Compton College sociology major Anthony Onwuegbuzia is one of only 27 students accepted in fall 2018 to the Community College to PhD (CC2PhD) Scholars program sponsored by a UCLA association. While completing his associate degree for transfer, he was also actively conducting research that will prepare him for competitive undergraduate research programs, as well as develop PhD preparation knowledge to become a viable and competitive PhD applicant in the future. His ultimate career goal is to become a sociology professor at a four-year university.
Onwuegbuzia's current research involves studying the levels of financial literacy knowledge of community college students. "I intend to examine and compare the financial literacy comprehension of transfer students at two community colleges, Compton College and El Camino College," he said. "My overall objective is to observe and document any similarities or disparities between students at both academic institutions with regards to financial literacy comprehension."
The Community College to PhD Association at UCLA established the CC2PhD Scholars program in 2017 to boost the number of community college students who pursue advanced degrees. It aims to address the underrepresentation of community college alumni in PhD programs by providing a clear pathway, resources and ongoing guidance for social science-related majors.
One in five college students who earned master's degrees, and 11 percent who earned doctoral degrees, originally began their students at a community college--according to data published in 2017 by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
"What was appealing to me about this program is that it's a feeder program for three other academic alliance programs I am required to apply for during the course of pursing my bachelor's degree," said Onwuegbuzia. These programs include the Leadership Alliance and Big Ten Academic Alliance summer undergraduate research programs. "Once I am in graduate school, my experience in all of these programs will put me ahead of the curve in completing my dissertation for my PhD, because I will have been working on the research years prior."
He has applied to UCLA and three other University of California institutions and will transfer in fall 2019 to complete his bachelor's degree and continue his research in the CC2PhD program. "Before I make my final decision on where I will go, I want to visit each university's sociology department to learn about the culture and what type of research they are conducting at each," he said.
Onwuegbuzia is a Carson resident who graduated from Junipero Serra High School's (Gardena, Calif.) class of 2000 and immediately entered the workforce. He says that experience and time gave him a clearer picture of what it would take to get to the next level in a career, so he decided to enroll at Compton College in spring 2017.
His passion for the study of sociology was also a motivator. "I have always been observing and studying sociology in everyday life, just not in an official capacity," he said. "Society inspires me -- fellow students, professors; life itself inspires me. When you examine all aspects of the society in which we live, it is fascinating and very telling. I want to become a problem solver for some of our bigger challenges."
He is currently in the seven-month program that includes CC2PhD Saturday Academies, meeting with his graduate student mentor, working with a community college faculty advisor and a peer advisor, developing a PhD preparation plan, and completing monthly assignments and readings that add up to 30-40 hours per month. He will present a completed interview research project at the CC2PhD Scholars Interview Research symposium in March and prepare and presentation his upper-division undergraduate research proposal in May that will be used to apply for undergraduate research programs and research grants at his future four-year university.
"I want to acknowledge how great the educators are at Compton College," said Onwuegbuzia. "These excellent professors have helped me increase my knowledge and aided in my pursuit of a career in sociology, as well as facilitated my acceptance to the Community College to PhD Scholars program. I want to thank them all for this gift."