As a first-generation student, you may be wondering if anyone else encounters the same challenges and surprises higher education offers. That is why University Career Services will feature stories from first-generation students, alumni, faculty, and staff, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so you can hear their voices, learn their stories on how they navigated their college experience, their career decisions, and how they developed as young professionals.
Fatima Barragan Herrera
First Gen, UNL Alumni | Graduate Student at Carnegie Mellon University
My name is Fatima Barragan Herrera, and I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. Still, my family has moved to the US at a young age, and we have lived in Grand Island, NE, for decades now. I identify as female, use she series pronouns, 23 years old, and a first-gen graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. With the support and guidance from Nebraska College Preparatory Academy (NCPA) OASIS, SSS, and my professors, in May 2020, I received my bachelor of science degree in Mathematics with minors in Statistics, Ethnic Studies, and Spanish. I picked up math concepts at a young age and patterned them a lot easier and faster than I did in any core class. When my senior year of high school was coming to an end, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study and based my decision on what I knew I would do well. My college math courses were challenging, and I doubted whether I should have picked something different to study. But I wanted to stick with it because of my growing interest in data analytics and its power to drive decision-making in all fields.
Activities and Influencers
I participated in several extracurricular activities like Define American, Math Club and served with the Civic Engagement Center in college. Through these clubs, I got involved in advocacy work and worked to support disadvantaged communities. At the same time, I struggled to find ways to utilize my practical math skills while positively impacting my community. Thinking about my career after college, I worried I wasn’t going to find something I enjoyed that combined my passion for serving and my numbers skills. I thought my dream job didn’t exist.
Moi Padilla is someone I looked up to and reached out to for guidance. Because of his connections with the IEA department, I gained insight into what data analysis looked like in the profession. I felt very blessed to have this opportunity and meet an excellent, driven, caring staff. After this experience, I knew there were ways to combine my interest in math and service, which now drives the career experiences I seek.
Future Plans and Advice
I will be attending Carnegie Mellon University’s Masters in Public Policy and Management – Data Analytics in Fall 2021. Undergrad is the time to explore your options, figure out who you are and want to be as an individual. The staff are all there to support you; all you have to do is ask. Yes, I developed my analytical and math skills, but I also developed as an individual. I learned how to control my surroundings, ask for help, stand up for myself, be a team player, and take accountability. My advice to current first-gen students is to get involved in something you like and not be afraid to ask for help or guidance. Take advantage while you can y echale ganas.
Finding Your Influencers
Connect with UCS and meet with Career Coach, Letty Garcia for more support and watch this page for more resources and success stories!