First-generation ASU graduate blazes a trail for higher education

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

When Jesús López graduated from Arizona State University this week, he became the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Originally from Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, he is graduating with his bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature and culture and a minor in criminology and criminal justice.

López attended college straight out of high school in 2007, but dropped out after three semesters.

“I was hanging around the wrong crowd — overwhelmed and unprepared,” he said.

Eventually, he decided it was time to give it another try and enrolled at Mesa Community College. There he discovered the Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program (MAPP), which helps students plan and complete prescribed coursework to help them make a smooth transition to a four-year university for their bachelor’s degree.

López says the program helped him realize what he wanted to study and how he would achieve his goal. He completed his Associate of Arts in Spanish at MCC before transferring to ASU in spring 2015.

“My inspiration leading to my current studies are my parents and the Latino/Hispanic community,” López said. “Coming from immigrant parents, I know firsthand the struggle of them not knowing proper English.”

His ability to speak both English and Spanish has been advantageous for him, both personally and academically.

“While challenging, I really enjoy the process of listening, speaking, reading and writing in both Spanish and English.”

During his time at ASU, Lopez also helped others forge a path toward higher education as an ambassador for Access ASU’s me3 program. me3 is an innovative career exploration tool developed by ASU to help high school students find a major, degree program and career that fits the student based on their interests and passions. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Something I learned while at ASU is I learned all about myself. I learned not to underestimate myself, to be a successful student and to grow to be a leader. As a first-generation college student, I did not know what to expect from college and knew even less of how to be a successful student. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: When I was enrolled at Mesa Community College, I was introduced to the Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program (MAPP). If I was not introduced to MAPP, I would not be attending ASU. The MAPP program provided me with a multi-faceted approach that encouraged academic achievement, promoted personal and professional development and provided support for me to stay in college, persist and graduate.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: From my perspective, the advice or words of wisdom I would give to those still in school is take more advantage of the office hours that the instructors provide.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on the Tempe campus to study is Hayden Library’s second and third floors because the library has study zones. Throughout the library there are three types of zones, with corresponding noise expectations: Common Study Zones, Quiet Study Zone, and Silent Study Zones.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation is to pursue my MEd in higher and postsecondary education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem, I would tackle education. I am a huge believer that every man, every woman and every child deserves a higher education.