Elma González grew up working as a migrant farmer with her family across South Texas. As an undergraduate student at Texas Woman’s, she worked on campus part-time while double majoring in biology and chemistry, also earning her teaching credentials. The need to work part time while studying as a full-time student did not allow additional time for research or extracurricular activities.
Fast forward to 1972, González received her PhD in cell biology from Rutgers University. In 1974, she was appointed professor of cell and molecular biology at UCLA and was the only Mexican-American woman faculty member in the University of California system. Now, as professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA, González continues to mentor the next generation of scientists and has begun a newly funded mentorship and research endowment.
González recently donated a piece of property to TWU, and the profit from the sale was used to create the Dr. Elma González Mentorship and Research Excellence Endowment for Biological Sciences. The fund is designed to provide support for biology students’ studies and research.
González looks back now and reflects on the missed opportunities due to her work schedule at the undergraduate level. Her goal is to provide future students with the financial support needed to conduct research and work alongside faculty. She has spent her career at UCLA teaching, spearheading research and mentoring students.
González understands the power of education and the doors it opens for students and their livelihood.
“Education has given me a different perspective on my life and on the world,” she says. “My advice to young students is to take yourselves seriously as people with an intellect. Respect yourself, and above all, know that your life really matters.”