Meet the Team (2020-21)



Samantha Chacon Sifuentes (Kresge College ‘21)
Pronouns: she/ her/ hers

Samantha is a fourth-year Psychology major and a first-generation college student. She is a Professional Career Development Intern for the First Generation Initiative. Her project focuses on conducting events and research for the Student Success Educational Equity Participatory Action Research pilot project. This project aims to identify issues of educational equity and work towards social and healing justice; as well as to strategize how to promote a supportive learning environment for first-generation students. As a first-generation student, Samantha wishes to be a support system for other students, using the tools she’s received from departments, including EOP, Kresge College, and CITL. She greatly values advocating for college students’ well-being and wants to help create an environment that fosters student resilience. Fun fact: she went on her first backpacking trip this summer and unknowingly went during the hunting season.

yesenia-team-photojpg  Yesenia De Alba (Merrill '21) 
  Pronouns: she/ her/ hers
Yesenia is a Senior, studying Latin American Latino Studies and a First Generation student. She is a student intern for the First Generation Initiative team and her main roles are managing and planning events and performing outreach as well as participating in our new PAR project. As a first-generation student, she has found many struggles getting around campus but has found multiple ways to make her life on campus easier which she shares with everyone around her. She has had a lot of help from Merrill College as well as friends she has met along the way and wishes to do the same thing with other students. She has a passion for Hispanic Culture and children. Fun Fact: She really enjoys having adventures with her friends every day as well as making threaded bracelets!



Gwynn Benner, Assistant Vice Provost for the Division of   Student Affairs and Success and Managing Director, Student Success Equity Research Center (SSERC)
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Gwynn is the staff lead for the First Generation Initiative, supporting our brilliant scholars who work tirelessly to engage our campus in this work. Gwynn oversees the fundraising and administration of the program, which is working to support a population of students, faculty, and staff on our campus who have not had the same advantages as our continuing generation students. The FGi scholars are amazing, resilient, hardworking, and fun to work with. Fun fact: Gwynn loves to garden and has been creating a monarch butterfly sanctuary in her backyard that is thriving.


Dr. Rebecca Covarrubias, Associate Professor of Psychology, Faculty Director of the Student Success Equity Research Center
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Rebecca is the faculty lead for the UC Santa Cruz First Generation Initiative. In this role, she provides consultation support and on First Gen Initiative events, messaging, and programming; conducts research to contribute to program evaluation and to strengthen our understanding of the first-gen experience and of the effectiveness of student programs; and provides opportunities for students to connect with community and to engage in first-gen work on campus. As a first-generation faculty, she is committed to ensuring that students from diverse and minoritized backgrounds thrive at UC Santa Cruz. Her favorite part of this work is being able to collaborate with students, faculty, and staff on all of these efforts! Fun fact: She LOVES watching and talking about movies!