Welcoming the CHC’s First Legacy Student

Paloma Cole-Gutiérrez and her mother Jennifer Cole-Gutiérrez and father José Cole-Gutiérrez

Friends and roommates, Kim Ong (‘95) and Jen Cole-Gutiérrez (‘97) are pictured at the Fall 1993 CHP beach bonfire

Jen and Paloma Cole-Gutiérrez are more than mother and daughter, they are also the first parent and child to both participate in UC Irvine’s Campuswide Honors Collegium! Welcoming our first legacy student is an important milestone in the Campuswide Honors Collegium’s 33 year history. To celebrate this milestone, Jen and Paloma shared their stories with us. Paloma is a first-year student at UCI currently pursuing a mathematics major. Her mother, Jen, an Honors alumna, graduated in 1997 as a fifth-year student with a double-major in Sociology and Political Science.

When Jen first applied for admission to UCI as a first-generation college student in 1991, her main focus was to stand out in her application essay. Her daughter, Paloma, strived for the same goal in her 2020 application, and did a lot of reflecting, writing, and editing in order to encapsulate all she could offer to colleges as a student. During her 1991 application process, Jen had the support of her mother and father, and later on with her husband tried to emulate that same support for their daughter, Paloma. A major difference between applying to UCI in 1991 and 2020 is the technology used today, but with her first-hand experience, Jen tried her best to advise Paloma during the application process. Instead of waiting for an envelope to arrive in the mail as Jen did, the family patiently waited for Paloma to receive an email with good news.

When asked about what they enjoy most about being a part of the Campuswide Honors Collegium, Jen and Paloma share the same answer – the tight-knit community the CHC offers. For Jen, she felt like she had an immediate home base with her fellow peers when she first arrived at UCI. This sense of community continued throughout Jen’s time in the Campuswide Honors Program and was nurtured by engaging with her fellow CHP students in classes, by interacting with CHP advisors and staff, and by attending Honors events such as the annual beach bonfire, spring retreat and weekly Coffee Hours. Jen states, “For all these reasons, when Paloma was offered the CHC and deciding on which university to attend, I felt very confident and comforted knowing that if she chose to attend UCI, she would be a part of this fantastic community and experience.” Her daughter, Paloma, also participates in a variety of CHC gatherings, such as Coffee Hour, studying with peers in the CHC Locus lounge, and attending advising sessions.

Honors alumna Jen appreciates the CHC for encouraging her to be curious, to conduct research, and to seek out opportunities throughout her undergraduate years. During college, Jen interned in Washington, D.C, at her Congressmember’s office one summer through UCDC, and participated in two pre-graduate summer programs the following summers – SAEP (Summer Academic Enrichment Program) at UCI and the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute at UC Berkeley. Jen remarks, “Interacting with my talented Honors peers and professors in our classes and CHC events helped prepare me to interact with a variety of students and professionals/professors in these settings, as well as in the graduate school setting.” Her daughter Paloma, appreciates the CHC for multiple reasons, but mainly the community it fosters. In Paloma’s words, “I have made some amazing friends in the Campuswide Honors Hall, Loma, been given great help and advice from the Honors advisors, especially Darren, and I really enjoy the smaller experience of CHC within UCI’s larger community.”

After UCI, Jen attended graduate school at Harvard’s Kennedy School, supported by a PPIA Fellowship. In between her two-year Master in Public Policy program, Jen participated in the nine-month Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs in Los Angeles. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a Youth Minister for her church before working for Santiago Canyon College and Santa Ana Unified School District in the communications departments. Once she was married and raising her seven children (Paloma is the oldest), Jen transferred her skills to serving her community. She has held numerous leadership positions in the communities in which she has lived, in her kids’ school settings and local school districts, as well in her parishes. Jen writes, “I’m committed to helping however I can for the betterment of our communities.”

Jen offers first-hand advice to her daughter Paloma and other Honors students:

“Always keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities, and when you find some, seek them out.

Utilize all your resources because they’re there to help you.

Give your all to the journey and trust that it will all work out, step by step.

(Get more sleep!).”

We are happy to have shared Jen and Paloma Cole-Gutierrez’s unique parent and student legacy story as part of the Campuswide Honors Collegium. We hope to continue sharing experiences that considerably contribute to the CHCommunity.

Contributed by Angie Sarabia