Know Your Role

During my time at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) I have continued to develop many skills and build relationships after transferring from San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) where I began my higher educational journey after beating all odds. According to some, it is not a role that I was born for, but my skills, 4.0 GPA, passion, and determination I have proved otherwise. The skills and relationships I developed were possible due to the people I met, professors who guided me, and the courses and assignments that I worked on. After visiting the America’s Association of Colleges and Universities and reading about the High Impact Practices, known as HIP’s, respectfully, I found that CSUSB has been utilizing these practices to improve student’s participation, learning opportunities, and success. I am one of those students who has benefited from such practices just like many others before me and others who will join CSUSB in the near future. My educational development in this university included capstone courses and projects, collaborative assignments and projects, intensive written courses, diversity practices and discussions, creation of ePortfolios, learning communities, service learning and community-based learning, and first year seminars and experiences. For the purpose of this paper, I will describe how some of the people I met, the courses I participated in, and those who led them, are related to the high impact practices and fundamental components to my academic success.

I began my education as a transfer student in the Liberal Studies Program, Integrated Track, here at CSUSB. This program developed a set of seminars and required courses for students first year experiences. As a student in this program, I had the responsibility and opportunity to attend an online orientation that was not only mandatory but also extremely beneficial and informational. It helped us as first year students to get oriented with the programs, resources, and courses available in this institution. Aside from the online orientation, the first-year experience program set up tours to help incoming students get familiar with the campus and ask questions that experienced students could answer. During my first semester, we had to take the course CAL 2970 which helped guide us to understand that critical and free thinkers are relevant to the expanding and ever-changing global society. This course placed me with a group of students that I had never met before. We met weekly, had class discussions, wrote, and revised papers, and even worked on a group project. The professor took the time to inquire how the course was helpful and modified what was needed respectfully in a way that it would benefit the course load and level at the time. Between the time spent getting to know our classmates and sharing our ideas with the professor, we didn’t know that we were in the process of building these learning communities.

Aside from the first-year guidance, this same course had us write weekly discussions about our experiences and thoughts while sharing various ways in which would be helpful to our time at CSUSB. At the same time, we had to work together with our groups to create a video project that would reflect our collaborative, artistic, and technical skills. This collab project allowed us to show our strengths and learn from others in our areas that we struggled. We found that we were not only working on an assignment that we would later use for a portfolio, but we were also showcasing our talents and producing advertisements for the school that the community would benefit from. It was a fun filled experience and something that we will have forever thanked to the power of technology. Most of the courses I have taken up until today at CSUSB have required us to work in some way or another in groups. These collaborations, of course, have allowed us to share our ideas with one another and perform various roles that have helped us improve our cognitive and communicative development. They were also the perfect opportunity to meet new people and find a group with whom to study and build strong bonds.

Furthermore, Higher education settings can take a toll on student’s mental health and personal life. There are loads of assignments and projects to get done, due dates to worry about, fees that need to be taken care of, and maintain a satisfactory GPA along with a healthy lifestyle and a life outside of school. Because college is voluntary, it is every person’s responsibility to get things done, turn it in, and speak up. When life happens, it is important to have someone who can relate to you and educational collaborations help us do this. The people whom I worked with are some of the people that I call friends today. Not only were we able to share our ideas and help each other out while problem solving or working on a project, but we were able to lift one another when the pressure of school and life was overwhelming. Our dynamic is a unique one. We have diverse backgrounds, ages, and genders. As a college student, the discussions we have shared as a group have helped us build on our global and multicultural learning. This has been useful while working in courses that taught about diversity, social, and global issues such as CAL 2970, ES, Music, Philosophy, EDMS, ESPE, and ECON. But there were other courses such as GEOG, Math, TA, and CAL 5900, that have helped prepare us to build our specialized skills and use the assignments worked on to analyze our experiences, learning, and move forward in reaching our academic and professional goals.

This paper is part of a capstone course, CAL 5900, and part of a preparation project that also includes a set of professional documents such as a resume, curriculum vitae, letter of interest, cover letter, lesson plans, projects, written-intensive papers, etc... that will be clearly organized in a portfolio and ePortfolio to use when we graduate and are ready to seek employment. There were so many courses that I took during my CSUSB years that I thought I would fail and would never be able to learn the concepts from, but nothing prepared me for the intensity that this asynchronous course would put me through. Since I am a first-generation college student, I had no outside guidance or support when it came to preparing this portfolio. Still, with the help of an extremely intelligent classmate who has now become one of the closest people in my life, I have been able to develop the required documents needed in the professional world. Although we will include a traditional portfolio, an ePortfolio is also included for this project. It is a modern way to share and showcase our work electronically and collect it in a platform overtime in the global society we live in today. This project allowed me to put together pieces that I worked diligently and passionately along with my qualifications, experiences, and reflections all in one space. Even though this course has been challenging, I have managed to stay on track and get passed my own insecurities.

After many years of practice and error, this semester really pushed me to take the time to think about the concepts and strategies that knowledgeable professors shared with me and how I was going to use them as a future educator. Since this is the last semester before transitioning into the credentialing program and graduate courses, it became apparent to me how much I have overcome and learned. Much of this development is possible due the growth mindset and goals I decided to stand by. As I reflect on the skills that I developed and the areas in which I still need to work on, I can say that, working with others and problem solving even when classmates don’t think alike was one of the major accomplishments for me. Other practices also helped me step out of my comfort zone and expand on my collaboration skills such as going to office hours and discussing concepts that were unfamiliar. Additionally, taking the time to create, participate, and lead study sessions. Organizing schedules, creating original work, and meeting the due dates while also applying for grants, scholarships, and vouchers. Being respectful, engaging, and creative in the classroom. And last but not least, learning to trust my abilities, which is one of my biggest flaws. Looking back at all that I have gained because of these practices, I can say that I am a better parent, friend, scholar, and educator.

I feel blessed having the opportunity to chase my dream. Even more, I feel joyfulness to know that my time here will serve to inspire lives around me. Whether it impacts those in the classrooms, those who I spend time with at family gatherings, or people I bump into, I pray that the challenges I faced and the struggles that I survived are a testament to show that an education can be the outlet for those who are lost or want to give up. An education does not guarantee a desired a position nor does it guarantee an immense income, but it does fill one up with knowledge and creates many opportunities to learn about the world, the community, and us. Like the HIP’s purpose in college, the practices we use will have an effect in our lives. I can say that these practices have allowed me to help my children, family, and my friends. This year, all my children will be enrolled in college. My friends have begun their education and my nephews and nieces come to me for college information. Today, I became the person I needed when I began college, and I am proud to know that the seed I planted will sprout and one day fill a garden with beautiful flowers and butterflies.

My experience at CSUSB has been an incredible journey. I am a first-generation college student, parent of four, Mexican American woman who shouldn’t have been able to reach the academic success that I have so far. It is without a doubt that I have succeeded because of all the HIP’s that I worked on during my time here, the professors who put the necessary assignments together, and the people I worked with whom are now my friends. I have a completely different perspective and respect for many aspects that I didn’t have before I came here. I have learned to utilize various tools and platforms to create lesson plans, projects, and professional documents. The fear to speak up has faded and the confidence in my abilities has improved. My knowledge about children and learning has drastically developed. And I learned that education is not only necessary, but it can be a fun experience.