Monica Meza ’22MED: ‘I want the number of first-generation students in colleges and programs in the United States to increase’

As a first-generation student, Monica Meza knows the importance of feeling supported in higher education. That’s why she decided to pursue her Masters of Education in University Administration to make a difference in the lives of students like her.

This summer, Meza studied abroad in Prague, and upon graduation, she hopes to connect first-generation students to similar transformative opportunities they may not have known existed.

Learn more about Monika Meza

Hometown: Alamance County, North Carolina; born in Mexico

Degree: Master of Education in University Administration

Activities (research or extracurricular): Personal activities include family, hiking, biking, dancing and cultural performances. Academic activities include volunteering at careers agencies and first-generation student organizations.

Why did you choose NC State College of Education?

I originally chose NC State because they have the part-time masters program that I needed due to a current full-time job. When I finally spoke to my advisor, [Assistant Teaching Professor] Krispin Barr, I have seen the passion she has to connect with students and provide the best support according to students’ needs. The faculty in this program are genuinely supportive of their students.

Why did you choose your field of study?

I chose this concentration because I am a first-generation immigrant student who learned along the way how to progress from academia to higher education. I want to help bring information to first-generation students and opportunities that have not otherwise been considered, such as: B. studying abroad. Students need support and someone to brainstorm when their families don’t have this information. Student affairs practitioners are their support system to discuss options.

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What’s your next step? What did you intend to do after graduation?

My study abroad experience demonstrated the reality of the disadvantages first generation students face when considering studying abroad during their college years. I hope to be involved in this cause, either by being part of a foreign studies office or by working with summer pre-college programs to get this information out in advance to high school students.

How did the College of Education prepare you for this next step?

The College of Education has given me the essential foundation to understand education policy as the US faces the challenges faced by students. The student advocates are the advocates and representatives of the students. We are the liaisons to pave the way for student success.

What would you like to achieve in your area?

I want the number of first-generation students in colleges and programs in the United States to increase. I want colleges to be prepared to provide opportunities and answers to student challenges. As we continue to explore these challenges, we will create programs to support students have the equity and equality to thrive.

Do you have a special memory of your time at the University of Education?

All my time in the program was a favorite memory. Every class and every meeting was a learning experience. I understood that every student had different challenges, especially during a pandemic. Our professors demonstrated empathy and support to ensure everyone had the tools to progress in the program and develop the skills needed to achieve the goals. Personally, the college’s online implementations during the pandemic allowed me to complete the first year of the program from home as I was caring for my ailing mother. As colleges opened their campuses, it allowed me to experience the Masters program personally with my fellow students and to build relationships and networks.

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Tell us about a College of Education experience that most impacted you or your career.

My best experience at the College of Education was the support and encouragement from my advisor, Assistant Teaching Professor Krispin Barr; Alex Kappus, Senior Director of Student Success, and Ajaya Francis Jonas, Director of Global Programs. They have joined forces to make my study abroad opportunity a reality. Not only was studying abroad an experience that opened my eyes to an area I had never considered in terms of first generation students, but also the fact that these student leaders believed in me and took advantage of this opportunity. Her passion for supporting me was monumental and life and career changing.

Why did you choose education?

Isn’t it a beauty to offer the opportunity to educate anyone who wants to grow and be something positive in this life – to make that change? Growing up in a small, poor Mexican town, I never imagined that I would one day attend the best universities in North Carolina, USA – El Norte, the North as we call it in Mexico. I was given the opportunity to make this change.

I think one of my favorite quotes from United Farm Workers and Farmers activist Cesar Chavez explains my feelings about the possibility of having an education and making a positive change in society: “Once social change starts, it can’t anymore be undone. You cannot ignorant the person who learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who is proud. You can no longer oppress the people who are no longer afraid.”

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