Alum Gina Quan Fosters Student Leaders and Inclusion

December 13, 2023

Gina Quan

Gina Quan moved into her Berkeley dorm two weeks before freshman year in 2008 to participate in the Compass Project’s early start program for freshmen interested in physical sciences. “This amazing student-led organization fosters student leadership and inclusion, particularly for students who are underrepresented in physics,” says Quan, assistant professor of physics at San José State University. ““It was an incredible way to start at Berkeley because I created a support network of core friends. And when you encounter people that you work well with and share values with, you just never let them go.”
Compass Project participants later created similar groups at other universities—including the Equity Constellation co-founded by Quan at the University of Maryland as a graduate student—and connected them by forming the Access Network. Through the Compass Project, she also met Berkeley Physics alum Angie Little, who introduced her to physics education research and who is co-principal investigator on Quan’s new project recently funded by the National Science Foundation’s Racial Equity in STEM education program.
In partnership with Michigan State University, Quan and Little will soon study how physics departments can better support and retain transfer students of color. “We’ll form transfer advocacy groups (TAGs) of students, faculty, and staff who will develop new ways to support transfer students. We don’t know what will emerge from these TAGs because students need to be at the forefront of designing any change,” she says. The researchers also want to better understand and document the experiences of these understudied students. They plan to disseminate their findings via journal articles and podcasts.
Quan clearly values empowering student leaders on both a professional and personal level. “I learn so much from my incredible and brilliant students at SJSU. I’m excited for the world they’re going to create and lead,” she says.

Berkeley Physics