Check below, by state, first generation faculty and staff that here at Mesa Community College!
Colleges attended: Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University.
Degree: Bachelors of Science in Justice Studies, Political Science. Summa Cum Laude (honors)
Savana Martinez, Admin Specialist for Fire Science/EMT
My experience as a fist-generation college student was not necessarily easy, but was definitely made easier due to my incredibly hard-working and caring family members. My family came to this country from Mexico in search of opportunity, and made a living working labor-intensive jobs for three generations before me. This motivated me to pursue higher education, and push myself to overcome many of the barriers that were set for them. Like many first-gen college students, I often suffered from what we call “imposter syndrome.” The belief that I did not really belong, I hadn’t done enough, or I didn’t somehow earn my accomplishments. My family was supportive, but navigating the college process alone can be intimidating. I had to frequently remind myself that: it was okay to ask for help, I set the standards for my own success, and I am my own advocate. Now, as a Specialist in the Fire Science Department, I hope I can be that beacon of support for many future first-generation students who come to MCC.
Picture taken at White House during a White House Summit on Education
Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Arizona State University
Master of Arts Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University
Master of Education Educational Leadership, Northern Arizona University
Antonio Bracamontes, Director for Early College Programs
Insert images here, one after another as a freshman student at ASU, I recall my first experience of visiting the university and completing orientation as being filled with excitement and anticipation. That feeling of excitement was quickly overcome by intimidation as I realized I was one person in a sea of hundreds, and one of only a handful that actually looked like me. As I sat in orientation trying to identify my first semester of courses, I quietly began doubting myself. As luck would have it my cousin, one of just a few people I knew who had a college degree, called to check in on my orientation. I explained I was feeling overwhelmed and out of place. She quickly sprang into action and put me in contact with a mentor of hers from when she was a student at ASU. During the lunch break, I went to the Multicultural Student Services Office to meet with this mentor who helped unpack the details of orientation and without directly saying it, assured me that I belonged. That phone call from my cousin, along with the countless others that would ensue over the next 4.5 years, is ultimately what saw me through my undergraduate career. In addition to the mentorship relationships, I was in the ASU Marching Band and The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps which provided me a network of friends who were also attending ASU. Like many, I changed my major 3-4 times but eventually, I settled on a program of study and as a requirement to graduate I had to complete an internship. I was fortunate to be able to intern for Arizona’s first Latinx member of Congress, the late Rep. Ed Pastor, where I witnessed first-hand the many issues facing our community. This would eventually lead to internships with The Arizona Attorney General’s Office, The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and in Washington D.C. at the US Department of Commerce. All of these experiences stair-stepped off the other, but it all started with the decision to go to and graduate from college. Despite the challenges, I endured during my studies I never lost sight of what motivated me to go to college, my family. In the most trying of times, I often reminded myself that I was standing on the shoulders of those that came before me while paving the way for those that will come after me.
Arizona State University Bachelor of Science, Exercise Science 2001
Arizona State University Master of Science, Kinesiology 2004
Michelle Jung- Wellness Fitness Supervisor and Adjunct Faculty - Exercise Science
If I had to use one word to describe my undergraduate years in college it would be “lost”. It truly describes the path of discovery, mistakes, and experiences I had, both positive and negative. Although neither of my parents graduated college it was always expected that I would. Both parents were immigrants and had me at a later stage in their life so there were cultural and generational challenges too.
My parents said I had to attend college but there was no money to support me through it. It was up to me to figure out how to apply, enroll, register and pay for classes. I was expected to do well, but my parents could not provide any guidance for what that meant or how to achieve it. It was also the mid-late 1990’s, so we were on the cusp of the technology “boom” - the first time I had email was my freshman year, and nothing was online yet. By my senior year everything was online so there was a lot of rapid change.
I changed majors 4 times because I didn’t understand college. It was impossible at 18 to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! It took me 5 years to finish my undergrad program because of wrong class choices and working full-time. I almost dropped out twice because I couldn’t pay for my tuition, and ended up taking out student loans that I couldn’t afford - I’m still paying them off nearly 20 years later.
We didn’t have a lot of the programs that are now available to students that help them navigate the process - I would have benefited immensely from that! I was lucky to meet great mentors and friends who helped me successfully complete college and continue my education. That support was the key for me to keep moving forward. Overall, my experience was challenging but taught me a lot about self-sufficiency. I learned from the mistakes I made to avoid making them again, and it motivated me to pursue a career in higher education to help students facing similar challenges.
Mesa Community College
Arizona State University- Supply Chain Management
Zhaowen Ruan- Program Advisor/Success Coach with Student Success Programs
My name is Zhaowen Ruan. I am currently a Program Advisor at Mesa Community College
(MCC)’s Student Success Programs. My college life was not that easy because both of my
parents did not go to college. My family and I moved to the U.S. from China when I was 17
years old. I always wanted to go to college because I believed a college degree would help me to
have a better life. However, I did not know what to do and how to start. Luckily, my cousin
connected me with an advisor who was working at the Multicultural Affairs at MCC. He guided
me through the admission and registration process. He also explained the degree requirements
and course sequence. In addition, he assisted me with my FAFSA application (financial aid).
I started at MCC as an ESL student. My major at that time was nursing because my uncle told me
that if I become a registered nurse in the U.S., I could make good money, and it would be easy
for me to find a job. After I took my first nursing-related class, I changed my major because I
did not think I could complete the program. I studied business instead because I understood the
course materials, and I believed I could complete the program. My advisor encouraged me to
participate in a student club named Asian Pacific Islander Coalition. I met many good friends
from the club and had improved my English-speaking skill by participating in school events and
activities. I was glad that I had connected with someone from the school for guidance because I
would not be able to navigate through the college system by myself.
Arizona State University – BA in Theatre Design and Management
Ruth Sagar- Production Manager | Performing Arts Facilities | Theatre and Film Arts
Terrifying… Am I allowed to say that? I did not have a family that understood what it meant to step onto a college campus. I was the youngest of five and created some very unrealistic and toxic ideas of who I needed to be, what I needed to do not only for myself but for my family. I will also say that in addition to managing the first semester of higher ed jitters, my self-imposed hurdles of achievement, my father, unexpectedly passed away. It felt like I was an alien to my family and my new peers just did not get me.
As that first semester progressed things did get less terrifying. I tapped into counseling services on campus and found ways to manage my anxiety and depression. Therapy and mental health became my anchors of stability. I joined the leadership team within two student initiatives; Playwrights On Campus, and Student Production Board. In these spaces, I found the comradery I was lacking. I found myself creating art with friends and future colleagues. I found a comfort that I didn’t know I needed.
As the years continued on, I quickly finished out all of my degree-specific credits. This quick-paced approach to getting what I had to get done out of the way allowed me to close my BA with a lot of fun electives that challenged my craft and helped me codify the human that I would become after I had my diploma in my hands. I started working within my community, I found a love for the social sector. This exploration opened employment opportunities that I never imagined. After I left my undergrad I always thought I would live the gig life that so many theatre practitioners live. I left my undergrad with a contract for a full season of theatre ahead of me and a full-time position working within a non-profit organization. I felt the passion for creation and the connection of giving to those in our community that far too often went overlooked.
University of Arizona- BA Psychology
Arizona State University: Master of Social Work
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
Joy Carter- Resource Specialist with Student Support Programs
My experience as a first-generation college student is difficult to describe. It was exciting, scary, overwhelming, and confusing at times. I went to a very small high school that at the time was in the middle of the desert. My graduation class size was just 75 students. Going to a big college like the University of Arizona was quite an adjustment for me. The campus was huge and there were so many buildings, I didn’t even know where to start. For some reason I wasn’t able to get into the freshman orientation, so I was really on my own. I remember going to campus with my mom to check things out and get signed up for classes. We had no idea where to go and confused counseling with advising (at my high school at that time the counselors did academic advising). Luckily, a student saw me and my mom walking around looking confused and showed us around. She even took us to her dorm room. I was also fortunate to get connected to the MERITS program, which provided peer support and services for first-generation “minority” students and students with financial need. I eventually became a peer support myself and a student coordinator for the program. My participation in that program has led to lifelong friendships and people I have kept in contact with for many years after college. My ability to complete my education was due in large part to the support I received from the MERITS program, instructors, staff, other students, and my family. I am now a resource specialist at MCC and I am happy to help students connect to on-campus and community resources to meet basic needs so they can successfully reach their educational goals.
University of Southern CA, BA in Sociology 1994
Arizona State University, MA in Sociology 1997
Arizona State University, Ed.D in Education 2018
Mona Scott, Faculty American Indian Studies & Sociology
I grew up poor. We ate government cheese sandwiches for a week at a time, often had utilities turned off, and bought food stamps from those who were worse off. I grew up on the Navajo Nation, in Winslow, Arizona and in South Central Los Angeles. I graduated from a predominantly Black and Mexican American high school a mile from the University of Southern California (USC). I chose USC because my best friend at the time, Lisa Leslie, said she had signed with SC to play basketball and we should go together. I grew up on the grounds of SC. My younger brother Jimmy and I would play on the super-soft grass as kids. Later, in high school, when my friends and I got bored at Manual Arts High, we would sneak off campus to a class or the library at SC. We were all smart. Ericka was taking a math class at SC because our high school didn’t offer calculus. SC wasn’t intimidating because it was in the heart of MY hood. Once I became a Trojan, things were different. The first week in my dorm suite a guy across the hall yelled out the “N” word. I was down to whoop some a*&#. No one confessed to who said it and I made it clear that was NOT an unacceptable word to utter, much less yell. Imagine me saying that as an 18-year old kid from the rez and the hood. It was aggressive. Luckily, I had some brilliant professors in Sociology, African American Studies, and Philosophy who helped me focus more on my studies and future than the crap going on around me. I was in college during the Rodney King police violence that led to rioting in my community. I knew I had to make it out of the system. Street knowledge in the form of rap taught me that. I also loved the smell, design, and collections in the near 100-year old Doheny library. It was my sanctuary as well as were the many women of color in staff positions at the college. They took care of me and helped me navigate a completely foreign world in the center of my community. One day I saw myself in Nazli Kabria, sociology professor. I thought I will become a professor, and I did. USC was an experience that cannot be replicated. I feel lucky to have attended such a prestigious university.
Truman State University
Majors: Mathematics and Psychology Education
Certification: Coaching certificates in softball, basketball, track, and field hockey
University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
La Crosse, WI
Major: College Student Personnel
Minor: Gender and Women’s Studies
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO
Field: Higher Education Leadership
Dissertation: “Affinity Development in Undergraduate Students”
Lori Berquam- Interim President
Why go to college? What can it offer me? What if I flunk out? These are questions I
asked myself, long ago, when I first started entertaining the idea of doing something no
one in my family had ever considered – go to college.
My parents were the first in their families to graduate from high school and as the
eldest of seven, I was the first in my immediate family and my extended family to attend
college. It was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I was constantly plagued
with doubt and regularly asked myself:
Am I smart enough?
Will I have enough money?
Am I strong enough?
Will others see me as an imposter?
Will I be able to stick with it?
I stuck with it. It was not easy. I lived in a residence hall with three other women. I had a
work-study job; I was a Pell recipient. Receiving a college degree was a big deal to me. It
was also a huge step for my family, even though they had no idea what a Bachelor’s
degree was or what doors it would open.
I am where I am today, is because there were people who believed in me. Staff and
faculty saw something in me that I did not see in myself! Many I did not know or did not
know well. One person, in particular, shared this quote by Carl Rogers:
“What you are to be,
You are now becoming. “
Indeed, what I am to be – I am now in the midst of becoming. It is a lifelong process.
You too ARE becoming. It may not always be easy. You may get frustrated at times. You
may question yourself. Persist. There may be naysayers. Do not give in to them. Do not
give them access to your heart. You are strong. You can DO THIS! You have more
support than you may think. You will graduate.
Getting a college degree gave to the confidence and courage to push on and I did! I am
the first (and the only) in my family to receive a Ph.D., a master’s degree, and a bachelor’s
degree and I am still in the process of becoming!
University of New Mexico, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Family Studies
Northern Arizona University, Master of Education in Educational Leadership
Carmen Newland- Senior Associate Vice President
I remember my first few days at college being a combination of excitement and fear. I was excited about the opportunity to learn, meet new people, and prepare for my future, but I was also afraid that I would fail and let my family down. I was invited to join the College Enrichment Program at the University of New Mexico. It was a program for first-generation, low-income, or minority students from rural areas. That program provided me so much support through mentoring, advising, employment, and counseling. It provided me the support that I didn’t know I needed.
I had a hard time making decisions my first year in college and often just did what my friends were doing. I picked the same major as my high school friend, took the same classes, and went to the same events. Learning to make my own decisions and finding my own path forward was hard for me, but that was probably the most important thing that I learned during my college experience.
One of the hard things about being the first in my family to go to college was that my family members didn’t always understand what I was doing or what I was going through when things would get tough. They probably still don’t understand my college experience or what I do professionally, but they all know and understand that I love my job and that I love working with college students.
Arizona State University
Ph.D. Linguistics & Applied Linguistics
Graduation Expected: May 2021
California University of Pennsylvania
2020 – M.A. Criminal Justice Studies: Concentration in Forensic Linguistics
2014 – ISSFLA Certificate: Forensic Linguistic Analysis I
Seton Hill University
2004 – M.A. Writing Popular Fiction
John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York)
New York, NY
1997 – B.A. Criminal Justice
University of Baltimore
Undergraduate studies: Jurisprudence
Northern Virginia Community College
Undergraduate studies: Administration of Justice
Bootsie Martinez- Adjunct Faculty, Administration of Justice
Neither of my parents graduated from college, and I am the only one of my generation
in my Mexican family to earn a college degree. No one gave me any direction about
higher education because they didn’t know anything about it. I attended community
college because it was easy to sign up. At the time, I was married to a Green Beret who
had PTSD, and I had a young child. I worked multiple jobs while going to school, so the
flexible class schedule was vital.
I never felt like I belonged in college. I later found out this is called “imposter syndrome,”
and many, many first-generation college students feel this way. But the truth was that
even though I could only take a couple of classes at a time, I was earning good grades.
So I really did belong there, even if no one in my family could validate that.
I had a good advisor when I transferred to John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In my
senior year, I announced I wanted to register for a class in Swahili, which was not in my
major. My advisor yelled at me in frustration because I already had a lot of credits but
no degree. “Focus!” he told me. “You need to graduate.”
Five years later, I went for a master’s degree in fiction writing because I wanted to do
two things: write a novel and teach college. I achieved both goals. Later, I went for a
second master’s in forensic linguistics, which is the field I consult in. (Forensic
linguistics is where language meets the law.)
In 2016, I began a doctoral program in linguistics, which I should complete in 2021. I
discovered the best way to go to graduate school is to apply for a funded Ph.D.
program, which means that the university pays you to attend and covers your tuition.
By approaching my studies one semester at a time, I have become an educated person
who is a first-generation American and a first-generation college student and who, by
next year will have earned a doctorate.
Mesa Community College: Associates in Arts and General Education
WIlkes University: Bachelor Degree in Business Management
Jescida Douangchanh- Student Services Specialist with Career Services
My experience as a First-Generation Student was a chaotic privilege. I knew where I wanted to end up, I just did not know the how and it was up to me to figure it out. I had to face the chaos one day, one class, and one semester at a time. Luckily, at Mesa Community College it is very difficult to avoid all the resources set out to set students up for success. I stumbled into all the right departments and campus connections that led me to earn my degree without having to pay for it. One of my goals at MCC is to be sure that students do not have to stumble, rather find comfort in knowing they have a support system rooting for them every step of the way.
Meeting mentors on campus was instrumental to my success as a student. Having not only a support system but a driving force constantly pushing me to assume more responsibility challenged me to become a better student and a more confident student leader. Mentors on campus are usually sources of abundant knowledge in scholarships, resources, opportunities, and experiences that can be the difference between paying for school and not. With some courage, trust, and connection brand new First-Generation Students can build life-long relationships that will change their lives. Because I have had the privilege to have amazing mentors in my life, I am eager to invest my time and effort into students just as I was invested in. I encourage all students to take leaps of faith and lean on the many supporters they have around them.
University of Texas-El Paso, BS Psychology 1982
University of Texas- Austin, MA English Lit 1987
Jaime Herrera- English Faculty
I was the first in my family, second in my entire extended family, all of us from México,
to attend university and finish an undergraduate degree.
My parents both finished grade school and had always been generally supportive of my
education, but they did not know what it meant to attend a university. Neither did I.
I was aimless after high school and started attending the University of Texas at El Paso
because two of my best friends were starting there to study engineering. I just tagged along.
I almost dropped out that first year, but I hung on, too stubborn to quit and not knowing
what else to do.
My friends were good influences. I also had a psychology professor who advised me on
coursework and was infinitely patient with me when I would literally just walk into his office
with no idea what I was doing in school. He believed in me and that helped me believe in me. I
got several jobs on campus and soon I felt at home on campus, even though I still lived at
home. It also helped that many of the students at UT El Paso were Mexican, like me. I started to
find myself and my place.
Those four years flew by. I enjoyed my university experience and, as I look back, I am
infinitely grateful I took that path. When I attended the University of Texas for graduate school,
I was in for some major culture shock and homesickness, but after almost running back home
after two weeks, I stuck it out and realized I could compete with all my classmates from
prestigious undergraduate programs. That helped me grow as well.
Many years later, my cousin sent his son to live with us in Arizona for a brief period of
time to start school at ASU. They both told me that, unbeknownst to me, I had been a role
model for the family, the first to leave home and attend a graduate program. I don’t think I
realized that until then, and now I am proud that several others in my family have followed the