Communication alumna oversees STEM equity work at Clovis Community College

Stephanie Briones headshot in front of an out-of-focus background with fall colors.

When she began community college, Stephanie Briones was a first-generation college student from Sanger, California. Coming from a K-12 system where she was used to fitting in, she found this experience very different.

“I just felt really lonely, and I felt isolated because I didn’t feel like I belonged,” Briones said.

Without guidance, Briones didn’t know how college worked, didn’t know about academic advisors and wasn’t comfortable talking to her instructors. She just felt lost for two years.

“It’s almost a miracle that I made it from the community college to Fresno State,” Briones said.

Once at Fresno State, Briones purchased the university catalog (typical before catalogs were accessible online) to determine which classes she needed to take. Then, someone finally told her that advisors were available to help plan her path through college, and she began to explore the available student resources.

At Fresno State, she saw teachers that looked like her and found she was more comfortable being herself. She felt like she belonged.

Briones says she connected with Dr. Marnel Niles Goins, now the Dean of the College of Sciences and Humanities at Marymount University, who helped her feel comfortable as a woman of color in class and encouraged Briones to enroll in the graduate program. Once in the program, Dr. Shane Moreman served as her thesis advisor and helped her become a critical communication scholar.

“Dr. Moreman pushed me, and he challenged me to make my voice heard in the critical cultural perspective,” said Briones.

However, her experience contrasting the struggle with acceptance inspired Briones to help the next generation of Latinx students find their voice in community college.

“I didn’t have a teacher of color, especially in a communication course, until I was at Fresno State. So I really wanted to come back and be a community college instructor because I wanted students to see someone who looked like them…someone who was proud of their culture and told them culture matters,” Briones said.

Now Briones works at Clovis Community College as a communication instructor and Title V Coordinator. The U.S. Department of Education awards Title V grants to develop Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI). The grant at Clovis Community College allots $3 million over five years for projects and initiatives to foster the success of Latinx and low-income science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students.

“It seems a little out of my wheelhouse because I’m humanities-based. But in reality, I think it’s a really nice pairing because when you look at the major components of the grant, we’re really working on outreach. So we are trying to increase our enrollment, and we’re trying to have more students comfortable with Clovis Community College and being a STEM major,” Briones said.

Of course, getting students to enroll is only the first step. The Title V grant also has assistance available to help maintain student success.

“What I’m really fighting for is to make sure that the practices and initiatives that we’re doing are sustained beyond this grant,” Briones said.

Briones says Communication is key to the success of her position. A primary part of her job is to attend a wide range of meetings to ensure that Title V is part of the conversation across the campus. She also spends a lot of time on email coordinating various programming for Title V students.

Through her role, she sees firsthand how opening the conversation about culture impacts student success.

“The students feel much more comfortable talking about their identities, both as a STEM major and as a Latinx student,” said Briones. “That has transcended to the campus life and campus culture as well.”

Her work has encouraged conversations about recognizing the importance of difference within the student body and creating more opportunities for equitable structures, fostering healthy student development. While students are often energetic and motivated to learn, they also have that extra dose of confidence when their identities are appreciated, and they feel they belong in higher education.

“I don’t want other students to wait until they’re in the junior/senior year of their undergraduate program,” said Briones. “I made it, but there are probably other people in the first or second year that started on the same path as me and said, ‘I don’t belong. I don’t want to be here,’ and they left.”

Using her experience as motivation and communication skills to facilitate meaningful change, Briones makes sure that all students know they belong and through sustainable, equitable practices, enabling them to find their inspiration for life.


Briones received two bachelor of arts degrees in English and Communication and a master of arts in Communication at Fresno State. She is studying towards her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the Kremen School of Education and Human Development.

Posted by

Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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