In conjunction with UT’s First-Generation College Celebration and the National First-Generation College Celebration this week, we’re proud to highlight several first-generation students in our Texas McCombs MBA community.
Jose Carlos Rojas
Jose is a first-generation college graduate and Texas McCombs at Houston MBA ’20 student. The hardest thing about being first-gen, he says, was having, “no reference point,” he could go back to as he immersed himself in college. He explains the journey as being lonely as his parents tried their best to understand and help him adjust to this new environment. Despite the challenges, his motivation and dedication to his family were key factors to his academic success.
“After my family and I moved from Chile, I always felt an obligation to make my parents’ sacrifices worth it. I see them work very hard and I continue to strive to alleviate some of that burden from them. I started looking at MBAs once I saw my career pick up steam. I have gathered a lot of technical knowledge through my experience and felt that I needed to round myself out by pairing it with some business acumen. I chose Texas McCombs because of its great reputation, world-class faculty, and the flexibility it allowed me to have without having to quit my job.”
When asked about what advice he would give to other first-gen students, Jose strongly believes in the value of community, and that you don’t need to go through this difficult journey on your own. Currently, he’s working on getting his younger sister into college, and trying to ease any stress points she’s presently encountering that he’s been able to overcome.
“Surround yourself with people that will help, motivate and care for you. There’s value in not making college just about studying: Join clubs and activities to immerse yourself into your college and get a full experience.”
Emy is a Texas McCombs MBA at Houston alumna. Her family, who only had a primary school education, inspired her and her sister to pursue higher education, instilling the value of having access to education from an early age. For Emy, having a strong community and support system to guide her has been a key factor in her success.
“Find your community within the school that you are in, and find a mentor, staff member, or professor who can help guide your decisions. Being the first in your family to attend college, whether undergraduate or graduate school, can be intimidating and it is important that students know there is someone who can guide them.”
Along her journey towards higher education, Hernandez had difficulty dealing with Imposter Syndrome. Nevertheless, Emy is proof that you can overcome any challenge with hard work, dedication and strong support systems.
“Do not be afraid to take the next step in your personal and professional life; whether you’re applying for a new job or pursuing an additional degree. I am a Latina, queer, daughter of immigrants, inner-city Houston-raised, and graduate of a high school known as a ‘drop-out factory’ – the statistics were against me. It wasn’t easy, and today I am proud of what I have accomplished and I know my parents and my community are too.”
Waldo is a first-generation Full-Time Class of 2020 MBA at Texas McCombs. As a child, he was raised by “hard-working immigrant parents” that highly encouraged his intellectual development, and his interest in puzzles and systems within math and science, which eventually led to a bachelor’s degree in engineering & management.
During his time as an undergrad and graduate student, Arreola struggled to adjust to the demands that time management and personal accountability have on students. However, having strong mentorships and student involvement helped him stay engaged, help others and invest in his future.
“Be curious! Ask questions! Connect with people! Get involved! First-generation students might not have as many resources as others, including networks, and might have the added pressure of supporting family members with their personal success, so it is critical to be engaged and deliberate as you pursue your personal and professional goals.”