When first generation college student Jose Rosales-Chavez ‘12 arrived at USD, he immersed himself in programs and organizations. He took advantage of mentorship through Student Support Services, conducted research as a McNair Scholar, and explored his cultural identity in various clubs. When the American Medical Student Association wasn’t meeting his unique needs, he started his own organization—Minority Association of Pre-Health Students. Hard work and a strong support network paid off for Rosales-Chavez. This fall, he begins a PhD program in Global Health at Arizona State University. His advice for students: Get involved!
"Tijuana Spring Breakthrough immersion trips changed the way I see my surroundings, my possessions and the opportunities I have been fortunate to receive."
I understand you were originally pre-med, but switched gears in your junior year. What made you decide that anthropology and Spanish were a better fit? How did those two areas of study prepare you for your PhD program?
As I became more exposed to the great diversity of classes offered at USD, I began to redefine my career interests. After taking several anthropology classes and experiencing a summer research program through the McNair Scholars Program, I realized that my real passion lay in another field of study. By this time, I was halfway through my undergraduate education and was hesitant to switch majors. Nonetheless, I was very interested in learning more about the field of anthropology and doing research.
Now that I am about to start my PhD program at ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, I can see that everything worked out. I will be researching obesity and how social, cultural and biological components are associated with this growing global health hazard. I will focus on the Latino and Latin American populations. I will use my anthropological skills to understand each culture, my biology background will help me comprehend the etiology of the disease and the Spanish language will make conversations with these people much easier. So, even though I changed gears halfway through, things worked out wonderfully.
Jose, you were a founding member of the USD MAPS club. What inspired you to start the club?
When I first came to USD, I was interested in pursuing a medical path. I was participating in the campus’ American Medical Student Association (AMSA). However, I noticed that most of the information in the club was geared towards a general student body. Our then Pre-health advisor informed me about the possibility of starting a club geared towards minority students. She knew of opportunities such as conferences, scholarships, and programs that could potentially benefit this student population. That is when I stepped up and decided I was going to help start a club for minority pre-health students on campus. With this idea in mind, I recruited a small number of minority pre-health students to help me get the club going. Together, we spread the word throughout campus, hosted informational meetings and recruited enough students to get the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) recognized as an official club by the university. The following semester we hosted our first meeting. We invited guest speakers including doctors and medical school recruiters. We even had the opportunity to go to Stanford for the annual MAPS conference. I was proud to serve as president for two years, 2008-2010, and even though I stepped out when I switched career paths, I am proud to say that the club is still going strong.
You were also involved with a number of student organizations and service groups. How did leadership and service shape your undergraduate experience?
I was involved in many different clubs as an officer and as a regular member. I can seriously say that my undergraduate career would not have been as fulfilling if I had not been involved in student organizations. From the various minority clubs, I learned the significance of a diverse campus. Clubs gave me the opportunity to find students like me—first generation minority students—who I could relate to and who could serve as a support network. They also helped me embraced my cultural heritage, and helped me find ways to share my culture with the campus community. Likewise, my participation in the Tijuana Spring Breakthrough immersion trips changed the way I see my surroundings, my possessions and the opportunities I have been fortunate to receive. These trips opened my eyes to the social injustice and inequalities just a few miles south of San Diego. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to listen to and interact with our neighbors in Tijuana and learn that sometimes, it is not economic support they are seeking, but companionship.
As someone who studied a variety of subjects at USD, what do you think are the benefits of a liberal arts education?
I believe the main benefit of a liberal arts education is the infinite possibility of subjects to study and ideas to discover. Liberal arts classes provide students the opportunity to diversify their knowledge and become more tolerant of other groups of people and ideas. For instance, the many ethnic and religious classes offered at USD are a great way to learn about other groups of people and their religions. I find that learning about other cultures in an academic field really helps bring down denigrating stereotypes.
"As I became more exposed to the great diversity of classes offered at USD, I began to redefine my career interests. After taking several anthropology classes and experiencing a summer research program through the McNair Scholars Program, I realized that my real passion lay in another field of study"
What are your goals for the future?
My immediate goal is to start my PhD program and get more involved with research projects. I would like to start my own projects as well as start publishing my findings. Once I am done with my PhD, I would love to come back to California, hopefully San Diego, and teach at the university level. I also want to buy my first house and start a family with my lovely wife.
What is your advice to first-generation college students who might be considering USD?
I would strongly recommend taking full advantage of the services the University of San Diego has for students like you, especially if you are a minority. I seriously think I would not have been as successful if it had not been for the transitional and academic help I received from TRiO’s Student Support Services on campus. This program is geared for first generation students and provided me with the academic, cultural and mentoring support I needed throughout my five years at the university. Likewise, I recommend getting involved with what is happening on campus; join clubs, intramural teams and most importantly, get out of your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to new people and make new friends. This is how I got to know some of my best friends.
The professors are there to help you and advise you. One of the best things about USD is that I can walk to my professors’ offices, and they will know who I am and how I work. Take full advantage of this, and you will see that when the time comes, this support network can be significant for your future plans. Lastly, do not be discouraged when you find yourself confused with what you really want to do with your life. Everything will work out fine. Believe me.
- Anne Malinoski '11