As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re pleased to feature an interview with Andrea Gutierrez, Director of UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub at the University of California, Irvine. Andrea is also a student in CSU Global’s Master’s in Organizational Leadership program.
Q: How has your cultural identity shaped your goals around education and career?
"As a Latina in the U.S. who immigrated from Peru at the age of 15, my cultural identity has driven my goals around my education path and career. Pursuing a college education was something my parents always instilled in me, and my experience as an immigrant fueled those desires as I saw education as a path to a better future in this country, with the promise of social mobility and stability. Despite many challenges I encountered in affording an education as a first-generation immigrant, I persevered and fulfilled my aspirations of graduating from a competitive four-year university.
Because of the challenges I experienced as a first-generation and non-traditional student, and with the support and encouragement of my mentors, I decided to pursue a career path in student affairs/higher education to help support and serve students with similar experiences. My own journey has allowed me to have an acute understanding of the disadvantages and obstacles students may face in navigating their college experience when they are the first in their family to go to college, when they come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and when their paths to higher ed have been different and more complicated. I dedicate my professional life to helping eliminate barriers through innovative support services to meet equity gaps and alleviate socioeconomic stress for college students.
In navigating my career, I knew that pursuing a graduate education was necessary for my continued growth as a higher ed administrator. Understanding that the work I do intersects with not only the educational environment but also the non-profit, social services, and managerial sectors, I found that the Masters of Organizational Leadership at CSU Global provides me with the tools and skills to be a better leader and continue to led an emerging field in higher education."
Q: How has your culture enriched your life and experiences?
"My Latinx heritage has enriched my experiences in terms of being able to fully know myself and my history, and using that knowledge as an empowerment tool for myself and for those who I get to support and mentor now. During my undergraduate education, I studied history and focused my research on the history of Latin American and U.S. Latino populations. Having this perspective allowed me to make sense of my own journey and trajectory to the U.S., and helped me gather the strength to push through obstacles and understand my life’s mission and passions. My Latino community continues to be a source of strength and inspiration in all I do, and I owe my determination and perseverance to the lessons I have learned from immigrant communities and my own family."
Q: Has pursuing your goals helped empower others around you, in your family and community?
"Yes. In working with young adults, I am able to share my experiences and story as an example of determination and hard work, and I know that the students I support are empowered not only by my journey but also by my desire to continue working to improve the lives of those around me. Not only do I get to make a difference in their own journey and serve as a source of inspiration, but I get to be by their side to cheer them on as they accomplish their own goals and aspirations. My community and family see my accomplishments as a source of strength and it gives them hope for the future. While I was the first one in my family to graduate from a university, I have not been the last, as my sister and my cousins have also pursued degrees and we have led the way for our future family members to value education and seek it for their own personal development."
Learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, at hispanicheritagemonth.gov.