Admissions & Aid
B.A., Sociology; B.A., Puerto Rican and Latino Studies | 2016
Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco, California
Reubén Pérez Lama feels privileged: He was the first in his family to pursue higher education despite nearly dropping out of high school in the ninth grade. Higher education, let alone graduate school and a Ph.D., seemed at first like an unattainable goal. “I was trying to survive as a low-income, second-generation Dominican immigrant,” says Pérez Lama. It was a math teacher who encouraged him to stay in school. When he entered Brooklyn College, he considered accounting or health and nutrition sciences, degrees that in his family’s eyes were practical. Instead, he chose Puerto Rican and Latino studies and sociology.
Now in a Ph.D. program in sociology at UC Berkeley, Pérez Lama acknowledges that although he worked hard to get there, he wouldn’t have made it without the unfailing support of friends, family, and teachers. Many Brooklyn College faculty were crucial to his academic journey—Assistant Professor Carla Santamaria (whose teaching style he admired) and Professor Carolina Bank Muñoz (whose mentorship greatly shaped his sociology studies), among many others, influenced him greatly. Pérez Lama also participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, thanks to help from Professor Maria Pérez y González.
For Pérez Lama, it all comes down to building and tapping into the care and support of community networks. “I was even motivated to do my Ph.D. research on the role of social capital in cultivating a sense of community responsibility,” he says. “I believe in the power of community, and I believe that we can accomplish so much more together than alone. In the words of political scientist Naomi Murakawa: ‘Why be a star when you can make a constellation?’”