When I first came to K-State, I wanted to be a writer, and I imagined the next four years would be dedicated to preparing me to be the writer I always dreamed of being. My preferred genre was romance, I loved reading romance novels and I wanted to write them with my own twist.
Though I still enjoy reading romance novels and writing, my goals have changed over the years. The English Department has made me a better writer and helped me find my own path.
During my four years as an English major at K-State, I have learned that I love helping others as much as, or even more than, I love writing. For much of my time here I worked in the English Department as a student office assistant. I enjoyed meeting and helping students and faculty. As an English Ambassador, I had the opportunity to talk to prospective English majors about the program. I realized I love helping students feel welcomed and determine if English is the right major for them. Deciding a major is challenging, and I can offer that student perspective.
My English classes introduced me to the concept of intersectional identity, which has emboldened me to become a strong advocate for multicultural students. As a first-generation Latina student, I have found identity and culture to be interesting, and English classes enabled me to explore cultural differences and possibilities. Through various English classes I got to study topics that sparked my interest, like diversity in sci-fi or gendering baby clothes.
Though I love my home in the English Department, over time I discovered other opportunities for action on campus. My first year of college was a challenging one: I faced a lot of discrimination and I wanted to do something about it. So as a freshman, I applied for a Resident Assistant position; I knew I wanted the job because I wanted to make a difference in dorm life. Fast forward to today, and I have been a Resident Assistant for three years, where I work to help students have a better experience than I did. This job has taught me so much, but most importantly it’s helped me focus my passion for helping others and continued growth in areas of equity and inclusion. Attending a primarily white institution does come with a lot of challenges, like feeling isolated and alone from the main student population. Through equity and inclusion training I am constantly learning about identities that are similar or different from my own and how to navigate those similarities and differences on campus. This makes me a better activist for others. I love being able to help foster a welcoming environment for everyone.
In many ways, the RA job helped me recognize more opportunities to engage with social justice and multiculturalism. My supervisors encouraged me to follow my passion and expand my interests past housing and dining. This is when I became a founding member of the Stargazers, which is an interest group of Delta Alpha Sigma Multicultural Sorority Incorporated. As president of Stargazers, I help lead the group in planning and hosting events that unite women from various cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds. I helped start this organization at the perfect time: when the pandemic started, my friend group had shrunk, and due to ignorant comments, I felt alone on campus. Stargazers allowed me to work with a diverse group of women that was determined to give back to the community and support one another.
The McNair Scholar program gave me the opportunity to research other ways of promoting multiculturalism in the university. As a McNair Scholar, I was funded to participate in summer research. My research examined the Call Me MISTER program. I learned how programs like Call Me MISTER help students from diverse backgrounds succeed in the College of Education. Another piece of my research was conducted with the Chapman Center, where I learned more about being bilingual in rural communities. These research opportunities have helped me gain a better understanding of the programs that are in place to help students be successful. This is when I began to realize my future career path was in Student Affairs.
I have been so lucky to have a strong support system throughout my time at K-State. My professors, advisors, the McNair team and my bosses have all played a role in my success. They have guided me, in ways I could have never imagined when I began college as a freshman. I want to help students the way that all these people have helped me. I don’t think I would have been so successful in all my endeavors without my support system. These people and participating in these programs made me realize I could do this for a career!
Even though I no longer want to be a writer of fiction, the English Department has provided me with opportunities to branch out and discover other ways of using my talents and my passion for including more students in higher education. My experiences in the English Department — in the classroom, as a worker, and as a researcher — have all come together to help me define my career goals. Thanks to many K-Staters, this upcoming fall I will begin a master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education at Ball State University. I know this is what I want to do with my life: I want to help others feel like they belong, and I want to help other college students succeed.
— Thai Lopez (BA ’22)