Gabby Mansilla

Gabriela Mansilla
Graduate Degrees: 
Associate in Science, Emphasis in Biological Sciences
Graduation Year: 

When Gabriela Mansilla moved from Guatemala to the United States at age 25 seeking a college degree, she chose Mesa Community College partly because she had always been drawn to the beauty of Arizona. She was pleased to discover MCC fit her needs in multiple ways, with a staff deeply committed to helping students. Mansilla excelled and is this year’s Class Honors Speaker.

“While researching, I realized how large and dynamic the MCC campus was as well as the diversity of students,” Mansilla said. “Plus, the college offered the opportunity to participate in clubs and also be a student worker, which was really important to me.”

Raised by a hard-working single mother and her grandmother, finances were an ever-present obstacle.

“The only reason why I am where I am is thanks to a lot of sacrifice and help from my mom and grandmother, several years of working long hours at challenging jobs, and the encouragement and support I received from close friends,” said Mansilla, 30, of Phoenix. “I also faced the challenge of having been out of school for years before I started my associates (I graduated high school in 2009), so I had to start most subjects from scratch including math and biology and build up from the basics.”

However, Mansilla admits that those experiences have shown her the value of discipline, hard work, perseverance and strength. She is currently completing her optional practical training as a Laboratory Coordinator at an integrative oncology clinic. With acceptance offers from universities both in Arizona and Florida, Gabriela plans to continue her studies to obtain her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and go on to pursue a graduate degree in biomedicine.

“I have learned to always appreciate and make the most of any and all opportunities that come my way. Even when things are outside of my comfort zone I try to seize every ‘open door’ that is available to me because I know that for years my dream was to have access to those opportunities, and for years I was faced with closed doors, the word ‘no,’ the phrase ‘you can't,’ the phrase ‘your dreams are unattainable,’ etc.” she said. “Believing that I could one day get here regardless of all of that is what kept me going. As a woman in STEM, I know that I will need that discipline, work ethic and resilience in order to succeed in my field. I work at a clinic with 11 doctors and only two of them are women, so I know that medicine and science are still fields where women have to work extremely hard in order to be successful.”

While on campus, Mansilla became a member of Psi Beta (Psychology Honor Society), ASMCC (student government), Phi Theta Kappa (International Honor Society), the Student Success Foundation, and worked part-time in the New Student Welcome Room.

She was inducted into the national award-winning Upsilon Chapter of Sigma Chi Eta (the National Communication Association community college honor society) and recognized with the Honors Achievement Award, the John Ohl Memorial Scholarship, and Award of Academic Excellence from the MCC Social Science and Microbiology departments. Mansilla also received the Mary Alcorn Scholarship and the J. Delores Griffel Scholarship.

She named several people at MCC who helped her immensely, including biology professors Dr. Jill Raymond and Dr. Francesca De Martini; Beth Ann Wright of ASMCC; Elena Matus McDonald, counselor; Amelia Wintz and Lucy Rayford of student services; and Warren Brookson, her manager at the Enrollment Center, among others.

“Brookson was more than a manager,” she said. “He became my mentor and one of the number one supporters of my MCC journey.”

Her ultimate goal is to utilize science in order to help cure/treat illnesses.

“I'm very passionate about microbiology and currently work in (and am learning more about) oncology,” she said.

Mansilla said she will never forget the fact that she always felt like she belonged at MCC.

“Being an older student and an international student, I was really scared about finding that sense of ‘belonging,’ and it was something that was automatic,” she said. “I would recommend to others that they participate on campus, join clubs, volunteer, go to events, join societies. It will enrich not only your college experience but also your life.”