In 1999, at the age of 19, Mike Muñoz was a single father with an infant daughter. He was attending classes at Fullerton Community College and working nights as a medical receptionist at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Ana.
He hadn’t thought much about life after community college, until one day his counselor suggested he enroll in UCI’s Summer Science Transfer Institute (SSTI), a 10-day residential program in which community college students – many of whom are low-income – live in UCI dorms and earn three units of transferable credit.
“I didn’t know how I was going to make this work, but my mom agreed to watch my daughter, so I journeyed to UCI for 10 intensive days of living in a dormitory, attending classes, meeting other transfer students, and interacting with faculty and counselors,” Muñoz said. “This experience transformed my life – the values that were communicated to me and the confidence that I gained have impacted every stage of my professional journey.”
Muñoz ultimately transferred to UCI in 2000. He attended classes during the day and continued to work evening shifts at Kaiser. He and his daughter moved into Verano housing, where his daughter flourished.
“Our living conditions had been a little rough before, and now we were living in a group of four apartments that opened onto a courtyard,” Muñoz said. “The other three apartments were occupied by doctoral students and their families, so my daughter always had companionship, and there was someone to watch over her while I worked in the evenings.”
Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior, Muñoz was hired by the Center for Educational Partnerships as a coordinator for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant. Muñoz would go on to work as the higher education coordinator at Saddleback High School and as director of GEAR UP at Rio Hondo college.
In 2018, Muñoz joined Long Beach City College as its vice president of student services. In spring 2021, he was named the college’s interim superintendent-president.
Along the way, he also earned a master’s degree and Ed.D., both from CSU Long Beach.
“Throughout my career, my values as a teacher and an educator reflect the support and mentorship I received from [CFEP Founding Director] Dr. Juan Francisco Lara and the values imparted by CFEP faculty and staff,” Muñoz said. “These include promoting social justice, equity, and inclusion; putting students first; considering outcomes; using data-driven research; building confidence in others; growing professionally; and modeling desired behavior – all qualities I associate with CFEP.”
Muñoz said he will never stop appreciating the advice his counselor gave him, nor will he forget the life-changing experiences he had at UCI. A generation later, two of his nephews participated in SSTI and eventually graduated from UC Riverside and UCLA.
And the daughter who was with Muñoz when he enrolled at UCI?
“My daughter, who has been with me on this entire journey, received her master’s degree in English from San Diego State University in June.”
The preceding story is part of the "CFEP: 25 Years of Impact" series, honoring the people, programs and partnerships that have helped impact millions of students, teachers and families over the past quarter century. View the entire series here.