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Mirla Gonzalez Headshot

A Multifaceted Path

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I stood with my mother, at the age of six, in a line that extended beyond the doors of El Salvador's military hospital. We were at the mercy of physicians that weighed each infant's chance of survival and decided who would receive treatment. This experience spurred me to go to college to become an M.D. and help children like the surgeons who operated on my brother's cleft palate. This May, 15 years after my family moved from El Salvador to the U.S., I graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY with a B.S. in biomedical science and Spanish.

Although I had a life plan bound for a career in medicine, I learned that a liberal arts education is about being open to new ideas and experiences. These new experiences at Marist helped define my passions and re-shape my life's course. I spent a semester of my junior year in Spain doing a bilingual internship at a medical clinic where I witnessed first-hand the importance of cultural sensitivity, and the impact of truly listening to a patient's story.

I also took a transformational course with Dr. Kevin Gaugler, an associate professor of Spanish and my advisor during my four years. His class, Spanish and Technology, was both the best and most unique course I have ever taken. Unlike traditional lecture-style pedagogy, his course was completely project-driven with the goal of fostering 21st Century skills such as creativity and innovation, critical thinking, and self-direction, while simultaneously developing a student's media literacy and Spanish language skills. Also, like most professors at Marist who extend their role beyond the classroom, Dr. Gaugler took time to oversee my work on my Fulbright proposal.

Although I was not awarded a Fulbright, my work on this proposal forced me to understand my values and goals. Completing the proposal solidified my dream of educating children in Latin America. I developed a strong relationship with a NGO, Fabretto, which helps impoverished Nicaraguan children break the cycle of poverty through programs that promote education, nutrition and health, and community development. Biologically, we might inhabit the same earth, but it is the humanities that bring us closer to understanding the multifaceted nature of being itself.

This fall, I will be starting graduate school at the University of Kansas with full funding to get my Ph.D in Spanish literature. My ultimate goal is to create a service-learning study abroad course that takes undergraduates to volunteer with organizations like Fabretto, maximizing learning opportunities for every child--in both the developing and developed world. Being Latina, I want my students to appreciate other languages and cultures in college as Marist has helped me appreciate my own heritage. To know one's self and one's relationship to the world is an invaluable gift and I truly love Marist College for having given it to me. As a future professor, I only hope I can one day return the favor.