Nationally-recognized department chair envisions equity

Photo: Vanessa Lopez-Littleton

Vanessa Lopez-Littleton | Photo by Florenz Tuazon

February 25, 2022

By Tatiana Muniz

CSUMB’s “Strength Through Diversity” awareness campaign aims to build on our ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence. Stories, social media posts, and special events throughout the academic year will celebrate diversity and highlight the many identity groups represented by the students, faculty, staff, and alumni that make up the CSUMB community. February is Black History Month.

“I’m always ready,” she said. “If you’re already ready, you don’t have to get ready.”

Lopez-Littleton grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the 70s, first attending a predominantly Black elementary and middle school and then a high school with 80% white students.
“My grades were always really good, but then when I got to high school, it was a tremendous culture shock,” she said. “At the time, I don’t think the school was prepared to deal with the influx of Black kids they received, and it was a struggle. I went from being in accelerated classes to just being in regular classes and not really feeling supported.”
She graduated from high school with a 2.3 GPA and had no plans to attend a university. Instead, she enlisted in the Army. She served for three years before pursuing a nursing degree at Northwestern State University.
“I think for me, it was being in the military and finding that level of discipline that really helped me. So when I went to nursing school, I had a 3.9 GPA and didn’t have any problems,” she said.
She worked as a full-time nurse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about two miles away from Louisiana State University. While working 12-hour shifts as a nurse, she attended LSU and earned a Master of Public Administration degree in healthcare administration.
As for her motivation, she lives by the philosophy of each generation doing better than the last.
“I saw my grandmother’s birth certificate and realized that she was born in 1913, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god, so when was slavery abolished?’ “ she said.
“Just the thought of being less than five generations away from actually being enslaved, I feel like I need to keep pushing to set an example for other people who look like me and who need that type of motivation,” she said. “If you put your mind to it and drive hard, you can achieve great things.”
Read more in the Fall/Winter 2021 edition of the Monterey Bay Magazine.