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Hispanic Heritage Month Profiles

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Trio of First-Generation Students Thriving at OU

The University of Oklahoma is dedicated to student success and provides a variety of resources to help first-generation students transition to college. Ismael Gomez, Maria Hernandez, and Andres Solis share some of their OU stories, how resources have helped them succeed on campus, the community they have found, and the internship opportunities they've had as a student.

Ismael Gomez

Junior | Electrical Engineering

Ismael Gomez

My name is Ismael Gomez and I am a first-generation college student from Southside Oklahoma City. My biggest challenge while at the University of Oklahoma has been my transition from the high school environment to the more rigorous college curriculum. I am also a student on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). I was born in Morelia Michoacan, Mexico. I am constantly thinking about my status in this country, and I am constantly paying attention to what politicians say and do because my fate and my education relies on them.

As a first-generation student, it was really difficult to navigate through the application process just because I had no one close to me that had gone to any type of higher education. The University of Oklahoma has become a home and a place where I can find guidance and advice. Programs like Diversity Enrichment Programs and Multicultural Engineering programs have helped me in achieving my goals and guiding me.

I am majoring in electrical engineering. In the summer of 2019 I was able to acquire an internship with Halliburton as a field engineer intern. Interning at Halliburton was an amazing experience full of new experiences. I gained so much knowledge and understanding of the energy service field. I was able to travel to places in Texas and Oklahoma where I gained experience in working with field engineers on oil drilling rigs. I was working with Sperry Drilling in Oklahoma City, where I worked with measuring while drilling tools and logging while drilling tools. During my time at Halliburton I was able to research wireless technology and how to improve various electromagnetic tools. I really enjoyed my time at Halliburton because I was able to network with great people and work with brilliant minds. I plan on pursuing more opportunities in energy. I would not be where I am today without the support of the wonderful community OU has offered me.

Maria Hernandez

Junior | Psychology & Social Work major, Social Justice & Nonprofit Organizational Studies minor

Maria Hernandez

I was born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, a small town outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, whose life purpose is to provide a more fruitful life in the United States for me and my four siblings. They are my greatest source of motivation for pursuing higher education and advocating for communities that have been historically underrepresented in these academic and professional spaces.

The support systems organizations like Project Threshold, McNair Scholars, and Diversity Enrichment Programs have contributed to my success as a first-generation student at OU. My goal for the future is to complete a doctoral degree that enriches my ability to advocate for and serve communities that have limited access to psychological services and health education resources. 

My internship experience this summer certainly solidified my goals for the future. I had the opportunity to work for Take Control Initiative (TCI), a women’s health nonprofit, through the George Kaiser Family Foundation in Tulsa. TCI is devoted to removing the barriers women face to reach health services, education, and advocacy in the field of sexual and reproductive health. During my internship I created a referral resource for post-secondary institutions in the Tulsa Metro area, and I had the opportunity to conduct several focus groups about health experiences that could aid future program development. One of the most impactful experiences I had  was planning for the first meeting of TCI’s data collaborative focused on partnerships with adolescent and women’s health groups, centered around data and storytelling. I am so grateful to have developed professional relationships with so many trailblazers that are making active changes that will impact underserved communities in Tulsa. 

Andres Solis

Senior | Construction Science

Andres Solis

I was born in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. I was brought into the United States at the age of 3 where I faced numerous challenges adapting to the American culture. I am the oldest hijo and have three younger siblings.

One of the major challenges in my life was coming to OU since I had no idea what college life was like. I had no advice or tips from my family because I am a first-generation college student. It was mostly trial and error throughout my years at OU realizing how important it was to be involved with organizations on campus as well as interning with a company within my career path. Fortunately, OU has numerous organizations to facilitate the transition for first generation college students such as Project Threshold and Latino Student Life, which I highly recommend to anyone coming to OU.

Throughout my college career, I learned how to be more effective with my time management since I worked part time as a structural construction worker, I commute from OKC, took 15 credit hours each semester, and I was involved with numerous organizations as an executive chair. I was given the opportunity to intern with Turner Construction Company as a Project Manager Intern and learned even more efficient techniques to improve not only myself but the construction process of projects.