CAL Graduating Class of 2020

In this series, we highlight several graduates as they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their lives, including those who have secured jobs and internships or are moving into advanced studies.

Here is a chance for you to hear from our students in their own words. It provides insight into their goals and a snapshot of their experiences at SDSU.

We look forward to watching these students make a difference in the world.

Students Pursuing Graduate Degrees

Calvin BryanDegree: Economics M.A.

Campus affiliations: Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue (your major) as an area of study?

I grew up in a small town outside of Austin, Texas and attended undergrad at Texas A&M University in College Station.  After finishing my degree in bioenvironmental sciences, I went on to teach sixth grade Math and coach girls’ basketball through the Teach For America in Memphis, Tennessee.  Then I moved to Colorado and worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a forestry technician and wildland firefighter, also teaching skiing during the winters. In each of these different jobs that I had, I kept finding practical applications to the economics courses from undergrad. Working for a federal agency, I saw firsthand how inefficient they could be in some ways. This motivated me to go back to school and get my master’s degree in economics, which is what brought me to San Diego State!

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

During the spring of my first semester in the master’s program I took Professor Abman’s Applied Research in Econometrics course, where we were assigned a semester-long research project to perform using the methods we were learning in class on a subject we found interesting. One night while working on this project an extremely rare phenomenon happened; I was having fun doing my homework! At this point, I knew that I wanted to go on to get my Ph.D .so that I could do research of my own in an academic setting.

Over the summer, I started researching which Ph.D. programs fit my interests the most while also studying for the GRE. When the fall came around, I continued attending the research seminars put on by the Center For Health Economics and Policy Studies (CHEPS) and met with all of the speakers, picking their brain about what the Ph.D. application process looked like and what the strengths of their programs were. By the end of fall I had narrowed down my list to the schools that I wanted to apply to and I submitted all of my applications over winter break. My goal at the Ph.D. level is to research methods to mitigate large-scale wildland fires, hopefully in an academic setting after I finish.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I applied to a handful of schools, and received my first official acceptance letter in early February. My initial reaction was a feeling of relief, knowing that all my hard work up to that point had paid off. Later that month I found out I had been accepted into the school I ended up choosing (Colorado State) and that’s when I really felt excitement.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?

1) Seek out opportunities to start doing research now. I was fortunate enough to take on a role as a research assistant with Professor Joe Sabia when I first arrived at San Diego State. While working for him, I was able to get my hands dirty with all of the facets of the research process.

2) Start thinking about what it is you specifically want to study at the next level. Knowing exactly what I wanted to research proved to be an invaluable asset when opening up a dialogue with professors in departments all across the country.  What you might want to focus on could change, but having fleshed out ideas now will only open doors for you.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

Taking all of the skills I have been developing in the master’s program at SDSU and starting to apply them to researching topics that I’m passionate about!

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies puts on a weekly seminar series arranged by Professor Sabia, attending these has absolutely changed my life. It was this initial exposure to impactful policy research that first started grabbing my attention for what different topics an economist can research. There were so many cool topics that came through the seminar series, including the long-term effects of exposure to violent media content, how Craigslist could be impacting violence against women, the long run effects of having a same-race teacher, or ways immigrant inflows could be affecting healthcare quality. This seminar series really raised my awareness of the multitude of topics an economist can study.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Always make sure to learn something new every single day.  When you rest, you rust.

Daphne CalaguaDegrees: Sociology B.A. and Leadership Development B.A.

Campus Affiliations: Commuter Life Lead Mentor, Alliance 4 Commuter Involvement graduate, NASPA Undergraduate Fellow Program 2019-2020

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your area of study?

I have been working with Student Life & Leadership, Commuter Life since my first year at SDSU. In the beginning, I was paired with a mentor through the mentoring program offered by Commuter Life and little by little, I started to see the value in peer to peer support and became a mentor myself. Once I became a mentor, I had the amazing opportunity to work with graduate students from the Postsecondary Educational Leadership Student Affairs (PELSA) program here at SDSU. Working with them and seeing the compassion they brought to Student Life & Leadership, specifically to commuter students, encouraged me to do my part and be there for students like me. It was during my third year when I officially set my goals to applying to the program.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

During my third year, I started to really think about what exactly I wanted to do once I graduated. Working with Commuter Life for a while and having the experience mentoring students and overseeing mentors, made me realize how passionate I am of being there for students like me. I realized how important it is that there are resources and people on campus to support students, especially those who do not live on campus. I knew I wanted to work with students, but I was not aware of how to get there. While I was working along side the graduate students for Commuter Life as their lead mentor, one of the graduate students had shared with me that there is a master’s program for what I was looking for. Up until that point I was unaware of the Postsecondary Educational Leadership Student Affairs program, but after I learned about it, I knew it was something I wanted to do.

I started the process of applying to graduate school in the summer of 2019. The CAL STATE application for the PELSA program was due in mid-October and the graduate program application was due mid-January. I conducted informational meetings with faculty, staff, and past graduate students of the program to ask about their view of supporting students, their experience and any advice they have for an aspiring student affairs professional. In October of 2019, I turned in my CAL STATE application and began working on my personal statement. During that time, I also started reaching out to faculty and staff that I wanted a letter of recommendation from. As I was wrapping up my personal statement, my cover letter, resume and started to receive my letters of recommendations, I finally took the GRE in early December and turned in my whole graduate program application on January 8, 2020.

There was a special process however, before receiving the acceptance letter. During mid-February, the PELSA program held a two-day social event where potential recipients of the program were invited to mingle with each other. Each recipient had an interview for the PELSA program and another interview for a possible graduate assistantship. After those two-days, it was time to wait.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

After waiting for about a week-and-a-half, I finally received my acceptance letter on Monday, March 2.

I remember the moment I received it like it was yesterday. I had just got to my 4 pm large lecture class in Peterson Gym. The class was about an hour into lecture when I saw that I got an email. At the moment, my mind was thinking about homework, what was due next class and other student related things. I opened my email and I read the title of the email, “MA Postsecondary Educational Leadership & Student Affairs – Admissions Update.”

I immediately closed my laptop and asked a friend to watch my things as I prepared to take a step outside. My heart was racing as I was walking toward the outdoor area behind my class. I sat at a bench and opened the email on my phone and finally read that I was accepted into the program. I was so happy I cried, I called my partner, I was jumping up and down by myself in the courtyard. I knew I was missing some of the lecture but at that moment, I wanted to take it in as much as possible. I was so happy and proud of myself. It was a really powerful moment for me to have and I can’t express how special it was.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post-graduation?

My advice would be to go for it. I think that once you have that fire in you to go to school, and you are used to the routine of doing homework and being at school, to keep pushing that fire and that drive and pursue your education. I also would advise that you look into something that you genuinely want to be knowledgeable about. As much as we say to get a better job, I think you will enjoy your experience in graduate school if it is in something you want to learn or learn more about. So, go for it and do it for you!

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I am looking forward to meeting like-minded people. I think the student affairs area of study is amazing and it’s a different feeling for me to be surrounded by people who think like me. I am excited to focus on a subject that I have been excited to learn more about and meet new people.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The experience at SDSU that changed my life the most was during my first semester as a Commuter Life Academic Mentor. All of my mentees were first year commuter students and so my role was to support them holistically the best way that I can.

I was in my second year and I was wrapping up my meetings with my first caseload of mentees at the end of the fall semester. The moment that changed my life the most, was when two of my mentees gave me a card expressing how thankful they were to have a mentor like me. I was so overwhelmed and completely caught off guard. After some reflection and reading their cards, I realized that I wanted to do that for life. I wanted to be there for students. I wanted to work toward being a positive influence and support in the journeys of students like me. My mentees showing how grateful they were was more rewarding than getting paid. It really lifted my spirits up and inspired me to pursue a path where I can support students as a career. Which is why I am going into the student affairs program at SDSU.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice I have ever received is to be true to myself. I know it sounds very cliché, but my mentor at the time I heard this really emphasized how important it is to be your authentic self and to always be genuine.

We live in a world that is constantly saturated in a reality that forces us to question our worth and value. I think that loving yourself and accepting who you are (flaws and all) will help people around you to start seeing the light in you. It’s like a ripple impact.

Doing things, saying things, and listening with your heart has always kept me grounded and true to who I am as a person, and for the change I want to see in the world.

Angela GrahamDegree: Humanities B.A. and Classics minor

Campus affiliations: ΗΣΦ (classics), Umanisti

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your area of study?

It took me a while to get here. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I taught preschool for a time, but my heart wasn't in it. I was burning out, and I needed a change of scenery, so I decided to go back to my plans of earning a degree. My favorite classes were always German and history, but the required course for the German department at Grossmont was a European humanities class. The perspective was different, and I was hooked.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

It's always been in the back of my head to go as far as I possibly could with my education, but when I started classes at SDSU, my advisor (at the time) started me thinking about graduate studies. I was in frequent communication with the graduate advisor for the history program here at SDSU, and it was my first choice. I spoke with every professor I knew and asked for advice. I took my GRE a little late, but my financial restraints were the biggest factor in that decision. Luckily my results came back in time for me to make the decision to apply.

Throughout the application process, the faculty have been very helpful, which is perfect, because I'm the first in my family to go through this. I'm the trailblazer in my family and I hope I can offer advice to my friends and family when they decide to follow in my footsteps.

My passion is medieval European history and languages, so I plan to continue my classical language studies and narrow my focus on related times and cultures through continued research. I'm a human being, prone to change, but my passion has remained constant.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

My acceptance came on April 10, and I was floored! Again, I'm the first person in my immediate family to earn a bachelor's, and the only person in my extended family who has even contemplated earning a graduate degree. I was filled with doubt about my grades and my writing skills. I'm a perfectionist, and I tend to overthink everything, but when I found out that my application (to SDSU’s MA in history) was excellently received I walked around the house with a big grin on my face. My mom thought something was wrong.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?

Start looking at options early. This was one of my problems. I had thought about graduate school even when I was at Grossmont College, but I had never seriously considered which programs were right for me.

Also, once the idea of grad school gets a little more serious in your mind, talk to your advisor; talk to your professors; talk to people you know who have gone through the process. They are all full of good advice, and they are more likely to know and understand what programs will suit you.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I'm excited about working with certain professors to further my understanding of historical studies, as well as fine-tuning my research skills.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The biggest life-changer for me was meeting professors who shared my passion for higher learning and didn't laugh me out of the room when I shared my goals.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

"Don't think in terms of if, think in terms of when." My mom gave me this advice when I was a child. It's useful, when you set your mind toward something, to not shoot it down as soon as you start.

Rachel HollingerDegree: English B.A.

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue English?

I’m a naturally curious person, at least as a young girl everyone would tell me that. That curiosity though, has really supported my academic development over the years. I entered SDSU as a dance major, because it was something I had known and loved my entire life. But I always had the intent of working with people and, in one way or another, teaching people about what I love. During my sophomore year, I ended up switching majors to English, because it was challenging in a way where I was able to push myself further, both creatively and mentally, than I could in dance, and it didn’t douse my curiosity.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

Since I knew I wanted to continue my education to become an educator, the next step would have to be to enter a teaching credential program. However, I didn’t want to stop there. I specifically looked for programs where I could earn my master’s simultaneously. This summer, I will be attending the University of La Verne for their master’s in teaching with an emphasis in inclusive education, while earning a dual teaching credential.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

It was around March I began receiving official acceptances from the universities that I applied to. My first acceptance was actually from the University of La Verne, and I honestly thought it was a joke. Not that I doubt my intelligence, but I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. Once I realized it wasn’t a joke, I was so happy and I immediately called my mom.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?

Try to not forget an incredible privilege it is to have an education and study at a university. Regardless of this uncertain future we are entering now due to COVID-19, it does not mean we are any less capable, we just have to be willing to adjust our expectations. Education has taught us how to learn from our past, to take life one step at a time, to communicate better, and to appreciate detail. Let’s not take that for granted or waste what so many people around the world are not able/allowed to have. Wherever we end up, try to remember the power of education and believe in humanity.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I am really excited to actually be working in a classroom. Even though it might be cheesy, this is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and now it'll be happening! Also, since I’m moving back home for graduate school, I’m most excited about having my mom’s food again. I’ve missed that a lot! 

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

Living on campus. My sophomore year, I made some really good friends who I am confident I will stay in touch with for a long time.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

“Gentle rein.” This is from my childhood dance teacher and working with emotional little girls this was used very frequently. This meant to not get so caught up in your mistakes, or frustration. “Gentle rein” was our reminder that we aren’t perfect, and no one expects us to be, so just take a breath.

Sarah JonesDegree: Humanities B.A., Anthropology minor

Affiliations: President of Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society, Treasurer of Umanisti, Secretary of Association of Anthropology Students, Member of the Student Ability Success Center Advisory Board.

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue humanities and anthropology areas of study?

Hello! My name is Sarah Jones and I am 21 years old. I decided to pursue the humanities while in community college. I was not sure about what I wanted to do, and the humanities gave me the flexibility to decide. Additionally, when I decided that I wanted to pursue the law, I knew that I wanted to follow a public interest route and I felt that the study of humanities was uniquely suited for that because I could study what I was interested in for my path in particular. That involved a lot of culture classes and Latin, in particular, for legal jargon.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do? 

I decided to pursue my J.D. because of the insulin price gouging crisis that has been happening for several years now. I have been a type one diabetic for six years, and I have been a grassroots advocate against the price gouging of insulin. I wanted to get involved on a more substantial level, with a bigger understanding of what is going on. I felt a legal education could prepare me for that. I am interested in working against price gouging, working with people with disabilities, and potentially working in other public interest sectors. It took a lot of research as I have never known anyone in the legal field. I've spent many hours studying and working to familiarize myself with what this will entail.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my acceptance in January. My reaction was one of relief. I was so worried that after all this time I was not going to get accepted into any schools, but thankfully I was accepted and with a scholarship, no less.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?

I know it sounds cliché, but talk to your professors. If you want to go to any kind of graduate school or professional school or even need a letter of recommendation for a study abroad program, you will need a good rapport with a few of your professors. Go to office hours, talk to them before or after class, email them. Make time to build a relationship. It makes a world of difference.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I'm really ready to just start working. However, I still have three years before that happens, so I'm excited to move to Colorado and live with my brother for the first year of law school, while I transition to living in a new state.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

Building new relationships. I had never left my hometown, never moved. It was great to meet some great people with similar interests and forge friendships.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

To ask for things you think you might not get. Even if you don't, you'd be surprised how often you can get things just because you asked.

Parker KitchinDegree: Economics B.A.

Campus affiliations: SDSU Economics Tutor

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your area of study?

I had a very inspirational economics teacher in high school, which first introduced me to the subject and sparked my interest. I didn’t intend on studying it in college, but I decided to take a couple of lower division courses. At that point I knew that economics was for me, so I switched my major. Fast-forward and here I am now about to get my bachelor’s in economics. As for deciding upon the MBA for graduate school, I had a couple internships in the business realm. I enjoyed them both, and after completing them, I decided I wanted to expand my skill set outside of economics and receive a more formal business education. My dad also attended graduate school and received his MBA, which factored into my decision.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?
I decided that I wanted to go to graduate school toward the end of spring 2019. I had many people in my professional and personal circle that encouraged me to do so. I really enjoy learning and going to college, and I felt that I still had it in me to continue my education post- undergrad. Soon after, I registered for my GMAT, prepared my resume, and began applying to graduate schools.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I was both surprised and very excited; I knew that it was the start to a very important and memorable stage in my life. It was very surreal going from deciding on graduate school to receiving an acceptance letter (from two universities)  in just a few months. I feel both grateful and honored for the opportunity to continue my education, especially in the MBA program at SDSU.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?

I have a lot of advice for fellow students, so I will share what has helped me. Even if you decide against graduate school later, keep an open mind and don’t close any doors — I wasn’t sure that I was going to graduate school during most of my undergrad, but here I am now.

I would suggest keeping your GPA high, as this will be the most important factor in acceptance. Internships are also very beneficial in determining strengths, skills, and interests, and will only add to your competitiveness as a candidate.

Whether you’re taking the GMAT or GRE, take the time to study, even if it’s only a few hours a week. This not only helps increase scores but will make the test less intimidating if you’ve already worked with similar material. There are pros and cons to going to graduate school right after undergrad — do what’s best for you, but if you are willing and able to do it now, then do it. You never know what will happen down the line.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I really enjoy going to school, so I am looking forward to being a student again and learning entirely new subject material. I am also looking forward to the increased opportunities graduate school will provide me in my professional career. After I receive my MBA, I hope to either go into the business/economic consulting field or go straight into another graduate program, likely economics-based.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The quality of the economics classes and expertise of the professors has changed my life the most. I feel like I have a better understanding of how the world works, and deep understanding of the entire global economy. Learning this material really changes your outlook on life and leaves you with a completely different world view. Also, getting a job as a tutor in the economics department was very memorable and life changing — working and assisting others with the subject I am passionate about is very fulfilling.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice I received was from a former manager. He asked me a very strange question in which I couldn’t possibly be certain of the answer. I answered to the best of my ability, and afterward, he told me it was a test. He said that when faced with a complex problem or question, there are some people that will simply give up or say they don’t know, and there will be people that work to the best of their ability to provide some sort of answer, assistance, or clarity.

He of course said to always be in the second group: be a problem solver and solution creator. I think about this conversation often and use this advice regularly in a wide array of work and/or school settings.

How did you feel about receiving the honor of “CAL Outstanding Graduating Senior” for the entire college?

I felt both honored and surprised to receive this award. After two denied undergrad admissions to SDSU, I never would have imagined I’d be here now receiving this award. I have always been very passionate about college, and I’ve put lots of time, effort, and hard work into my academic and professional life. It’s a great feeling that this hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

Xinyi LuDegree: Liberal Arts and Sciences M.A. (MALAS)

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue [insert your degree area] of study?

I’m Xinyi Lu. I also go by Hazel. I was born and raised in Southeastern China. After high school, I had moved to Sydney, Australia alone, earning my B.A. in media, culture, and international communication. I completed my M.B.A. and M.A. in High Point and San Diego in the United States respectively.

I see myself as a culturally mixed individual who partially belongs to each society’s social-political culture that I have been immersed with, but am not contained by any. Practically, these experiences have given me an analytical lens viewing the world, but theoretically, the knowledge and framework I’ve been using to reflect as well as deepen the understanding of my life experiences were coming from my studies in the MALAS (The Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences) program in San Diego State University.

In the seminars where we discussed race, gender, social justice, I understood the ways through which my identities have been marginalized, racialized, and subjugated by different societies and their systems. I decided to continue expanding the study and researching to unfurl the layers of the intricate system that is socially constructed and function in different societies to erase the identities and confidence of people like me.

I have fortunately felt the power and witnessed the beauty in so many regular people that I have met around the world, some of them have become an inseparable part of my life and a crucial force for my achievement because of their wisdom, compassion, and humanity. While my experiences also have taught me to see that, the powerfulness in the value of diversity and the differences are often misunderstood/represented, downplayed, sometimes demonized in mainstream society. At the intersectionality of racism, sexism, class, and capitalism, the marginalized internalize, feeling compelled to change their self and identities to attain the unattainable; while the dominant feel the fear to get closer to and connect with the minorities. So I’ve wanted to do my part to help people to restore their pride for their cultural, racial, sexual, class histories and backgrounds, increasing socio-cultural, political inclusivity, and fostering connections amongst human beings.

That's why I found that the MALAS program fit my goals most accurately with its diverse range of seminars that pertain to discussions and examinations of the social issues that unify my personal and academic curiosities. As an artistic person, I also knew my gifts and interests in arts, that's why being able to critically assess literature, artworks, film, and music in MALAS seminars with the theoretical frameworks I learned has sparked much joy, motivation, and enlightenment in my graduate studies. I felt lucky feeling happy doing what I do in MALAS.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

I have decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree when I was taking a summer class that explores the 1960s U.S. culture, taught by the director of my department, Dr. William Nericcio. His class usually required many readings from a wide selection of authors who are from diverse ethnic, social backgrounds. I found it is one of the most rewarding learning experiences that I have had because the expansion of knowledge intensified my curiosities as I witnessed the diversities in life and got fascinated by different ways of thinking in the readings.

This was toward the end of my graduate study in SDSU as I felt this was only a beginning to the unlimitedness in knowing; I can never just stop here. As I was considering a Ph.D. program, I proceeded to read about 35 books in the following year, all regarding the subjects I hoped to further, enhancing my understanding of these topics that I have worked on in my graduate studies in SDSU, mainly including U.S. prison systems; slavery, capitalism, and racialization; gender and feminism.

Because I had also been doing qualitative research and had independent research experiences since the first year of my graduate studies under the guidance of Dr. Patricia Geist-Martin and Dr. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh respectively, I was wishing to carry my curiosities and my ability as a qualitative researcher to my Ph.D. program too. So, taking all this into consideration, I inquired with all the professors that I believed knew me well in their classes about their experiences in their Ph.D. programs and evaluated what I should seek in my future studies after talking to them.

Eventually, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. study in American Studies. Specifically, I envision to continue and open dialogues on women’s empowerment, subverting monolithic racialized, gendered representations and highlighting the effort and role of women from various socio-cultural and political backgrounds in resistance against oppressive forces. I am interested in examining the social body commodification from cultural, economic, socio-political dimensions in the context of American capitalism, particularly with an emphasis on people of color.

I also aspire to foster racial reconciliation and social justice, investigating people of colors’ negotiation between resistance and assimilation to the dominant culture, underscoring the systemic hurdles for the marginalized social groups, redefining the dominant discourse to help reclaim their social power and self-determination.

Similarly, I am looking forward to exploring and articulating the navigation of integration and alienation of diaspora identities across cultures, nationalities, classes to cultivate empowerment, resilience, and liberation for the non-conformity identities.

Lastly, I wish to further explore the reflection and impact of popular culture in gender, racial representations in arts to examine, spotlight, and replenish the agencies of the marginalized social groups. I aspire to reinforce the dignity of the marginalized, to value their truths, and repudiate the stigma of their social labels.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my official admission offer on May 5, 2020. I was watching the film “Vertigo” as I checked the email on my phone. When I saw the admission letter that said, "Congratulations!" with confetti falling on the screen, I thought I might have had vertigo too! Every sound faded into the background. It was surreal, taking me a whole night to realize that this is real. I got accepted! All the hard work that I have done really would reward me. This acceptance has altered my life track. My parents were thrilled. I emailed my professors immediately, I wanted them to know that I wouldn’t let them down. I am sincerely grateful for the people in my life. It was a great night for me to reflect upon because this type of joy was something I haven’t experienced before in life, and it also felt right because I knew I earned it. I am worthy of it.  

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?

My advice may only speak for some because each one is so individualized, but I believe it’s imperative to understand that throughout our lifetime, we will be advised constantly, and it’s crucial for us to take each piece of advice in carefully with an analytical, open mind. Because things usually aren't coming straightforward in life. It’s like creating a research topic catering to our own curiosities, we read and listen as much and as deep as we can. In the end, we need to use our own judgment deciding what are the ones that are for us at this stage of our lives, for who we are, and will lead us for who we want to become. That’s also why I find knowing ourselves and fearlessly being who we are work most effectively in our way to achieving our dreams. Others are only here to support and help. We walk our paths. I hope this makes sense.

Also, this isn’t new, but true: put in the work and stay humble, it helps us to feel more content doing the work we do. When I believe that I have tried my best, I no longer fear rejections or living in regrets because I have taken all I could take control of. I really liked the quote from James Baldwin that inspired me to be resistant and dedicated, so I wanted to share it too, “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.”

Lastly, to meet our goals and to thrive, means failing is inevitable unless you are really lucky, this is just a part of life but also is emotionally draining and hurtful. Therefore, never be afraid of reaching out for the support you need! I have talked to, leaned on my friends a lot when I was feeling weary or needing encouragement, they gave me tremendous physiological strength, and helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I am most looking forward to meeting new people, learning from them, and exploring the unexplored. The experiences of COVID-19 have made me feel more acutely aware about the vulnerabilities and limitedness in us as human beings when dealing with the unknown. I want to expand my knowledge base and get educated on science as self-empowerment also empowerment to the society. I aspire to participate in bettering the society for the people, as well as our loved ones with my expertise. I hope as an Asian (Chinese) woman, I can inspire more people like me to create and spotlight our values in the society too.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The interactions with the people. Because I feel their influences on me are most personal, direct, and unforgettable. The professors and students that I have met in my classes in the MALAS (The Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences) are one of the most special and warm ones in my graduate years. I still talk to many of them regularly because their supportiveness, kindness, and open-mindedness have been positively changing the way I view the changing world. They all have believed in me and have been giving me endless encouragement regardless of where I am and what I do.

During my studies in SDSU, people there were delightfully welcoming in a balanced, thoughtful way. They made me forget that I'm a foreigner and the only Chinese student here in class but also respected and recognized the differences amongst us. Importantly, I have met many phenomenal women at SDSU — with their intelligence, I saw the power in solidarity and female empowerment. I was inspired to challenge the barriers and stigmas in gendered norms, sexual orientations, race, creed, etc. because of them.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

My best friend Bonita told me this when I did not know how to keep pushing in life, she said, “Once I started to see the world upside down, it started making sense.”

I think it’s her way telling me to break the rules, don’t internalize, and live for myself. We are socialized to think in certain ways that aren’t always fitting for us. Our perspectives can differ from everyone’s and even sometimes is conflicted with the majority. This can feel extremely isolating but it’s not ours to internalize.

I believe there always will be people who will recognize, value, and respect your uniqueness just like how Bonita does to me.

Kyutaro MatsuzawaDegree: Economics M.A.

Campus affiliations: Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue (your major) as an area of study?

I am a San Diego native, who went to SDSU for my undergrad, my master’s, and my pre-doctoral training. I first started off as a statistics major because of my love for math and numbers. I first took an economics course because I was able to knock off both my GE and major credits from one course. Both introduction to micro and macroeconomics made me fall in love with economics, so much that I decided to pursue a minor in economics. As I took more advanced economics courses, including microeconomic theory and econometrics, I found my passion toward economics grew, and I decided to add economics as my second major, and continued on to pursue a master’s in economics.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

I always have had a passion toward teaching, so I have always wanted to receive at least a master’s, in order to  teach at the college level. During my junior year of undergrad, I had the opportunity to do economic research for my econometric course. This exercise sparked my initial interest in conducting economics research. Since then, I have always wanted to pursue a Ph.D. to research and teaching economics.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my first official acceptance around mid-February. I was so happy to read that I will be going to a Ph.D. program — I was speechless and filled with joy and happiness. Since I was working next to my professor who wrote my letter of recommendation, I immediately showed him my acceptance letter with a word of gratitude.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?        

Don’t be afraid to speak up. There are a lot of smart people who are willing to help you. So, if you keep on asking around, you will definitely find the best advice to achieve your goals.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I look forward to meeting professors and classmates at University of Oregon. I look forward to networking with them, hearing about their research and experiences, and getting the training on becoming a great scholar.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?   

The first time my paper got published as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper — it changed my life the most. I was really happy and proud that my hard work finally got rewarded. This made me realize that I love the feeling of putting in hard work. I believe this feeling I experienced will be a great incentive for me to work harder in the future.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Always put in 100% effort in things you are doing and work as hard as you can, regardless of whether someone is supervising you or not.

Alexis Paul MonroyDegree: Sociology B.A.

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your area of study?

Being the son of an immigrant father from Mexico, I was brought up with the hopes and aspirations of living the “American Dream.” My father instilled in me the work ethic and drive to excel in life. Both my parents preached the importance of “serving the community.” As an adolescent. I knew my calling was to elicit change and be a voice for the often muted. I am pursuing the field of cultural studies in hopes to bridge the gap between the scholar and activist.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

I started to look into obtaining my graduate degree at the start of my junior year. After sitting down with my professors and seeing their love for educating and research, I knew then I wanted to dedicate my life to academia.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my acceptance in December. I was both excited and nervous. Up to that point I had a career with the San Diego Sheriff's Department and with that came a safety net. But, in order to pursue my calling, I would have to take a leap of faith and invest in myself. It was one of the hardest decisions to make, and one I don’t regret.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation? The only advice I can give is to live life with humility and not to be afraid to invest in yourself.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I am looking forward to taking the next steps that bring me closer to achieving my goal of a Ph.D.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The sociology department’s faculty have been an influential part of success and growth as a young scholar. I will be forever grateful for their time and guidance.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

There is no such thing as a traditional path in education. So be persistent and forge on.

Jamie MoretzDegrees: International Security & Conflict Resolution B.A. and Latin American Studies B.A.; Geography minor and American Indian Studies minor

Campus affiliation: ISCOR Student Society and Green Love

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your many areas of study?

I grew up in a small mountain town in North Carolina and enlisted in the military twenty-one years ago. In 2007, I was given the privilege of living in an Iraqi village and the opportunity to speak with tribal elders to strengthen civil-military relations in the region. It was there I saw the disparity between cultures and experienced firsthand what it was like to be on the “south side” of the North-South gap.  It was powerful to hear the sheik say his only desire was for his village to have good water, adequate food, and safety.  This fireside chat changed my perceptions of warfare, diplomacy, and division of resources.  For several years afterward, I reflected on the sheik’s simple request and wondered why politics had to be so difficult.  I recognized there was no one easy solution to the village’s problems or the reconstruction efforts in the Middle East.

After being reassigned to the San Diego region in 2010, I had a mentor that supported higher learning.  After learning that another Marine and I were not aggressively pursuing a college degree, he took us “hostage,” forcing us to look through college catalogs and not allowing us to leave without having signed up for our first class. I reviewed SDSU’s general catalog and stumbled upon the ISCOR program. On a Friday afternoon in the fall, I met with Dr. Allen Greb and our short, but powerful, conversation changed my perception of the world. I said to myself, “This is it! Interdisciplinary approaches must be taken to help better solve the conflicts in the world and to help strengthen diplomatic relations.”

I was accepted to SDSU in 2016; however, due to supporting military operations in the Indo-Pacific theatre and a deployment reinforcing the maritime Global Response Force (GRF), I did not officially begin coursework until 2017.  The Joan and Art Barron Veteran’s Center’s ability to support Active Duty military and veterans has been very helpful during my time at the university. I was fortunate to have selected a university having such a military-friendly atmosphere.

To complement my ISCOR degree, I decided a major in Latin American studies and minors in geography and American Indian studies would be beneficial. Latin America is our closest neighbor. Their large populations, geographies, and resources provide a unique opportunity for incorporating sustainable methods and climate action plans, radically changing the economies to assist with poverty, and strengthening foreign affairs.  Furthermore, Chicanos, Hispanics, and Latinos make up the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., and knowing their histories, cultures, and languages is vital for both domestic and international policy-making. Similarly, understanding the spiritual connections the indigenous peoples of America have with nature, and how geography is being shaped by man, enhanced the environment and security focus of the degree.

When did you decide to pursue an additional degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

Following graduation, I will begin my first semester at the Fowler College of Business’s new Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management (MSCM).  When I leave active duty in 2022, I will have more time and freedom to use my skills in a wide range of environments, whether suppressing conflict through mediation, broadening international security efforts, developing models for global conservation and food security, or tackling the digital divide and cybersecurity. I think an internship will be the best option as it gives me a mentor and like-minded teammates to work with.    

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career post-graduation?

The advice I have for students looking to jumpstart their lives is the same advice given to me:

You may not get accepted to many organizations, employment, or schools the first time you apply, but if you really desire it, you will motivate yourself to keep trying. And, college is not easy.  It isn’t supposed to be. Be thankful you have professionals, true experts in their fields, devoting their time and energy to give you the skills necessary to carry on their passion and their work to make the world a better place.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Complementing this is the best piece of advice I have ever received, “Do your job.”  It is a simple statement that works in any environment.  Doing so ensures others do not have to be overworked by doing their job and yours also.  

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

Reflecting back on my experience at SDSU, four lectures changed my life the most: (1) Dr. Isidro Ortiz’s journey from fieldworker to Stanford University graduate and his activism for Chicano Rights over the past 50 years; (2) Dr. Allen Greb’s story of living in the 1960s on the brink of nuclear holocaust and his contributions to international security during the nuclear age; (3) Dr. Pablo Ben’s personal testimonies of living in Argentina during its dirty war; (4) Professor Savanna Schuerumann’s advocacy for the Delta Smelt fish (being as ecologically important as an elephant or panda).

Sam OrndorffDegree: Geography M.A.

Campus affiliations: Allies to End Detention, Geography Master's Representative, fall 2019

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue [insert your specific area of study here] your area of study?

I'm from rural Ohio and I grew up working in the environment. As I got older I became more interested in social issues. I got my B.A. in International Development Studies at Ohio State University. When I took a Geography of Development course there, it was a pivotal moment. The discipline had everything that I wanted to study -- ecology, social science, and an international scope. I also think it's important to study processes of marginalization, displacement, and environmental justice. Ever since I took that class in 2009, I knew I wanted to become a professor of geography.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree a few years after I got my bachelor's and struggled to find meaningful work. The process was difficult at times, and I got rejected from the two schools that I applied to my first round (I don't recommend applying to only two!). The process took a lot of patience and reaching out to others for help. I asked people for advice, letters of recommendation, etc. Everyone was supportive.

I want to be a professor of geography or a related discipline at a large public university where I can continue teaching, researching, and writing.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I was elated. I knew SDSU was a great school and that I would have many opportunities once I came – which definitely turned out to be true.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post-graduation?

I would say do not ever give up, don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. If an opportunity doesn't exist where you see a need – lead the path. Once you get into grad school, it's going to be another great challenge, so be ready.​

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I'm excited to move on to the next phase in general. The Ph.D. is something I wanted to pursue for years and I was never sure if it was possible. I'm also looking forward to collaborating with other scholars and learning new skills.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

My fieldwork in Indigenous communities in Mexico. Everyone at SDSU has been really supportive, including my department and the College of Arts & Letters (I received several scholarships and travel grants). It feels amazing to have people who are willing to mentor you, challenge you, and believe in you.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Don't compare yourself to others.

Jessica PfeiffDegree: Sociology B.A. and Digital and Social Media Studies minor

Campus affiliations: Member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your area of study?

I came to San Diego State initially as a journalism major. Unsure if that was what I truly wanted to do I explored a few other majors, ultimately deciding I wanted to study sociology. I switched majors at the beginning of my third year. It was the best decision I made in college and led me to my chosen career path.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree in law at the end of my third year of college. I signed up for a summer LSAT prep class, looked into the steps of applying to law school, took the LSAT in November 2019, and started applying to schools in January 2020. I am looking to go into family law once successfully obtaining my law degree and passing the bar.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my official acceptance to California Western School of Law in San Diego exactly one week after submitting my application. I was shocked the school had already made a decision and over the moon that I had accomplished what I had spent the past six months trying to achieve. The entire period from deciding I wanted to go to law school immediately after graduation, to choosing a school, was a whirlwind. I could not be happier with my choice.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post graduation?

My advice is: If you want to go to graduate school immediately after finishing your undergrad degree, there’s no harm in trying. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try again.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I am most looking forward to starting over in San Diego. The city has so much to offer and I am glad I will have the opportunity to continue experiencing it.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

SDSU as a whole has changed my life in more ways than I expected. Going to college in such a beautiful place allowed me to appreciate every moment I spent there. It gave me the opportunity to keep growing.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice I ever received was to not worry about the paths of others. If you know what you’re looking for out of life, just go for it.

Ze ZhangDegree: International Business B.A.

Campus affiliations: Chinese Cultural Center

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your area of study?

Hello, my name is Ze Zhang. I’m from China. I came to the U.S. after I graduated from high school and have lived in San Diego for five years. My major is international business. I’m applying for the business analytics program in graduate schools. I see myself as a rational person and pursue logic when considering serious issues. I trust data and believe it is a powerful tool in decision-making, especially in the modern world that has been ruled by data. I fell in love with data analysis when I found it useful to facilitate people’s daily lives and got a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment.

When did you decide to pursue a graduate degree and what did that process entail? What are you specifically looking to do?

Honestly, I thought of changing my major to a more specific area of business for a long time, because international business is such a broad subject. The program I applied to allows me to combine my passion for business with my interest and my ability. I first realized how interesting data could be when I began to make healthy lifestyle changes last year.

I wanted to gain strength and lose weight after twisting my ankle and staying at home for two months, so I started to record food intake, calories burned, and other numbers such as what I ate every day and how often I went to the gym. I experienced a plateau as well but finally, after four months of tracking all of the numbers, I lost 15 pounds and became stronger.

Throughout the process, I thought of the numbers and visualized line graphs in my mind. I found that I enjoyed the process of recording and analyzing data because finding a problem in data leads to finding a solution. That’s how I passed the weight-loss plateau. This was just a small example from my daily life, but it inspired me to combine data analysis with my business major. That was when I began to seriously consider pursuing a business analytics major in graduate school.

By studying analytics, I hope to learn how to make proper business decisions by analyzing all kinds of data.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

The first official acceptance I received was from Columbia University. I got it on April 1. I was extremely excited when I checked the application status and saw the word “Congratulations!” For awhile, I even doubted it and wondered if it was a prank for April Fool’s Day.

I haven’t decided which program I’ll choose. I’ve been accepted by Columbia University, UC San Diego, and the University of Rochester. I’m still waiting for the decisions from Duke and Chicago University as well.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives and head to graduate school, post-graduation?

I’d suggest students who are planning to continue to study in graduate school apply to the programs they like as early as possible. The whole application process needs a lot of effort, including choosing good programs, taking the GMAT/GRE, writing essays, asking for recommendation letters, etc. Experiences such as related internships and volunteer services must be done before the application starts.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I actually had a lot of plans this summer. But now, I just hope that everything can be back to normal and everyone can be safe and healthy. Staying at home, I guess I will have some online programming classes this summer to get ready for the graduate courses.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

My experience at SDSU taught me a lot. The most important thing, for me as an international student, is to respect differences and make myself comfortable. This is what I have concluded after meeting so many people at SDSU.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice I have ever received is from my former boss Julie O’Connor, administrative coordinator of the School of Public Affairs. She taught me that there were many ways to solve a certain problem, and we had to think out of the box.

 

Students Beginning Careers

Zahraa Al karkhiDegree: Political science B.A. and Sociology minor

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue the sociology and political science areas of study?

I love people, and I enjoy helping them out. I  decided to major in sociology the month before I started college because I wanted to take it as pre-law. My interests changed through my college career.

When did you begin your job search and what did that process entail? What were you specifically looking for when searching job openings? 

I started my job search this March at the spring job fair. I wasn’t planning on going, and I didn’t have my resume ready. The night before, my friend encouraged me,  so I went job hunting the next day. I signed up for the fair and printed 11 resumes —  I distributed nine that day. I was looking for a job where I can work with a lot of people and one that I can enjoy.

When did you receive your official job offer, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my official job offer after my third interview with the company. I felt like this was my biggest achievement so far. Mostly, I was filled with joy because I am the first person in my family to walk these steps.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post graduation?

My advice for fellow students is to really never give up. Be positive, and smile.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I am looking for more and more ways to be successful, and hopefully applying for graduate school by the end of this year.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

I never thought about what attending university looked like, and I am extremely grateful for what SDSU has offered me. SDSU has helped me reach the first step of my dreams, and I feel like it is a campus I can always come back to.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

I had a teacher whose main concern was to open the student’s eyes on the issues that we were not aware of. He told us to always look for the truth.

Richard AmaechiDegree: International Business B.A. and Cultural Proficiency minor

Campus Affiliations: 2019 Quest for the Best Recipient, Afrikan Student Union, Black Business Society, Office of Admissions Prospective Student Center

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue humanities as an area of study?

I was born and raised in San Francisco, California in a first-generation Nigerian immigrant household. My father owned a small convenience store where I worked since I was 8 years old sweeping the floors. By 14 I was managing the store on the weekends to give my dad a break.

Public education in San Francisco was extremely diverse and I went to a high school of predominantly Chinese students. My curiosity for diversity led me to take three years of Japanese in high school. My early passion for managing money working in a convenience store, and taking on Japanese in high school ultimately led me to my decision to major in international business with an emphasis in Japanese and Finance.

When did you begin your job search and what did that process entail?

I never formally began my job search. In fact, I was recruited into the position I accepted after previously being denied from the College to Corporate internship with Vanguard that I applied for during my sophomore year. Vanguard, in my opinion, was one of the best finance companies that recruit at SDSU Career Fairs and after speaking with one of their representatives at an event during the fall of my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to apply for an internship. Some specific things I took into consideration when searching for jobs were company prestige, reputation, culture, training, compensation, and location.

Vanguard reached out to me in August 2019 as I entered my senior year where they explained that they have reviewed my resume and would like me to apply for Vanguard's Emerging Leader Development Program which is a two-year rotational program in their Scottsdale, Arizona office. I immediately applied and flew out to Arizona for the interview where I ended up receiving a full-time offer to begin in August 2020. I received my offer before the beginning of my senior year.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post graduation?

Some advice I have for my fellow students regardless of their field is to maintain a professional LinkedIn profile. This helped me tremendously as I was initially denied from an internship with the company I will soon be working for. They noticed my leadership development and growth thanks to my resume and marketing myself on Linkedin. They then reached out to me for an opening based on my potential to grow as a leader within the firm.

My second piece of advice would be to apply for as many opportunities as possible and put your resume out there. You never know who will be hiring and pulling up resumes of qualified applicants for future opportunities.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you kick start this next chapter?

Something that I am looking forward to most in the next chapter of my career is the training. I am looking forward to learning and putting my degree to use applying financial concepts as a part of my work. In order to begin working the first few months of my rotation will consist of studying for some financial securities industry exams which will include the Series 63, Series 7, and the SIE exam. I have two attempts at each of these exams which adds to the pressure. I am also looking forward to moving to a new state and having a new place to call home for the foreseeable future.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

I would say the experience at SDSU that has changed my life the most would be my semester abroad in Japan. While in Japan I was able to travel to South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, Thailand, and Hong Kong. This experience really gave me an increased sense of independence and confidence as I was able to maneuver and make new friends by myself in each of the countries I traveled to. It also gave me a newfound passion for solo traveling and cultural immersion. This is something I pledged to continue for the rest of my life by traveling to at least one new country every year.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice I have ever received was from my dad. He often brought up traumatic experiences being a 10-year-old during Nigeria's Civil War where over 3 million Igbos were starved to death. How he completely lost vision in his left eye due to cataracts that were not treated during the war. How he lost his older brother in combat during the war just a few years older than him, and if the war didn't end when it did, he would have been forced to enter the Army by the age of 12. He talks about how he starved during the war and had to eat whatever they could find including rats and bugs. He talks about coming to America on a Visa and how he was completely broke and worked as a janitor at Burger King for years before he was able to save up enough money for my mom and older sisters to come to America.

He would religiously say "My children are supposed to do better than me." In reference to me being a first-generation Nigerian American with endless opportunities that present themselves to me that my parents did not have the chance of pursuing. I have internalized my parents’ sacrifices and made it my mission to meet the expectations of my parents to be successful by all means necessary.

Britney BudimanDegree: Urban Studies B.A. and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies minor

Campus affiliations: Delta Sigma Psi, Center for Intercultural Relations, (AAPI)phany

Note: Britney was also a Mundt Peace Fellowship recipient and traveled to Cambodia in summer 2019 to work with the Cambodia Living Arts organization, an NGO that was established by a genocide survivor and musician.

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue your area of study?

I am a recent Urban Studies graduate from Walnut Creek, California.

When I was a high schooler, I attended a presentation given by artist Claudia Bernardi in which she spoke about her mural-making projects with family members of desaparecidos, persons illegally detained and “disappeared” during the Argentine Dirty War. At that time in my life, I was heavily involved in the arts and just beginning my understanding of social justice. Listening to Claudia’s presentation was the first time I had a clear picture of how the two intertwined together. I was enamored by the intersections of politics, public space, storytelling as healing, and place-specific culture and identity, all of which eventually led me to Urban Studies. As someone who enjoys wearing many different hats, I’m grateful for the interdisciplinary nature of Urban Studies which allowed me to take courses from several departments and be creative, compassionate, analytical and most special to me -- focused on the human experience at every twist and turn.

Today, my city-related passions have narrowed in more specifically on spatial justice, urban design, and innovative housing.

When did you decide to pursue the JET Program and what did that process entail? What will you be doing?

I was fortunate enough to graduate three semesters early due to a combination of existing AP credit, CLEP exams, and many, many perusals of my degree evaluation. (Side note: if you aren’t sure what a CLEP exam is and still have GEs left to take, google it! You can find CLEP course equivalencies in the “University Policies” section of SDSU’s general catalog). While gratifying, finishing college ahead of schedule also meant that I had less time to prepare for my next steps.

As I neared the end of my college journey, exhausted and daunted by the prospect of entering another two years of graduate school, I asked myself what I really wanted to be doing. The answer was travelling, exploring a new lifestyle, and enjoying my youth.

All of this was present in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, an opportunity to live and work in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher for at least one year. Ever since I visited Tokyo as part of a sister cities exchange program, the idea of moving to Japan had been in the back of my mind. Still riding the high of my summer studying abroad, I was completely sold on working internationally.

The first stage of the JET Program application consisted of a two-page statement of purpose and two recommendation letters. After moving onto the next stage, I was invited to an in-person panel interview with a previous JET program participant, an employee from the Japanese Consulate, and a Japanese language professor. During the interview, I was asked to introduce myself as if I was speaking to elementary schoolers, explain tidbits from my application essay, and discuss how I would integrate into the local community.

A couple months later, I was pleased to learn that I had been accepted to the JET Program. If the world is a safer place in mid-September, I will be moving to Japan to teach English and serve as a cultural ambassador. I will receive my location and class level placements in the coming months.

When did you receive your official acceptance, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my official acceptance to the JET Program on April 1. I was relieved, elated, and also worried about breaking the news to my partner and my parents. Though I am still cognizant of the impact a 14-hour time difference may have on my relationships, I am lucky to have friends and family who ultimately support my decision to go. I share this not to sound ungrateful, but to extend understanding to anyone who feels guilty about being a tiny bit sad about a mostly wonderful thing.

At the moment, nobody is certain whether or not the JET Program will proceed as planned due to coronavirus concerns. Like many of my fellow shortlisted candidates, I am searching for a backup plan while simultaneously crossing my fingers that the world will be safe enough to allow international travel come September.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their lives post-graduation?

If your situation is anything like mine, now is a time of uncertainty and reprioritization. For a long time after graduating, I criticized my decisions relentlessly. Why didn’t I take on a second major or minor to pick up more skills? Why did I go on post-grad vacations instead of looking for work? Why is my life not “jumpstarted” yet? These thoughts still circle my head from time to time, but I’ve learned to view them as largely unproductive.

My biggest piece of advice for fellow students is to let go of the mindset that your life is not “happening” until you have a prestigious job or educational opportunity in hand. (If you do have these things, be generous with your time and advice). I frequently wonder, why is life only considered “real” when we are engaged in activities that generate income or status? We don’t need to jumpstart our lives. We’ve been living this whole time!

This is something I try to remind myself often. Of course, being financially stable in a capitalist system is still a crucial need and inevitable desire. However, I am learning to value myself and my life in ways that extend beyond economic productivity.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

Regardless of where I end up, I am excited to experience new things, build community, and learn more about myself.

For the past year or so, I’ve been pursuing practical minimalism. As my responsibilities shift, expand, and solidify, I am looking forward to saying goodbye to more items and inviting intentionality into my life.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

Being a Diversity Peer Educator at the Center for Intercultural Relations stands out as a transformational time in my college career. Working on campus, interacting with students every day, taking ownership of curriculum and presenting it to peers — I had never felt so connected to San Diego State University. Beyond the multitude of professional skills I learned working in an institutional setting, I felt a great sense of contentment being surrounded by student leaders who were similarly passionate about social justice.

While working at the Center for Intercultural Relations, I was constantly being exposed to new narratives and opportunities for critical discussion. I had finally found a place where I could fully present my desire for social change and be celebrated for it. Though I had long been passionate about justice, working at the Center for Intercultural Relations gave me a stronger idea of how that process is actually iterated, and reiterated, and reiterated.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

It’s not so much a piece of advice, but rather the final line of a poem my English teacher often read. It comes from Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” and it is, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

When the question is poised so beautifully, I am inspired to think positive answers in return. What am I going “to do with my one wild and precious life?”

Zaria EalyDegree:  Sociology B.A. and ISCOR minor

Affiliations: Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Delta Gamma Chapter

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue the sociology and ISCOR areas of study?

I am from Oakland and decided to pursue a major in sociology because going into college I was interested in criminology.

When did you begin your job search and what did that process entail? What were you specifically looking for when searching job openings? 

I began my job search at the beginning of 2020. This entailed searching different job websites, internships, and opportunities even if they didn’t match my initial criteria for a job. I was looking for something that paid well, and offered the opportunity for professional development.

When did you receive your official job offer, and what was your reaction when you received it?

I received my official job offer in mid-April and was very excited to know that I would be financially secure after college and able to start a career. I’ll be an early education teacher through Teach For America, D.C. region.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post graduation?

My advice would be to keep searching, and be open to jobs that don’t match your initial criteria. The job you are looking for may not be out there yet, or what you need at the moment.

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you start this next chapter?

I am most looking forward to moving across the country to the East coast to dive into a new culture and life. I will be able to influence the education of students and help them along the way.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

Joining Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. changed my life the most at SDSU as I was able to become a part of a sisterhood that lasts forever and helped shape me into the woman I am today.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice I ever received was to stay the course and push on, even in times of discouragement.

Degree: Humanities B.A. (Fall 2020 Graduation Date)

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue humanities as an area of study?

I am a transfer student from both Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges here in San Diego.  Spending about 3 years within these two JC's, it gave me plenty of time to play around with different majors and experiment with what I liked and found interesting. During this time I was working 40 hours a week as a front desk/sales agent at Paradise Point Resort and Spa which helped me pay my way through school. While working there I found out a lot about myself and how much I truly enjoyed communicating with people and building relationships. 

When I was accepted to SDSU I committed to the humanities program for two reasons: 1) Because I believed it would allow me to better understand the cultures of different individuals and understand how these cultural backgrounds influence people's lives, and  2) I took an AMAZING class with Professor Raechel Dumas, who has such an amazing teaching ability that she really allowed me to fall in love with the idea of humanities and all that it is!

When did you begin your job search and what did that process entail?   

At the beginning of 2020, I checked in with an old friend of mine named Apple who shared a class with me while I was attending Cuyamaca College.

She had graduated from CSU Fullerton and had been finished up with school for a few years. She had a well-paying job working on a sales team for a really cool tech marketing company named Digital Media Solution. I told her I was interested in that field and expressed to her that I would really enjoy working in that type of setting. 

She said there were a few job openings in her office and encouraged me to send her my resume. She passed my resume along to her manager, and the rest is history.  I was very fortunate.

What were you specifically looking for when searching job openings?

I wanted a job full of friendly people, where I could work alongside a team of individuals who all shared the same drive to be successful and reach our goals.

When did you receive your official job offer and what was your reaction when you received the offer? What is the name of the organization, and what is your role or job title?

I received my job offer on Feb 1, 2020.  I immediately put in my two weeks notice at Paradise Point and my first day at Digital Media Solutions began on Feb 17, 2020.  My new job title is "Account Manager" and I monitor accounts and advise agents who use our internet platform.

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post graduation?

Here is my advice to students regardless of their field. Always be kind and friendly, and always be confident in yourself.  You never know how your kindness may affect someone's day or mood. Your kindness may open doors for you that you never knew existed!

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you kick start this next chapter?

I am looking forward to a new challenge that will bring me fantastic experiences that will equip me with new skills to help me in my future.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?  

Specifically the experiences I had with Professor Raechel Dumas. Not only was she the most supportive and friendly instructor I have ever had in my educational career, but she was a friend! Someone who was always there to help and guide me when I needed it!  I am not the only one who feels this way! Student after student with whom I have talked with can't help but say good things about her! Professor Dumas changed my outlook on the educational system, and it is professors like her that make students feel proud to attend such an amazing university.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

There was never really any advice that seemed to stick with me that was given to me by someone else.  However, I did give myself advice — about one million times. This advice was to never give up and keep doing your best!  I am glad I listened to myself!

Grace ShimamotoDegree: Sociology B.A.

Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue (insert major here) as an area of study?

I am passionate about advocating for those who are unable to do so themselves. I decided to major in sociology after I took a course during my general education studies. I instantly became engulfed in the subject matter and loved how closely it related to my passion.

When did you begin your job search and what did that process entail? What were you specifically looking for when searching job openings?

I began my job search during the last month of my final semester at SDSU. I had to update my resume to accurately reflect who I am and my accomplishments. I was looking for a job that would get me into the mental health field and directly working with people. I also looked for a company that would support my values and how it served people.

When did you receive your official job offer and what was your reaction when you received the offer?

I received my official job offer on December 20, 2019 and I was ecstatic! I had applied for a case manager position just to get my resume out there not thinking I would actually get it. It was one day before my birthday, it was the best birthday gift I could ask for!

What advice do you have for fellow students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post graduation?

I would tell someone to make sure their resume is up to date, relevant and an accurate reflection of who they are. Also, do not be afraid to apply for a position that you feel you may not yet be qualified for. You never know! Lastly, apply, apply, apply! Get your name out there, if you don’t get it now, you never know when the company might pull your resume and call you for an interview!

What is it that you are most looking forward to as you kick start this next chapter?

I am looking forward to investing in my future by working in the field that I am passionate about. Working for something I believe in feels like the best thing I could invest my time in.

What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

The professors and counselors at SDSU overall have always supported me even when I was struggling academically. I always felt valued, supported and cared about, no matter what I may have been going through.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

To not wait on something, you believe in. If you want to do something, DO IT! You could start something and have it take four years, don’t let that scare you. Those four years are going to pass anyway, might as well build your dreams and empire in the meantime! :)