Biochemistry major Jennifer Carrillo says her experience in the program has been quite the ride. Now a junior, Carrillo has been conducting faculty-led research with Chemistry Professor Alison Bray on lab work funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture since her freshman year.
Recently, she had the opportunity to represent Texas Lutheran University at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) national conference in Chicago. There, she not only built her professional network, she had the chance to get out of her comfort zone and gain critical exposure in her field.
With workshops from other Hispanic Serving Institutions like TLU and presentations from companies such as Google, Oracle, and Kellogg’s, Carrillo was able to connect her own personal experience as a first-generation college student with that of many other attendees.
“The one workshop that really resonated in me was a seminar from Google on imposter syndrome that emphasized the pressures we have to face in order to achieve success,” she said. “At times, underrepresented minority groups experience these imposter feelings of being found out to not have what it takes to succeed. This is odd because individuals with the imposter syndrome have trouble believing their worth and chalk their success up to pure luck.”
Sharing in an experience with others from similar backgrounds was inspirational.
“As a first-generation student, sometimes you really feel like you’re the only one going through the different obstacles of having to figure everything out on your own,” she said. “It was very refreshing to meet people who are ultimately living the same life as me but in a totally different state. It was interesting to see the different concentrations of studies people in the Latinx community are participating in. I truly believe that minorities have the potential to take over the world and do great things no matter how hard it might be.”
Professor Bray says Carrillo is a great example of a student who embraced the small teaching environment at TLU.
“After her first semester, she took the initiative to get involved in a research methods course which allowed her to start independent chemistry research the summer after her freshman year,” Dr. Bray said. “She easily took on a leadership role. She works well independently but utilizes our open-door office policy to seek out help when she needs it. She has become an excellent chemist, researcher, and leader in our department.”
Carrillo plans to become a physician’s assistant one day where she can apply her biochemistry skills in a health care setting.
“The work never ends in the lab and this program has taught me how we must educate others in our research so we can ultimately make a difference in the world, whether that involves agricultural studies or not,” she said. “I’ve learned from my major that perfection is nearly impossible, but it is important to be resilient.”
Her advice to young women interested in STEM and individuals from underrepresented backgrounds is to remember that you are always more than your gender or stereotype.
“Put up a good fight because you are the driving force behind what you want to study, she said. "The only person that can stop you is you."
More About the HACU
The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities was established in 1986 with a founding membership of 18 institutions. Because of HACU’s exemplary leadership on behalf of the nation’s youngest and fastest-growing population, the Association rapidly grew in numbers and national impact. Today, HACU represents more than 470 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain. Although member institutions in the U.S. represent only 13 percent of all higher education institutions nationwide, together they are home to two-thirds of all Hispanic college students. HACU is the only national educational association that represents Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).