Nelly Cruz is the University Innovation Alliance Fellow at the University of California, Riverside. She is a scholar-practitioner passionate about advocating for educational equity and promoting student success. Most recently, Nelly served as the assistant director of a first-year experience program to facilitate a successful transition for high school and community college students into university life. Her professional experiences include working with Upward Bound, undergraduate admissions, peer-based programs, and she has taught student success courses. Nelly is a first-generation college student and proud alumna/student of the University of California, Riverside. She earned a B.A. in public policy and sociology, an M.Ed., and is finishing her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy.