduate student. Graduate students are actually practicing what they’ve learned in undergrad. There’s no question that it’s a higher level of learning and it takes a bigger commitment. A lot of these other students also have other commitments, whether it’s a family, job, kids, etc.
UCI GD: Unfortunately, 2020 has held its share of turbulent events. Because of these there seems to be a growing mistrust be between students and administration not only at UCI, but among a plethora of universities. What can be done to bridge that gap?
Lazo: I think it goes back to what I said before. Listening, being transparent and showing understanding are easy first steps. Without those building blocks, disconnect and a lack of trust will continue to exist. For me, that’s why listening is so important. Not only do I want to listen, but I want to listen with a solution in mind.
UCI GD: What are some of your hobbies outside of UCI?
Lazo: I love to run! I probably run about 20 miles a week. I’ve done some marathons as well, but I love running, especially barefoot on the beach.