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Book details
  • SubGenre:Higher
  • Language:English
  • Pages:244
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098397555

Turning on the Lights

Using Learning Culture to Increase Student Success

by Rafael D. Alvarez

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In Turning on the Lights, all students are invited to join the learning culture revolution! A learning culture exists in every institution of higher education, and it is critical for students to be able to apply this culture to create their own success and achieve their true potential.


Based on the learning culture training developed in the San Diego City College MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Program, Turning on the Lights completely captures the learning culture in the five parts listed below, and it is written with the goal of empowering all students – in STEM and non-STEM majors, to operate in the light of the learning culture:

I. Why Learning Culture?
II. Having a Mindset for Learning
III. Knowing How to Approach the Learning
IV. Leadership, Internships & Research
V. Educational Planning Basics: Things to know!

Part I answers the question, "Why learning culture?" Parts II and III discuss the two main parts that define the learning culture: 1) Having a mindset for learning; and 2) Knowing how to approach the learning. Additionally, Part IV focuses on leadership, internships and research because beyond developing scholars, the learning culture develops leaders. Finally, Part V reviews educational planning basics necessary for achieving your academic goals.

Turning on the Lights is your empowerment tool, with many success stories, testimonials and guidance from MESA Director Rafael D. Alvarez, a.k.a. the Corner Man, that bring the learning culture to life. Additionally, the Turning on the Lights website (turning-on-the-lights.com) provides the home base for the learning culture revolution, featuring student success videos, learning culture resources, and basic training videos for becoming familiar with the learning culture. May Turning on the Lights empower every student to create their own success in the bright light of the learning culture. Enjoy the journey!

About the author

Rafael D. Alvarez is the Director of the San Diego City College (SDCC) Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program, an academic support program for students transferring to four year universities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors. He founded the SDCC MESA Program in 2000, and he began transforming the MESA model in 2009 by using learning culture to increase student success. He is known by his students as the Corner Man!

Rafael grew up in the lower-middle income, ethnically diverse community of Encanto in east San Diego. Like his MESA students, Rafael was once a first-generation college student, economically disadvantaged, and underrepresented in a STEM major. Turning on the Lights is based on Rafael's personal experience as an undergraduate student and as the SDCC MESA Program Director.

In recognition of Rafael's exemplary achievement in contributing to the success of MESA Program students at SDCC, a Hispanic Serving Institution, he was awarded the 2012 John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College. Rafael is also the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Engineering Educator Award from the San Diego County Engineering Council.

Rafael has earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Harvey Mudd College and a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California.