Career Highlights

The purpose of the career highlights is to provide career exposure, information, and motivation to students.

The featured first-gen college graduates and professionals have kindly agreed to volunteer their time for informational interviews. If you wish to connect with a featured first-gen professional, please email me at firstgen.resilience@gmail.com with the subject "Career Highlights: Informational Interview."

Maira Hernández

She/Her/Ella
Award Winning Author and Recruitment Specialist at UC Santa Cruz

Undergraduate Degree and Institution 
BA, UC Berkeley

Briefly describe your career path (preparation, challenges, and resources):

I started my career in the nonprofit sector and moved forward to working in higher ed at universities. Through my experience I also began to explore more of culture and travel and through the process became an award winning author in my book Aventura, Amor y Tacos exploring the journey of reconnecting to my Mexican roots.

Being the first in my family to go to college and also navigating a professional career were big lessons for me. Publishing a book was also a new journey. Through all of these experiences I realized that new journeys are a part of my inheritance, coming from a family that came to a new country, that's where my courage to try new things come from. 

What and/or who inspired you? 

Family, my parents and my abuelos and all of their hard work and sacrifices to open new doors for me and my siblings.

Advice to prepare for your field of work/career:

Find a community and mentors for support and surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams. 

Words of Encouragement:

You have everything you need to succeed, your courage and strength comes from your family and community. They believed in their dreams so you could believe in yours!

Jose L. Saldivar

He, Him, El
Senior Lecturer and Learning Framework Program Director, UTRGV
.

Undergraduate Degree and Institution:

BA, Chicana/o Studies, Stanford University

Graduate Degree and Institution:

MA, Social Sciences of Ed., Stanford University, PhD, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Texas at Austin

Briefly describe your career path (preparation, challenges, and resources):

Traditional preparation (i.e. public high school), lack of knowledge of higher Ed system,  peers, faculty, mentors.

What and/or who inspired you? 

Parents, teachers, advisors, mentors.

Advice to prepare for your field of work/career:

Keep an open mind. There’s no such thing as “the perfect job.” Learn as much as you can and develop interpersonal skills and commit to aways learning and growing.

Words of Encouragement:

You got this!

Chelsea FrancoMartin

She/her/ella
Case Manager | Eagleton Fellow
.

Undergraduate Degree and Institution:

Criminal Justice/Political Science- Temple University

Graduate Degree and Institution:

Master of Public Administration: Community Development- Rutgers University

Briefly describe your career path (preparation, challenges, and resources):

My career path thus far has been a journey but despite the challenges and blocks in the road it has been worth all of the hard work. I don’t know that I was prepared at all but somehow I navigated my way through it, had incredible support, met the right mentors, built those relationships, and have used my experience coupled with the resources I gained through fostering meaningful mentorship and connections. People are really your greatest resource! Seek mentors that have been where you’re tying to go and build connections every step of the way. I’m currently in the process of applying to law school to take my career to the next level as well as working on a Graduate Certificate at University of New Mexico in Chicana/o studies to lay the foundation for my PhD to set myself up for a career as a profesora and hopefully course developer and program creator further down the line. 

What and/or who inspired you?

Mi papi, mi familia, y mi gente.

Advice to prepare for your field of work/career:

I could probably write a book on all of the advice I have to prepare for the line of work I am in but I like to tailor any advice I give to the individual. One thing I will say is staying focused, taking advantage of opportunities presented to you even if they’re intimidating, and networking are the best things you can do to push yourself forward.

Words of Encouragement:

You got this! Things can get hard and we all have times where we would rather just give up but we have to push through. In the end when we look back, it will all be worth it and honestly, you may even surprise yourself. I know I’ve surprised myself. And most importantly, never ever let imposter syndrome hold you back or keep you down. It’s real and it comes for the best of us.

Maria Renteria

She/her
Attorney
.

Undergraduate Degree and Institution:

UC Berkeley

Graduate Degree and Institution:

UT Law (Austin)

Briefly describe your career path (preparation, challenges, and resources):

Went straight to UC Berkeley after high school. Then took 3 years off after undergrad to work as a paralegal. I unexpectedly got accepted into a school that I had not really considered. I found out more about their clinic programs and decided to attend there since my first choice school rejected me. During law school, I did not get the best grades, and I don't think many people thought I was smart. However, I did not give up and decided to do as many clinics as possible because I learn best by doing rather than listening. The clinics were the best part of law school.

What and/or who inspired you?

My parents and family in general. The community I grew up in is very low income and made up on immigrants, so I decided to pursue law to help people like them. Additionally, there are not a lot of attorneys in my hometown so I eventually want to go back to my community and start my own law firm or nonprofit organization.

Advice to prepare for your field of work/career:

In immigration law (especially if you are doing removal / deportation work) you will have to deal with a lot of secondary trauma. Have a plan to deal with the secondary trauma and take care of yourself. Know your limitations and ask for help when you need it.

Words of Encouragement:

You can do this! No matter how hard the road seems and no matter whether you think you are smart enough or not, please know you are smart and you can do this! Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and people who have as big of goals as you do.

René García-Hernández

Él/He/Him
Director of Programming & Community Engagement
.

Undergraduate Degree and Institution:

Sociology and Dance Pedagogy, CSUN

Graduate Degree and Institution:

Education and Leadership Administration; CSUCI

Briefly describe your career path (preparation, challenges, and resources):

I have always a had a si se puede, si se pudo, y si se va poder mentality. While feeling my way around in the dark in my educational trajectory as an undocumented I dividí al; I have always done so confidently and with a commUNITY behind me. The biggest challenge has been not having clarity of where I could go because of the real challenges and barriers presented to Undocumented students and the romanticism of educational and career success that is ever changing for our community. The greatest resource to get me through it all has been self soothing and care. I have sought out the support physically, mentally, and emotionally to keep my well-being at a place where I have control in navigating my unknown outcomes.

What and/or who inspired you? 

My greatest inspiration has been my mother. She has taught me more than any education system has and will ever. She has taught me how to make latent decisions with ethics, dignity, and courage. She has taught me to trust the process paved by my ancestors; and has taught me how to budget accordingly to survive and create my own abundance.

Advice to prepare for your field of work/career:

Seek within to know your core values. These will guide you even when you can’t identify what type of guidance you need. Trust yourself and have plan W,X,Y, and Z lined up.

Words of Encouragement:

Remember si se puede, si se pudo, y si se va poder!

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

She/Hers/Ella
Academic Coach, Consultant, and Founder of Grad School Femtoring, LLC
.


Undergraduate Degree and Institution:

BA in English Literature, UCLA

Graduate Degree and Institution:

PhD in Theater and Performance Studies, UCLA

Briefly describe your career path (preparation, challenges, and resources):

My identity as a Chicana mother-scholar has directly informed my nontraditional academic career path. Initially, I thought I wanted to pursue the professoriate but soon realized that it didn’t align with my value of putting service first. I then transitioned to an alt-ac job directing an undergraduate research and grad school preparation program and as much as I loved it, I also felt limited in my capacity to help a larger population. I now serve as an academic coach and host a podcast where I get to help thousands of people in their pursuit of graduate school and in achieving their personal and professional goals.

What and/or who inspired you? 

My community inspires me—from my fierce single mother who sacrificed so much for me to be here, to my partner and children who are my biggest cheerleaders, to my first-gen women of color comadres who have my back when I need them, to my first-gen student of color femtees whose incredible identities and experiences keep me humble and make me proud.

Advice to prepare for your field of work/career:

There’s so much healing involved in the process of becoming an academic coach and femtor for others. It’s an ongoing unlearning of all the internalized messages that tell first-gen women of color that we’re not good enough, or that our voice doesn’t matter, or that we don’t deserve to get paid for our knowledge and services. A big part of it also involves expanding your comfort zone and taking a leap of faith. My best advice is to surround yourself with others on similar paths, build community, keep learning, and give yourself time.

Words of Encouragement:

Dream. Dream big. Keep dreaming. Turn that dream into a goal. Take one small step toward that goal today. You got this!