Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

I embarked on my undergraduate journey unaware of how my intersectionality would play a role in the challenges I faced at the university level. I was a first-generation student of color, and I had no idea what to expect. I was the first in my family to graduate high school, so I had no one to guide me or teach me about college. I was in the infant stages of coming to terms with my sexuality. I thought of myself as flawed, and as something that needed to be hidden away. This time was full of uncertainty as I navigated unfamiliar spaces that I felt were not originally meant for people like me. The only thing I knew for certain was that a college degree would be a stepping stone out of poverty. As I walked the halls of that institution and struggled with my self-identity, I also struggled to find myself in the faces of my professors, classmates, and the textbooks I was studying.
It is because of my undergraduate and personal life experiences that I decided to help establish the first multicultural Latino-based fraternity at the University of San Diego. In 2017, I began working with an interest group comprised of first-generation men of color. I provided workshops and activities on resume building, time management/prioritization, mental health/self-care/toxic masculinity, and event planning. We brought in community members so they could see themselves reflected in the revolutionary spirit of what they were accomplishing. I played an integral role in teaching these individuals valuable life skills that they were never taught at home. I was able to show this new generation that there can be a safe space in a setting that is historically white and hetero-normative, even if they have to carve out that space themselves.
I envision myself changing the world through higher education. I believe in investing in equity-minded leaders. These leaders will assist in keeping institutions accountable to equity-minded practices. This is what I would like to further develop with my graduate studies. We need to make sure we have effective mentorship programs, financial aid, and other support services that focus on the under-served and at-risk student populations.
Dr. Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University, stated in a 2001 interview, “The purpose of higher education is not to get a good job, but to transform the soul.” I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, as this is what higher education did for me. I believe education can save lives. It obliterates ignorance, and ignorance is the source of so much of the hate and destruction that exists in our world today.
My journey has been similar to the metamorphosis of a butterfly. I learned to be understanding, not only of myself, but of people from all walks of life. I see student affairs not only as an underused tool that has the potential to increase retention and graduation rates, but also as a conduit to transformative learning for those who may also perceive themselves as flawed, but in reality, are butterflies waiting to break free and make this world just a little more beautiful.

Jonathan from California
University of San Diego