University photographer Ricardo Treviño M.S. ’15 talks Hispanic Heritage Month at Miami

By Jesús F. JIménez, assistant director of digital content

“Where are you from?”

“California.”

“No, but where are you FROM.”

“Ca.Li.For.Nia.”

It’s an all too common conversation for Ricardo Treviño M.S. ’15.

Born and raised in a very diverse Pittsburg, California, Ricardo never had to explain his background. When he arrived at Miami University, he saw a whole new world.

An assistant director of residence life and a part-time staff photographer and instructor, he sees the importance of promoting workplace diversity more than ever.

“I’ve been in classes where I would ask some of my students, ‘How many of you, just show hands, am I the first person of color you’ve ever been taught by?’” he said.

“Especially if you are a person of color and you happen to raise your hand and you don’t see yourself in some of those roles, that can become very, very daunting.”

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Ricardo reflects on his Mexican American identity and shares his favorite captures of “the most beautiful campus that ever there was.”

‘I didn’t know about prestige’

Ricardo has few memories of traveling to Mexico. His mother was born in the bordering city of Laredo, Texas. His father was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

“I remember ranch-style living and having to walk up this hill to the house, but down the hill were these little shops, and there was a little marketplace in the little town where people would go for their common goods, groceries, clothes, that type of stuff,” he said.

As he got older, Ricardo and his family focused more on prioritizing his education – making sure he attended college and took advantage of the opportunities his parents never had. But as a first-generation college student, Ricardo didn’t have the luxury of seeking a prestigious institution.

“We had such a low graduation rate and low college acceptance rate that we were just trying to make it to college,” he said. “I didn’t know you could go on tour, I didn’t know you could go check out the different dorms or all that type of stuff – none of that existed to me. It was a decision solely based on who was going to take me and what’s cheapest.”

Only $900 a semester at the time, California State University – Sacramento provided that opportunity. The expensive part was finding where to live, until a close friend suggested taking a job as a resident assistant. As an RA, he would coordinate activities in residence halls and serve as a resource for his peers. Oh, and most importantly, he would get free housing.

“I was like, ‘Sign me up again,’” Ricardo said. “Other than ‘Harvard’s Harvard’ and ‘Stanford’s Stanford,’ I didn’t really know much about any other prestige – I didn’t care.”

Ricardo earned a degree in geology, but his role as an RA piqued his interest in working in student affairs long term.

  • Ricardo Treviño M.S. '15 with students from one of his courses at Miami University.
  • Ricardo Treviño M.S. '15 (right) at a Miami football game against University of Cincinnati with a fellow photographer and two photography students.
  • Ricardo Treviño M.S. '15 at a Miami football game against University of Cincinnati.
  • Ricardo Treviño M.S. '15 (top right) with members of his Residence Life group.
  • Ricardo Treviño M.S. '15 (top right) with members of his Residence Life group.

‘Is this going to be a place for me?’

Looking for a diverse place was never something he thought about, but when he was recruited to Miami University for graduate school, he was quite surprised that only 5 percent of students are of Hispanic/Latino origin.

“I remember looking around the room, and there was not a lot of diversity,” he said. “So, who am I going to come to school with, out here in the middle of Ohio, literally a four-hour plane ride away from home. Is this going to be a place for me to be?”

There were only 24 students in Ricardo’s cohort, and three were domestic Latinx students – including him. The closeness of the cohort helped.

“Just to know that there were other people of color in this space, and just the program itself, you just got to know each other on such a deep level, because you’re talking about things like diversity and inclusion and all that fun stuff in class.”

‘Oh, it’s not Photoshop’

Ricardo has always enjoyed photography, but it was too expensive for him while he was in college. He picked it back up as a hobby as he started to become more financially stable.

As part of his practicum while earning his master’s, he reached out to Miami’s Communications and Marketing Department.

Ricardo shoots various events for Miami, ranging from graduation to athletic events, reunions to campus beauty and everything in between.

His favorite photography includes landscape photography, unique weather situations and anything you can’t shoot with a smart phone.

“I’m typically the person who’s out there sacrificing their life to take a picture of lightning or something like that,” he said. “Or, because of the mentality that everyone has a cell phone, I have made it a very intentional effort to try and get things that people normally can’t get with a cell phone. Lightning is a good example of that. Or anytime there’s a super starry night. I’ll get some comments like, ‘How did you do that? What type of Photoshop is that?’

Oh, it’s not Photoshop, it’s just technique.”

‘That’s a good sign for me’

For Ricardo, Miami is now home. He and his partner are each pursuing a Ph.D. in leadership, curriculum, and culture, and he hopes that he can inspire other students of color to reach success, simply by being in his position. When he publishes photos, it’s important that the ‘ñ’ in his last name is printed. When he talks to Hispanic students, he does his best to make them feel welcome.

“Sometimes when I call people by their names, and I put the accent on it, it’s such a big deal – or even the credit lines, I can’t even tell you how long it took me to get the ‘ñ’ on my name on official things. For some students, they see that and go, ‘Oh, that’s a good sign for me, because I haven’t seen that since being home.’”


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