Diana Garcia, Zamequa Felani Lopez and André Mychal have different backgrounds, different interests and fields of study, but each of these University of San Diego students shared commonalities on Thursday. They each attended the university’s annual Founders Chapel Mass for mid-year graduating students and each expressed appreciation for their USD education experience.
Garcia (pictured, second from left) is two final exams away from completing her degree in Communication Studies and a psychology minor. She transferred to USD from Merced (Calif.) Community College in Fall 2009.
She was so inspired by Communication Studies Professors Leeva Chung and Roger Pace during a summer program in Guadalajara, Mexico, that she changed her major. Her Tijuana immersion experience through University Ministry included visits to an orphanage and a children’s cancer hospital. She was the only undergraduate student to accompany USD graduate nursing students on their annual January trip to the Dominican Republic. Garcia, at the invitation of Associate Clinical Professor Susan Bonnell, served as a Spanish-language translator to assist the students with administering health care needs for patients. Her latter experience, which she’s going to do again next month, influenced her decision to enter USD’s Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN).
“If I hadn’t come here in Fall 2009, I don’t know where I would be,” Garcia said. “I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’ve done things here that I never pictured myself doing. It’s helped me learn more about myself.”
Lopez, who transferred to USD from San Diego State University, has completed the requirements for her English degree, but she’ll finish her single-subject teaching credential through USD’s School for Leadership and Education Sciences in the spring. Lopez will be student teaching at the School of Creative and Performing Arts in National City, Calif.
While she acknowledged that she’d like to see the campus community support spaces such as USD’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity, she was very thankful for all she’s received.
“I’ve had people here who pushed me to succeed, including Dr. (Carlton) Floyd, Pam Gray Payton, Dr. (Joi) Spencer and Kathy Estey and others who were amazing. I worked in the community as a tutor at Bayside Community Center, I studied abroad in Jamaica, wrote about it for Public Affairs and I was hired as an intern in the International Center.”
Mychal, a Noyce Scholarship recipient, is earning his degree in biology. Thankful for his upbringing with a Catholic education from start to finish, he said he’s appreciated USD’s strong education program combined with small class sizes so “I don’t feel like a name and a number.” That afforded him the chance to get to know and learn from helpful professors, such as Paul Kemp and “Dr. (Lisa) Baird, who was my advisor the past three years and has been there to help me with anything and everything.”
The knowledge and experiences through a liberal arts education is designed to prepare students for the next step in their lives. Graduation from USD means they’re now part of the Young Alumni Network and forever a Torero. On Thursday, this realization was sinking in for Garcia, Lopez, Mychal and many others in Founders Chapel.
“The mass made me think about all that I’ve been able to do here,” Garcia said.
— Ryan T. Blystone