Asset 9

Meet the CLSA Staff

Dedicated to providing programs and services that enhance the academic success and personal development of Chicano/Latino students at The Claremont Colleges.


Tony Jimenez
Dean of Students

(909) 607-3288

I grew up in Barrio Logan, a Latino immigrant community in South East San Diego located 15 minutes away from the international border. Both of my parents immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico and labored with limited resources to provide a better life for my brother, sister, and myself. With my parent’s hard work and dedication, my brother, sister, and I was able to achieve the dream of attending college and create upward mobility in the Latino educational pipeline.

I earned my undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. The following year I went on to earn my master’s degree in Education, with an emphasis in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University. While at Harvard, my research consisted of examining issues of diversity, access, and equity in California. In particular, I examined the effects of the elimination of affirmative action in undergraduate admissions at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego.

After completing my masters, I attended the University of Illinois earning my Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies. My doctoral research focused on the social, political, economic, and cultural effects of the elimination of affirmative action in admissions for African Americans and Chicano/Latinos at UCLA. In order to answer these questions, I incorporated, social, cultural, economic capital, reproduction, and Critical Race theories.

Working on my research has enabled me to present at national conferences such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). I have also served in the Editorial Board of the American Educational Research Journal (AERJ). In addition, I have 2 publications; Hiding the Politically Obvious: A Critical Race Theory Preview of Diversity as Racial Neutrality in Higher Education in the Journal of Educational Policy and Another Side of the Percent Plan Story: Latino Enrollment in the Hispanic Serving Institution Sector in California and Texas, a book chapter in Understanding Minority-Serving Institutions.

Prior to coming to the Claremont Colleges Services, I coordinated the University of California Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS) at UC Merced and was Project Director of the National Science Foundation California Alliance for Minority Participation (NSF CAMP). Both of these programs aimed to expand the graduate pool of underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). I also managed the recruitment, retention of graduate students. Prior to coming to UC Merced, I coordinated the MD/Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

As a first-generation college student, I experienced, first-hand, the trials of adjusting and navigating environments that were foreign to me. Coming from a working-class background, I am appreciative the guidance of my mentors. It is my desire to be able to assist students at the Claremont Colleges on how to be successful both in the classroom and in their communities.


Xochitl Casillas
Assistant Dean of Students

(909) 607-4979

Pay it forward. This motto has always been the driving force behind my decision to go into student affairs.  In fact, my passion for student development stems directly from my unique upbringing. I was raised in a single parent household, with fifteen siblings -that’s right, 15 brothers and sisters -and yes, they’re from the same set of parents! I have many fond memories growing up in a large family, but it also came with great sacrifice.  Many of my older siblings were unable to pursue a college degree because their primary responsibility was to financially provide for the family. However, by the time I graduated from high school, my older siblings maintained the household expenses, enabling me to go directly into college.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, as well as a master’s degree in Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership.  After graduate school, I went into the nonprofit sector to work with various grassroots organizations.  As a researcher and policy analyst, I helped create a holistic “cradle to college” pipeline for low-income, first-generation college-going Latinx students.  After leaving the nonprofit sector, I worked with federally funded programs (EPOCHS, GEAR UP, and Upward Bound), at a Hispanic Serving Institution, in North Orange County.  These college access and retention programs, among many other experiences, have broadened my perspective of student success and has laid a solid foundation for me to fully support Latinx students succeed.

It is an honor to serve as the Assistant Dean of Chicano Latino Student Affairs at The Claremont Colleges; after all, this is my way of doing what I love, paying it forward by grooming the next generation of leaders.


Ernestine “Ernie” Mendoza
Administrative Assistant

(909) 607-3367

If I could set my car on automatic pilot, I’m sure it would find its way to Claremont without a problem. After all, I’ve been driving here every morning for the past forty years. Forty, that’s correct! My first job with Claremont Colleges Services was in the Office of Admissions for Chicano Students and that was back in 1976. It certainly doesn’t feel that long ago but the physical changes that I’ve seen take place across the campuses remind me that I have been here a significant amount of time.

As an Administrative Assistant, my responsibilities are many, starting with office manager duties. I am also responsible for CLSA’s monthly newsletter, CHISPAS, as well as disseminating it and all other CLSA notifications. Therefore, I am also responsible for the student databases used to keep students informed electronically. I supervise the CLSA Interns. As a member of the CLSA staff, we are each responsible for specific programming and I oversee the Alumni Reception, the Chapbook, Almas Unídas: Nuestra Visión, and the two art workshops (one each semester).

On a more personal level, I grew up in the local area of Rancho Cucamonga. I am one of four daughters born to Ernesto and Amalia Franco. Yes, I’m named after my Dad. The Colleges are a big part of my family history. My mother worked as a Building Attendant for many years at Harvey Mudd College. My husband Ray and sister Josie are Pitzer College alums and my daughter is a recent graduate of Scripps College.

If you stop by my office you’ll notice that I love collecting small bear figurines as well as Mexican folk art although my favorite hobby is still scrapbooking. Please stop by CLSA to visit and I will be happy to share some of the work I have created on behalf of CLSA to document our programs and events.


Jenelle Nila
Graduate Fellow

(909) 621-8044

As a first-generation college student, and now a graduate student, I know first hand how difficult it can be to navigate higher education. I was born and raised in Pomona, and although not far from here, my life and educational experience are deeply shaped by my community and my experience as a first-generation, working-class Latina. Nonetheless, I made it to college! In 2013, I graduated from UC Riverside as a double major, earning my Bachelors in Sociology and in Chicana/o Studies. My experience at UC Riverside was positive and challenging. I worked multiple jobs throughout my undergraduate career and was not able to study abroad or intern because of my need to work to stay in school. My experience was typical of a first generation student and I decided that I wanted to build bridges to higher education for the students that would come after me. As the oldest of four children, leading the way is not new to me, but I have never been interested in being the first, I have always been concerned with not being the last. Now as a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs concentration at CGU, I am learning how to turn my experience, and those of my other first-generation students of color into clear pathways for success. My position as a Graduate Fellow at CLSA is essential to building these bridges for both undergraduate and graduate students, and I am proud to be a part of the CLSA familia.


 Betzayra  Perez

Undergraduate Intern

CMC “19”

I love working at CLSA because the work that I do impacts the entire 5C Latinx community. Being a first generation Latina college student, I have experienced first hand the difficulties of navigating the college process. Because of that, I have grown passionate about giving back to my community and helping ease the process for others. My work at CLSA consists of managing social media, organizing programming, and assisting with ongoing projects or events in the center. I really think that the CLSA office is an inclusive and welcoming environment, and Latinx students should take advantage of the resources that are available for them. Since day one I was able to find a ‘familia’ at CLSA.