Jessica Gutierrez

Jessica Gutierrez is making the most of her time at UC Davis.

Jessica Gutierrez has made the most of her time at UC Davis: Band Uh!, research, study abroad. She's participated in them all!

A Q&A with Jessica Gutierrez reveals she's taken to heart the advice she gives to other students: take advantage of all the opportunities and resources UC Davis offers. The question is What hasn't she done?

How did you choose UC Davis?

I was raised in Anaheim, Calif., by my mother and her best friend Christina. One day, in November 2010, my mother took me to school and never returned. Thankfully, Christina has been like a second mother to me. She supported me in my schooling and gave me a place to call home. Although it was an extremely difficult time, I’ve always had a passion for school and continued to work hard to get into a good college.

My choice for colleges revolved around being able to participate in a marching band. I’ve loved playing in a marching band since sixth grade, which is why I applied only to universities with marching bands and how I found UC Davis. I never knew Davis existed until I looked up UCs with marching bands.

Upon acceptance, I was tremendously excited and nervous because I'd never been to this part of California before. My first time seeing the campus was not until Orientation! But I immediately fell in love with the beautiful, green campus.

How did you decide on your major?

I originally came in as a double math and music major, but I realized that with the way each degree is structured, it would be difficult to finish both within four years. One of my professors, Dr. Kern Holoman, showed such passion and expertise in a beginning music history course that I realized I wanted to be a music major.

How did you find community?

The Cal Aggie Band Uh! Before school even starts, the band hosts a four-day retreat where we learn to march, meet members and alumni, and play music. So right off the bat, I had this Band Uh community.

What activities/organizations/clubs have you been involved with?

This is a very hard question to answer. Let’s start with why I am at UC Davis: the Cal Aggie Marching Band Uh! I love playing trombone in the Band Uh! and you instantly have a group of 300-plus members you can reach out to for help in school, work experience, networking, or even a ride to the airport.

Within the band you are assigned an upper-bandsmen, or “Upper,” who is responsible for showing you how the organization works and, most important, makes sure you are having a safe and fun time. My Upper was also from Southern California and understood the loneliness and homesickness I began to feel, so she and her boyfriend created a sort-of family unit apart from the Band Uh, where we’d spend time together and bond as a family.

This year I have the pleasure of having a band “kid” (who is also from Southern California), and I try to be a good mentor for her and be there for her in and outside of band. It’s really a fun and unique experience to creating a family lineage and passing on knowledge and traditions.

Next stop, Student Employment. I have three jobs on campus that I love! Job number one is being a student stage crew member at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. As a musician, I’m accustomed to being on stage, but only since working there have I realized what it takes to put on shows. I’ve learned about lighting, audio, and stage rigging, but the best part is getting to see visiting artists and performers for free.

My second job is being a student assistant for the music department. I work with the production staff to help run music department events and concerts.

My third job is unique. I work as a student research and teaching assistant to Dr. Jessica Perea in the Native American Studies department. Dr. Perea offered me the position because I took the initiative to come to office hours and talk to her about her research and my own career goals.

During spring quarter last year, she told me she was re-creating an introductory Native American Studis course on music and dance, and that she’d like me to help. I couldn’t believe it, but here I am as an undergraduate co-teaching a university course I helped create.

Finally, I've been involved with Mentorships for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters, and Science (MURALS). It's a pre-graduate opportunity program designed to enrich the research experience of students situationally disadvantaged in their access to graduate school. I found out about this through my faculty mentor, Dr. Perea, and immediately applied in hopes that MURALS would help advance my desire to become an advocate for positive change in our education system.

I find community outreach and collaboration very important and the program creates mini cohorts for peer support and collaboration. There are two options in the program: to work with a faculty mentor on their research, or have them mentor you with your own research interests. I’ve been working on my senior thesis for the music department since my third year, so the second option seemed a more appropriate fit.

The MURALS program requires that students complete weekly journal entries. Some are more logistical, like writing an abstract for your research or looking up academic journals in your field. Others entries are very personal, such as evaluating your strengths and weaknesses or thinking about what makes a successful professor. The program offers a $500 research stipend to students, which has helped me quit one of my desk jobs that I previously had on campus in order to focus that time on my research.

MURALS has definitely encouraged me to take my education further than a baccalaureate degree. As a future professor, I will not only realize my long-term goals of continuing to research and teach in my areas of specialization, but I will also be in a position to support first generation students and students from underrepresented segments of society, like Dr. Jessica Perea and other mentors in my academic career have done for me.

What would you tell a prospective student about UC Davis?

Take advantage of all the opportunities and resources this wonderful university has to offer! Get involved! Talk to your professors! Ask questions!

What’s next?

I submitted an abstract of my senior thesis paper to the Society of Ethnomusicology “Call for Papers.” A few days ago, I received an email stating that I have been selected to present at the Society for Ethnomusicology regional conference on February 28th. It is such an honor and I am very excited, but also nervous because I will be the only undergraduate presenter in front of many local scholars.

And I just filed for graduation!