December 1, 2022
On November 10, 2022, Professors David-James (DJ) Gonzalez, Melissa Alcaraz, and Ashley Jimenez-Fraser joined our Picture a Social Scientist panel highlighting the experiences of members of the Latinx community in social sciences.
The moderator, Kathleen Reyes, asked the panelists questions about the obstacles they had to overcome, the mentors they looked up to, the balance between school and family life, and the opportunities that prepared them to become the people they are today.
“I’ve learned how to capitalize on the experiences that I have. Take your experiences and turn them into your strengths.”
Jimenez-Fraser shared her experience of navigating college as a first-generation student. As a Latina student at BYU, she often felt immense pressure to perform at the top of her classes, which occasionally led her to overexert herself. Ultimately, meeting and befriending good people around her allowed her to stay grounded and seek help from others. “It was people in this space ─ especially friends, roommates, and professors ─ that really helped me along,” says Jimenez-Fraser
Despite the difficult experiences she has encountered, Jimenez-Fraser shared how the hard times have embedded strength and resilience into her character.
“My story is not something I have to overcome. My story is something that I carry with me.”
Alcaraz shared a similar type of stress as an undergraduate student, knowing that she would need to juggle paying for her own education on top of endeavoring to excel in all of her classes. Ultimately, she learned that her well-being and that of her students are more important than perfect grades.
She expressed gratitude for those who saw her potential and connected her with opportunities that allowed her to develop as an undergraduate student. Says Alcaraz, “My professors were such a resource for me, and so I try to be that for my students.” As a professor, she strives to help her students make the most of their stories and experiences.
“You can be YOU. Don’t feel that there's a type of die-cast or a mold that you have to fit into.”
Gonzales shared his experience as a non-traditional student who completed his studies later in life. As a father and husband, he shared the challenges he experienced balancing school, work, and family life in the ten years it took him to obtain his B.A. in History. Despite the hard work it required, he shared the importance of embracing all opportunities that came his way and the significance of earning a higher education.
Gonzalez also mentioned the social barriers he has faced as a Latino historian: “When you are studying the group that you particularly come from, it can be viewed as less legitimate by people in your field.” Amidst these statements, he was thankful for his mentors of color, who “kicked doors down” for him to follow them through.
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