First-generation student emphasizes diverse backgrounds


Gillian Holte/Iowa State Daily

Araceli Lopez, junior in political science, pictured in her dorm room Oct 28.

Victoria Reyna-Rodriguez

With a triple-major in political science, communication studies and international studies, first-generation student, Araceli Lopez-Valdivia has been excelling at Iowa State and is not stopping anytime soon.

Lopez-Valdivia was born in Sioux City, Iowa, but both of her parents are from Mexico. Holding the culture very close to her heart, Lopez-Valdivia goes back to Mexico practically every summer to spend time with her family, and she even did part of her elementary schooling there.

Lopez-Valdivia is described as, “brilliant, committed, and inquisitive,” by her peer Vanessa Espinoza, graduate student in the School of Education.

“Araceli finds the time and effort to go beyond the basic expectations in and outside the classroom,” said Kristi Costabile, assistant professor of psychology and one of Lopez-Valdivia’s mentors.

She is involved in the Honors Program at Iowa State, does research for the political science and the psychology departments, is a part of Dance Marathon, is a community advisor at Martin Hall, is a Zumba instructor for recreation services and is also creating her own research studies.

“It is rare to find a student who is so capable at critical thinking and has such a natural inquisitiveness,” said Costabile.

Apart from being very involved on campus, Lopez-Valdivia is also very passionate about exposure to multiple identities in the classroom. She makes the point that not everyone comes from the same background when she recalls her elementary school years.

“I was in Mexico, learning about Mexico’s history, which I’m very proud of, but people assume things are simple knowledge,” Lopez-Valdivia said.

While Lopez-Valdivia ’s classmates here in America were learning about the presidents and geography of the states, she was learning about the history of Mexico.

“I always think about my peers… I’m right next to them even though I started so many steps behind… and that is something to be proud of,” Lopez-Valdivia said.

Although Lopez-Valdivia did not have all the resources that non-first-generation students have, she still managed to catch up to them.

“Araceli has a tenacious work ethic that stems from her upbringing,” said Espinoza. However, not every first generation student is so lucky.

“We all have different understanding and levels of knowledge, but that doesn’t mean any of us are above another,” Lopez-Valdivia said.

Lopez-Valdivia proves that first-generation students are capable of not only achieving their goals, but can go above and beyond them. It is students like her who bring attention to the importance of professors bringing a certain understanding and respect into the classroom when involving first-generation students in knowing that they come from a whole different world and background than the rest of us.

“A simple seed is planted, and it keeps growing… if more professors, mentors and advisors encouraged… first-generation students, or any student, it would really encourage that motivation and potential,” Lopez-Valdivia said.