Academia can be a challenging environment, but the Life of a Latinx Leader series is helping students know they're not alone. More than that, it's equipping them with tools and relationships to thrive at Utah State University.
The series continues Thursday with Dr. Alfonso Torres-Rua, an associate professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering. Torres-Rua will share his journey as a first-generation college student and immigrant from Peru making his way through academia and STEM, finding ways to pay for college and raise a family.
"There are students that probably are in the same path as I was when I was young," Torres-Rua said. "While they have the skills and the attitude to move towards academia or what STEM represents — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — a lack of advice or mentorship might be detrimental for them in the future."
It's common for grad students to face "Issues like loneliness, imposter syndrome, even depression," Torres-Rua said, so it's important for them to know there are people ready to help.
"My path wasn't clear" in college, Torres-Rua said, "and there were no references. I was lucky to find people that could give me advice when I was in school. And even after school, I got great bosses in my job that encouraged me to go abroad and to study and continue my studies."
Torres-Rua's remarks will follow the event series' goal of hosting Latinx faculty, staff and students as they share their experiences.
"We do it in a way that is a little more informal," said Pamela Allcott, program coordinator for the Latinx Cultural Center. "They're not talking about research or about their careers, they're talking more about how they got where they are."
The events will help attendees learn more about Latinxs doing important work at USU, but they're also meant to inspire students.
"We have some students that think they're going through something by themselves," Allcott said, "but when they hear somebody else that went through a similar situation, that helps them to know that they are not alone."
The series hosted Dr. Silvana Martini, the director of the Aggie Chocolate Factory, earlier this month.
Martini spoke about her own journey from Argentina and through academia before becoming a professor in the Nutrition & Food Sciences Department and the editor in chief of the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society.
Martini shared some of the linguistic, cultural and other challenges she faced throughout her academic career.
"I decided to come to the U.S. for a better life, but it's hard," Martini said. "And it's hard not only because of the language, because of the culture, but it's hard because you're away from your family and your friends and nobody understands how you're feeling because the culture is so different."
Her most important advice, though, is "don't give up."
"You have to keep going," Martini said. "If you truly believe in something, if you truly want to do something, just keep trying."
Torres-Rua’s presentation will be from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, in Room 208 of the Merrill Cazier Library. A remote video feed will be available via the Zoom meeting ID 827 9375 5716, with the passcode 009071.
Upcoming events in the series include:
— Feb. 17: Liz Alcala. A staff member at the Latinx Cultural Center, Alcala is studying for a master's in business administration.
— April 21: Monique Davila. A grad student and a mentor in the LASER program, Davila will discuss how her Mexican-American identity inspired her to work in public history and community engagement.
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