Q&A with Rafael Becerril Arreola

For Hispanic Heritage Month, UofSC Today spoke with several faculty members about why they came to the university, the focus of their work and how their background informs their outlook. 

Rafael Becerril Arreola is an associate professor of marketing in the Darla Moore School of Business. He investigates the effects of socioeconomic factors on consumer behaviors, business decisions and market outcomes.

Becerril was born in Mexico but has traveled the world, working in Korea and Hong Kong. He earned an undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering at the Toluca campus of ITESM in Mexico; a Master of Applied Science in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto; and a doctorate in management from UCLA. 

Tell us something about your background/heritage that shapes who you are and that you wish more people understood.

What I have thought of as very Mexican of me, very Latino, is hard to say anymore. We have strong families, but so do Asians and a lot of other groups. Foods and traditions shape a person, but once you have traveled, one may become a little less focused on your heritage.

A lot of Americans think of Hispanics as people with low education, working in particular types of jobs, and who have certain upbringing and principles. What I wish is that more people were more aware of the diversity of Latinos. There are a lot of differences among us.

Have you been able to connect with others who share a similar background, either at the university or in the broader community? If so, how?

Yes, I am a member of the Latino and Hispanic Faculty Caucus, which is an avenue to get to know other Latino faculty. Even though there are not many of us at the University of South Carolina, the caucus exposes you to different ideas and ways of thinking which is a nice thing.

Did your background/where you grew up shape your decision to get into higher education and become a professor?

Yes and no. No, in the sense that I grew up in a small city in Mexico and I didn’t know anyone with a Ph.D. There was no one in my family with a postgraduate education. 

And, yes, because the environment wasn’t very conducive to social mobility. You know there are opportunities outside of home so that kind of pushed me. I like academics, research and continuous learning. The realization that it was a good way to open doors gave me the push in this direction.

Who are your Hispanic or Latino/Latinx role models? Any favorite Hispanic- or Latino/Latinx-themed music, movies, books?

I see role models as someone you respect and would like to emulate in some ways. Two people that have made important contributions to the country are Cesar Chavez and Sonia Sotomayor. I may not agree with everything they have done and said, but I respect certain things they have achieved. Cesar Chavez started with little in life, but he achieved a lot. It’s not because he became famous, but because he was able to shape labor markets, fight for the rights of people, make lives better for the Latino community and improve the rights of workers of all races. And Justice Sonia Sotomayor, it could not have been easy for her to reach where she is. The fact that she did it is something to respect regardless of political views. 

One of my favorite books is Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. He is a great journalist and does very good work. And there are a number of Mexican American directors who have done some fine work, including Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro.

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