Posted by Aurora University on December 20, 2012
“¡Bienvenidos a Aurora Universidad!”
That’s the greeting many first-generation college students and their family members receive during AU4U orientation from Eva Serrano, Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages. She knows that pursuing a college degree can be overwhelming for some; however, she never, ever allows her students to give up or postpone their dreams.
Serrano serves as a mentor for many Latino students, including recent AU graduate Candi Esquina. Serrano met Esquina and her mom at a college information workshop in 2008. The two grew close when Esquina became involved in the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), a club for which Serrano serves as the faculty advisor. Today, Esquina is enrolled in graduate studies in the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department at the University of Michigan. But that almost didn’t happen.
“In August, I decided to defer going to Michigan because of tuition and housing concerns,” said Esquina. “When Dr. Serrano heard, she called me and asked if my mom and I would meet with her. She asked me good questions and helped me navigate the transition. I learned that I qualified for a graduate student instructor position, and she helped me with my housing search. Two days before school started, I moved to the Michigan campus. Dr. Serrano will do anything to help her students succeed.”
Serrano’s approach to teaching and mentoring students is based on connecting to their cultural backgrounds and establishing relationships with their families.
“At AU, we design activities to draw upon the cultural strengths of our students to advance their families and communities forward,” she said. “We thank families for entrusting their college students to us, remind them that their sons and daughters are entering a new phase of transition that requires patience and care, and invite younger generations to put college in their future educational plans.”
Recent graduate Angelica Cabada also credits Serrano for continually providing perspective. “She is all about ‘the light at the end of the tunnel,’” said Cabada. “She used that phrase so many times during my four years at AU. At commencement I remember thinking, ‘I reached the light at the end of the tunnel!’ I got there because of my hard work and commitment, but also because there was always someone encouraging and believing in me, including my family, friends and Dr. Serrano.”
Commencement is a special time for Serrano, too. “I beam with pride as students walk across the stage,” she said. “I enjoy being able to recite something about each student’s personal story of determination to be at AU. The fact that students entrust me with a glimpse into their world is a gift.”