LMU this Week

Director’s Message

ACE student Erick Carranza, left, Director Steven Neal, and ACE student Phaedra Johnson.

Much of the literature on college students of color examines them from a deficit lens such as the underachievement, low enrollment, disengagement, and extended completion rates of underrepresented students. These one-sided narratives run the risk of overshadowing the activities of high achieving and highly engaged students of color, who are thriving in college and strategically positioning themselves for graduate and professional school. These students make up the Academic Community of Excellence at LMU.

In this issue, we celebrate several unique accomplishments of ACE scholars and alumni. First, we highlight ACE students’ participation in a research competition at the fifth annual Black Doctoral Network Conference and we celebrate one who received an honorable mention. We acknowledge several ACE alumni who are attending or have graduated from Western University of Health Sciences. We spotlight a distinguished recipient of the Coca Cola Scholarship and recent participant of the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference. Finally, we capture our prelaw students’ experiences at the Loyola Law School Preview Day. At ACE, we are not only rewriting the narrative about underrepresented students but also highlighting the necessity of investing in students in their quest to obtain master’s and doctoral degrees.

ACE Scholars Present at the 5th Annual Black Doctoral Network Conference

Makeen Yasar, left, Anita Marks, Director Steven Neal, Gabriel Say, and Laina Washington

Four ACE students presented at the fifth annual Black Doctoral Network Conference on Friday, Oct. 27, in Atlanta. As its website states, “The BDN is an organization for individuals of African descent who are holders of, or scholars engaged in the pursuit of, undergraduate and advanced degrees from accredited institutions of higher learning worldwide.

“The BDN National conference brings together world renowned and emergent scholars and professionals from the social sciences, STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and humanities and is a resource, a support system, as a space of intellectual exchange, and a place to create connections and develop impactful collaborations.”

ACE students participated in the undergraduate research competition to showcase their scholarly activities and obtain feedback with other college students from across the country. Laina Washington received an honorable mention for her study, “Why Are All These Brown Kids Here? Students’ Experiences of Racial Microaggressions at a Private, Catholic University.”

Commenting on her experience at the conference, Laina stated, “I felt affirmed and empowered after the BDN conference. And it wasn’t just because I was met with so many examples of black excellence in academia, but because I was in a space where my experiences and concerns as a black student who wants to pursue a career in higher education were validated by others who had experienced or were experiencing something similar. It was empowering to continue to be encouraged not to settle for teaching and researching at a university that doesn’t appreciate my experiences and my identity.”

ACE Scholars Attend Loyola Law School Preview Day

Christian Garcia, left, Mariah Williams, Director Steven Neal, Daniel Higuera, and Beatrice Li

On Oct. 13, ACE students Daniel Higuera, Beatrice Li, and Mariah Williams and First to Go student Christian Garcia attended the Loyola Law School Preview Day. The event was organized in partnership with Cindy Archer, associate dean for clinical programs and experiential learning, at the law school. The purpose of the trip was to inform students about LLS’s application procedures and academic offerings, experience the life of the law school, and interface with faculty. During their visit, the students were given the opportunity to tour the social and criminal justice clinics; learn about the academic programs, the application process, and tips for applying; had lunch with Gary Williams, professor of law and Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Chair in Civil Rights; and sat through a torts lecture taught by Kathleen C. Kim, professor of law. After the eventful day ACE junior, Mariah Williams, had this to say, “I really enjoyed it! The trip not only relieved some anxiety that I had over applying to law school but it also helped me realize that I am on the right track. I have ACE to thank for that.”

Ariana Siordia Receives First Generation Coca-Cola Scholarship

Ariana Siordia

Among more than 40 applicants, ACE sophomore Ariana Siordia received part of a $100,000 First-Generation Scholarship from the Coca-Cola Foundation. The scholarships were awarded to first-generation college students with varying levels of financial need and academic achievement (GPA of 3.0 and above). Since 1993, The Coca-Cola Foundation has awarded nearly $50 million in First-Generation Scholarships to more than 4,000 students across 540 U.S. campuses. At LMU, recipients of the scholarship are expected to be actively engaged in the First to Go program including participating in the program’s co-curricular enrichment opportunities.

When asked how she discovered the scholarship, Ariana answered, “Over the summer, I was working for the First to Go office and my boss, Ashley Watterson, informed me of the opportunity, saying that I should apply for the scholarship.” Recipients of the scholarship are expected to be actively engaged in LMU’s First to Go program including participating in the program’s co-curricular enrichment opportunities. When asked about any advice she would give to her peers Ariana said, “Receiving this scholarship has not only showed me that there was a purpose behind constantly striving for the best results that I can achieve, but that all my hard work amassed to something and was not ignored … Do not be afraid to apply to anything because you might actually get chosen for the opportunity you are doubtful about. It is better to apply for all your options than eliminate them because you feel as if you are not good enough.” We agree and congratulate Ariana on receiving the Coca-Cola First-Generation Scholarship!

ACE Alumni Attend Western University of Health Sciences

Annabella Maurera

Six ACE alumni have attended or graduated from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. As one of the largest graduate schools for the health professions in California, its mission is to educate healthcare professionals by combining science with a humanistic, compassionate approach to patient care. LMU has a linkage agreement with Western. One of the alums, Annabella Maurera, graduated from LMU in 2014 with distinction and started at Western that fall. We caught up with Annabella and posed the following questions to her:

What is your medical specialization? Why did you choose it?
General surgery. I have chosen this specialty because it as an amazing combination of complex medicine and technical skill. To be able to operate on someone is a privilege and responsibility that requires nothing but excellence on behalf of the surgeon. The high expectations required of this field are how I feel I will be challenged on a daily basis to become the best doctor that I can be.

Why did you choose the medical profession as a career?
As a high school science teacher, my dad sparked my love of science from a young age. Then when I was in high school my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Going to her many doctor’s appointments, radiation and chemotherapy treatments was overwhelming. She was fortunate to have an oncologist who went above and beyond for our entire family. Based on his example, combined with my love of science, I decided I wanted to pursue medicine.

How did the Academic Community of Excellence assist you throughout your undergraduate career (from sophomore to senior year)?
More than anything, ACE provided a supportive environment filled with people of similar interests. Deciding on the specifics of a graduate or professional degree can be stressful, and I felt supported by the ACE community and by my fellow students.

What advice would you give to students who are currently in the ACE program in preparation for graduate/professional school?
I encourage you to reach out to upperclassmen or alumni who have been through similar situations and/or who have goals in line with your own. Finding a mentor can sometimes be difficult, but the ACE/LMU community is filled with people who are willing to help and provide guidance. Of course, do well academically, and combine your studies with extracurricular activities, volunteer work, research, etc., that you truly enjoy doing. Don’t involve yourself in activities simply to put them on your application.

John Salinas Participates in the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference

John Salinas

ACE senior and pre-med student John Salinas attended the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference hosted in Washington D.C. John attended the conference through assistance from the ACE program. According to its website, “NJSLC is a national student leadership conference for students of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities around the country as well as for students of international Jesuit universities. Students come together to share ideas about how to improve their schools, learn from others, and develop important professional and leadership skills.” During the three-day conference, participants visited and met representatives of Capitol Hill, attended leadership workshops, and took a private tour of Georgetown Medical School. Commenting on the experience John said, “The most impactful leadership session that I attended was focused on the importance of self-care … As a leader, you’re always caught up in what you’re doing that you forget to stop for a second to take care of yourself. It wasn’t something that I was expecting, but it’s true: you can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself.” When asked about any advice he would give to his peers John said, “After this experience, I’ve learned to always have a progressive mindset and there is still progress through failure. I guess I would give the same advice to other students.” John was grateful for his trip and hopes to receive an acceptance letter from his top choice program: Georgetown Medical School.

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