I knew I wanted to get more involved on campus and began looking at available opportunities. I looked back at classes I had taken and remembered where I was successful, mostly due to the aid of my peers, and one peer, in particular, has stuck with me. Paige Rhein, another former learning assistant, was my L.A. for general chemistry 1 (CHM 1045). I will always remember the impact she made in my life as a student. I admired her will to encourage us to do our best, believing in us when we didn’t necessarily believe in our abilities to succeed in the course, and always being open to answering questions and holding amazing reviews of content before our exams. She, a fellow student, represented someone I knew I could reach out to without feeling shame or uncomfortable and someone who looked like me being a successful woman in STEM. I primarily relate my success in the course to her help as my L.A.. I am grateful for her motivation to keep going and believe in my abilities during my undergrad.
From this, I knew that I wanted to be that person for someone else when they joined the university. I wanted to provide them with that same mentorship and motivation to never give up and support them to do their best. Being an L.A. has provided me with that opportunity and much more. I have been able to reconnect with past material while learning a bit more because this time around, I’d assist in teaching it. I’ve also been able to reconnect with previous professors I’ve admired and receive their mentorship while building lasting relationships. It has also allowed me to challenge myself in various ways; first, with the material by having to re-understand concepts in the different ways that others understand them, but also logistically by giving me the responsibility to improve on managing my time and communication skills. Most importantly, I’ve been able to help improve diversity in the classroom by being a friendly, diverse Hispanic face to students who look like me and have come from similar backgrounds as me. Similarly to how Paige was that diversity for me, I’ve been able to find those few students who seemed shy or uncomfortable and help them feel welcomed while providing them an avenue to reach out and ask questions, even if they didn’t want to at first.
I also have been able to represent someone who has come from a different background, who challenges gender norms in the way I dress, who understands the Hispanic culture, who emphasizes the importance of helping those around me, and a successful woman in STEM who has made it through the classes they are about to take. This opportunity to inspire other students to believe in themselves and know they can succeed in STEM has been an amazingly rewarding and enriching experience in my undergraduate years. I am incredibly thankful for participating in the learning assistant program. It has helped open my eyes to the many ways I can positively impact campus. I hope it can continue to foster these student-led communities so my peers can do the same.
I am beginning to love our school more and more because of programs like these that focus on student success and well-being. Thank you, Dr. Rahming, for supporting me along the way and for giving me the opportunity and skills to help improve and enrich our campus learning environment.