Success in college can never start too early. From preschool and kindergarten all the way through high school, there are things we can do today that will help prepare our young minds for higher education—no matter what stage they may be at now.
The U's Office of Engagement connects community with the promises of higher education in important ways—through first helping young people IMAGINE and really believe they can go to college, then by mentoring and preparing them through the process, and finally by helping them DO—fostering real achievement though counseling, engagement, and the creation of a safe space to learn and discover.
Sandi is a lover of Zumba, old cars, fast cars, and every animal she's ever met. Except for snakes. She doesn't love snakes. She is passionate about access to higher education for all and is grateful for the opportunity to work in this space every day. As the Assistant Vice President for Engagement, she spends her time working with all of our programs, and loves the opportunity to raise money to build pipelines to and through higher education. A first generation college student, Sandi earned a BA in Dance, an MPA, and a Ph.D. in Public Administration. She teaches in the MPA program here at the U, and will soon also be teaching Zumba on campus! Her daughters tell her that she is like Dug from "Up" because...squirrel!
Extreme Alps Ice Climbing, X-Games Skateboarding Champion, and Fresh Water Shark Training are just a few of the activities that Nicole will never do. Because YOLO, you only live once, and nobody ever got hurt sitting on the couch watching Netflix. Instead of seeking thrills that might break her fragile bird bones, Nicole currently spends her free time obsessing over government politics, avoiding ginger damaging sunlight, and working on her Ph.D. in Political Science. As a first generation college student, Nicole completed both her B.S. in Communication and Masters in Public Administration at the University of Utah. Nicole enjoys collaborating with her talented University of Utah colleagues as Managing Director of the Office of Engagement and Director of the Utah College Advising Corps.
Rachel is an ardent admirer of Chihuahuas and Kombucha. When Rachel isn't hanging out 25 feet in the air practicing aerials and performing with the Aerial Artists of Utah, you might see her around campus promoting access to higher education as the Assistant Director for the Utah College Advising Corps. Not only does she keep the office in line with her amazing administrative duties, she also enjoys catching Pokemon. So far she has a Vapereon with a CP of 930 and climbing. One day she will control the gym located at the U.S. Army Fort Douglas Monument. Rachel is a first generation college graduate. Her favorite rockstar politician is Wendy Davis and meeting Gloria Steinman is a high bucket list priority; #feminism. She received a B.S. from Westminster College and an MPA from the U. The Office of Engagement could not function without her Pcard pizazz, parsimonious budget tracking, and her ability to multitask whilst seeing a squirrel!
Cats and Netflix is pretty much the perfect paradise for Marisol. She often says she has four pet cats, but in reality they are her family. Marisol was born and raised in Mexico, and has lived half her life in Utah. When not at work, Marisol loves spending time with her three sisters, parents, cats, and friends—actually, most of the time, Marisol just loves spending time alone, hoping one of her cats will love her. Marisol completed her B.S. in Ethnic Studies and Sociology from the University of Utah. After graduation, Marisol was shook to be accepted for the First Star Coordinator position to work with foster youth.
Jarred Martinez is home-grown in Salt Lake City and Kearns, with family roots throughout the southwest and northern Mexico. Soon after returning home from earning a Masters in Youth Development from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012, he began working with the Office of Engagement. Jarred's role places him in a number of community settings, particularly the Glendale\Mtn. View Community Learning Center, where he works with youth, community members, and other organizations to support critical learning and the creation educational pathways. When not in Glendale, Rose Park or on campus, he is probably out exploring the world, playing in the mountains, or dancing cumbias!
Martha travels to Fort Duchesne every week. In between trips she hikes, skies, bikes and otherwise enjoys all the outdoor adventures in Utah. You can probably find her floating down the Colorado River or buying chocolate at Trader Joe's. One time in June her and her husband spotted a patch of snow in Eastern Utah at 11,000 ft and hiked 45 minutes across a scree field with their skis and boots for a total of 8 thrilling turns! She is a fantastic videographer creating stunning images of her work within the office and the Ute Indian Tribe.
A self-proclaimed iced coffee snob hailing from Idaho Falls, Logan joined our team as the new Defining your Path Field trip coordinator. With a B.A. from Utah Valley University of Utah in secondary art education, he loves to create art. His most recent paintings portray Labradors of all different colors and sizes. He minored in digital media thus making him a Photoshop Master of no Mercy! Logan's first job was at the community swimming pool coaching kids to find their inner Michael Phelps. Think whistles, planks, and bubble contests. A reluctant hipster who collects vinyl records, cross stitching needle point art, with a love of film photography and local rock in roll shows. He strives to change the perception of college for the K-12 community. Through his field trips, he shows that college is accessible, engaging and immersive. He plans on doubling the number of student participants from last year. So, when you see a giant group of K-12 students scuffling the campus you know he is well on his way to amassing over 4,000 students this next year!
Caffeine-dependent Alonso (coffee sip) searches for inspiration and enlightenment in cat imagery ranging from magnets to calendars. When Alonso is not in the office working with students, you can find him, well, working some more in the community, editing papers at local coffee shops, or playing with his cats, Gabo and Kiwi, and re-watching Parks and Recreation for probably the fifteenth time. NO KIDDING. Alonso is passionate about working with undocumented students and families and seeks to share all his knowledge and experiences with the undocumented community as well as the community at large. In 2013, Alonso graduated from the University of Utah with an Honors B.S. in Sociology and in 2016 with a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership & Policy with an emphasis in higher education administration. (coffee sip)
Jack of all trades, master of, well, Social Work; at least as far as education goes. Gluttonous consumer of information on an eclectic array of topics: currently bingeing on alternative dwellings, solar energy, and bicycles. Unrelentingly verbose in both spoken and written forms. Reads nearly exclusively adolescent fiction. Obsessed with food—particularly cultural and familial traditional cuisines. Pop-culture Luddite. Urban-phobic, free-range, solar-powered human. Passionate about college access and the transformative opportunity college can be for first generation students. Community-based social worker with a flair for individualization, broad application of harm reduction principles, and mentor/reciprocal relationship empowerment. One goal in life: to help each person discover and passionately pursue their dreams, on their own terms, towards their own definition of success. Believes that, "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story." –Mary Lou Kownacki
A descendant of farmers, cooks, doctors, and teachers, Emilio decided to add folk-dancer to his families' ever growing list of careers. Beacon Scholar Advisor by day, and Southern Chinese Lion Dancer by night, Emilio also loves preserving, teaching, and performing traditional Filipino rural dances at different Asian and Pacific Islander festivals throughout the state! Smell something good? He's probably serving and sharing a mean lunch with his students as Emilio not only loves to eat, but lives to cook indigenous foods from his roots and the surrounding Southeast Asian cuisines. When he's not dancing, cooking, or eating, he's probably inside watching reruns on Netflix, outside hiking, or out with friends making and capturing memories! Emilio was the first in his family to graduate, with none other than a degree from the University of Utah (BA in Communication, minor in Asian Pacific Islander Studies). He wouldn't have been able to do it without the friends and chose family he made from AASA, BSU, ITSA, MEChA, and PISA at the U! Community organizer, aspiring activist, son of the Pacific—get familiar, talk about social justice issues, and call him 'Kuya'!
Traveling from West Valley City, a land far, far away, Emily journeys to the University of Utah to fulfill her duties as a Beacon Leader. Emily is a first-generation college student. She is jumping into her second year here at the U studying Urban Ecology. When she is not in the office her time is mostly spent singing badly to old Christina Aguilera karaoke DVD's and cooking up fancy meals, i.e. omelettes, in her kitchen. If you ever need a concert buddy, she'll be there! You'll also see her around campus planning activities for the Asian American Student Association (AASA). Being part of the Khemera Dance Troupe is one of the ways she tries to stay in touch with her Cambodian culture. You can catch a glimpse of her and the team in their shimmering outfits shining at various performances throughout the Salt Lake Valley.
Dj Khaled, ANOTHER ONE! Opa is a first-generation college student. She is studying Psychology with a minor in International Studies. She loves to do something new and daring because, "I swear that girl has been to every haunted house in Utah" said no one ever. Instead she would rather be hanging out in her mom's room watching Halloween and believing that little noise was Michael Myers in her house. She plans to travel the world once she's done with college and begin working with children. Opa graduates with her B.S. in Psychology soon #classof2018! She is a current Beacon leader in the Office of Engagement (2017-2018), after being a mentor the previous year. When not out to meet her thriller killer, working, or dreaming you can find her at the library, gym, or gawking at classic car shows. She also loves her family so much that she might be considered the second "mom" of the family!
Gracia was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras (she has also had the privilege of living in Costa Rica and Guatemala). As a first-generation immigrant and college student, she's passionate about helping people from her community through either direct activism or representation in underrepresented industries, and/or meeting her true lord and savior, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. A walking human disaster, Gracia avoids anything that can be considered dangerous, like outdoor recreation such as rock-climbing or standing in the sun too long. She loves music, art, her baby nephew Lucas, and literature. You can find her lurking through the bowels of bookstores, drawing/painting, playing video games of all sorts, or writing fiction in her room like some pretentious hipster in an indie Seattle coffee shop. She'll be graduating in spring 2018 with a Bachelor's of Art in English with a minor in Philosophy.
Spending most of his free time skateboarding the streets of the west side, going on long walks in Rose Park, or fishing the beautiful lakes and rivers of Utah, Pedro is a first-generation college student majoring in Political Science. He is passionate about social justice and working with his community and other first generation college students. When Pedro is not working with Beacon Scholars, he is working with the Mestizo Arts and Activism Collective (MAA), a group of young students from the west side of Salt Lake who discuss issues that affect their communities and address to solve them in creative ways. Pedro's dream is to get involved in the upcoming legal cannabis industry and advocate for an even playing field and racial equity in this industry as it grows throughout the country.