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Campus and Community

Genesis Glover, MLK Award Winner, Discovers Her Voice

Written By Robyn Kontra Tanner // Photos by Dylan Head and Joe Johnston

Genesis Glover holds a certificate of recognition and a glass award
Genesis Glover accepted the MLK Legacy Award on January 18. Photo by Dylan Head.

At this year’s MLK Legacy event on Jan. 18, the Cal Poly community honored biology student Genesis Glover as one of this year’s MLK Legacy Award winners. She accepted the award along with Christina Sholars Ortiz, coordinator for the Black Academic Excellence Center. Glover, the vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU), received the award after growing into leadership roles on campus. She sat down with Cal Poly News to discuss her proudest moments in BSU, her ambition to be a surgeon, and the inspiration she gets from her father, alumnus and NASA astronaut Victor Glover.

How did it feel to receive the MLK Legacy Award?
It was truly humbling and inspiring. I'm honored to have even been recognized for contributing to the ideals and principles that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for. When Nailah [DuBose] called my name, I was just stunned. There were a lot of emotions: I was excited, nervous, proud, and grateful for the support that those have provided by standing by my side. I felt a deep commitment to the community and then to also continue the work towards justice, equality, diversity and inclusion. Also, just furthering BSU's work in creating a supportive and loving community both on and off campus. And I was grateful that we were acknowledging the legacy that Dr. King had left for us.

How did you get involved with BSU, and what do you feel most proud in your work as a board member?
My parents went here, so they were familiar with clubs and organizations on campus, and they're like, “You need to join the Black Student Union.” I wasn't super social; I liked to stay to myself. But then my roommate, who also happened to be African American, Black-identifying, said, “No, we're going to go.” I made some friends and got to know some people. And then my second year, I ran for board as secretary. Just being on board, I really got to learn the values and the meaning behind why BSU is on campus and what our goals are. I just fell in love with that and the people that I've met, all the intelligent individuals.

I'm proud that we started up our peer-to-peer mentorship program last year. We pair experienced upperclassmen with incoming students, either transfers or freshmen. We educate our upperclassmen in providing guidance to our underclassmen, provide them academic support, and then hopefully they become lifelong friends. This past this past January, we took 31 people, including BSU members, advisors and faculty and staff to the 2024 Afrikan Black Coalition Conference in Santa Barbara. While we were there, I felt that we were able to connect with each other on a deeper level and discover more about ourselves — learn more about our history where we come from, our roots. That was really cool to see.  

You’re on the pre-med track in your biology major. Why are you interested in a career in medicine? 
According to the National Institutes of Health, 0.79% of surgeons are African American females. To me, it's not just a statistic, but a powerful motivator in my journey towards being a doctor. I've always wanted to become a surgeon — at first, I started off as a neurosurgeon, but now I'm more interested in trauma. I find the intricacies of the human body fascinating. But more importantly, I'm passionate about helping others. I want to be able to give back to the community and hopefully have a positive impact on my patients.

My dream has kind of expanded: I still want to become a trauma surgeon, but I also would like to eventually establish a hospital dedicated to providing equitable, inclusive and humane care. I would hope to run the hospital and choose who is a caregiver so that patients are able to rely on their doctors to give them care that they need.

How have you seen Cal Poly’s campus climate change in your time as a student?
[During] my first year, I think I only had two classes where I wasn't the only African American, and I've been the only African American female in all my classes. But this year I feel like the African American and Black population on campus has increased. I think that's the biggest positive change that Cal Poly has had within the time that I've been here. Now that I am more involved with BSU as vice president, I feel like a lot of our faculty and staff, our college, our deans are super supportive of us, our mission, and our goal as well.

Dionna, Genesis and Victor Glover smile holding a green Cal Poly banner
Dionna, Genesis and Victor Glover on campus in 2022. Photo by Joe Johnston.

How do you feel you’ve grown during your time at Cal Poly?
My junior year in high school, the whole world shut down. I also spent my entire senior year online because my dad had gone to space, and we had to quarantine. I was kind of shy. I also didn't really take on many leadership roles just because I didn't like the attention. Starting my first year here, we were still half in person and half not in person. But I was going from not going out at all to now walking on a college campus — such a dramatic, drastic difference. And I'm far away from home, so it kind of forced me to come out of my shell a little bit.

I feel like now, I'm more outspoken. I don't shy away as much from the spotlight anymore. A good example of this: I was the student moderator for the 2023 Baker Forum last quarter. I'm super proud of that because I know that's not something that I would have been able to do a couple years ago. I feel like Cal Poly has provided me so many opportunities to fully embrace who I am and discover the voice that I have — to learn to be a better leader.

I have a sister here. Not only am I a student, but now I’ve got to watch out for my sister. Even though we're far away from our family, we still have each other. It’s made me push myself harder so that I can be a good influence on her. I don't want her to catch me slipping. It has motivated me to be a better version of myself so I can help her be a better version of herself.

Your dad, Victor Glover, is an inspiration to many as a Navy pilot and NASA astronaut. How has he inspired you?
You hear the term, “the sky's the limit” or “shoot for the stars.” And literally my dad embodies that. I know he's worked so hard, and that inspires me to work hard as well for what I want to do. But I also noticed behind the scenes, he makes time for the things that he wants. He’s a NASA astronaut, a Navy pilot, and he still makes time for friends, family the community. Family's a big motivating factor for my father. He is so busy but still makes time for all of us. I'm always assured that I know my dad cares for me. You can take on whatever role you want and still have time for other things that you're interested in, like family, friends, hobbies.

Both of my parents are super inspiring. My mom, Dionna (who also went to Cal Poly) is a big support to my whole family. Without my mother, the Glovers just wouldn't be the Glovers.

I have gigantic shoes to fill, and I tell my dad all the time, “I want to be bigger and better than you.” As the oldest daughter, I’m motivated to become the best version of myself — really shoot for the stars and make sure that I accomplish my dreams.

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