Rider students chosen for Hispanic fellows program

By Kaitlyn McCormick

Three Rider students spent their summer participating in the New Jersey Governor’s Hispanic Fellows Program and learning from hands-on internship and leadership experiences at placements such as the American Red Cross and Bristol Myers Squibb.

The urge to apply

Senior political science major Karla Lopez-Rosa, who was placed remotely with the American Red Cross in the New Brunswick area this summer, said that she first heard of the fellowship program from political science professor Micah Rasmussen during her fellowship with the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, of which Rasmussen is the director.

“I have the mindset, where [if] there’s an opportunity, I jump on it, because every opportunity is an experience,” Lopez-Rosa said.

Lopez-Rosa worked under the community outreach and partnerships department at her placement and focused primarily on Hispanic Latino engagement in the New Brunswick area, she said.

Her application process consisted first of an essay portion and resume section and then an interview with the Center for Hispanic Research and Policy’s director at the time. Notice of acceptance followed roughly a week later.

Senior management and leadership major Nanci Menchu was encouraged to apply for the program

after speaking with Ivonne Díaz-Claisse, the CEO of Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement (HISPA) at a Latinos in College program through Rider.

Menchu was placed at Bristol Myers Squibb along with senior finance major Juan Molina, who had also heard of the program through Latinos in College.

Menchu and Molina both worked under the umbrella of worldwide patient safety under an oncologist in the epidemiology department, Molina said.

Menchu was also on the global market supply operations team and worked communicating with various other contacts across the world, including in Switzerland and Belgium.

Big picture takeaways

Throughout their time in their allotted placements, the students spoke of the practical, professional and personal skills that they gained over the summer.

Molina spoke specifically on the importance of networking, especially in a new environment such as his internship placement.

“Your connections and your network base just gets so large, at a certain point you look back and realize … ‘I can really call on each and every one of these individuals,’” Molina said. “At the end of the day, it’s not just networking; it’s networking with a purpose.”

Menchu said that the experience provided her with an opportunity to combat the “imposter syndrome” she experiences as a first generation student.

“I feel like I learned how to be an advocate for myself,” Menchu explained. “I too deserve a seat at the table.”

Menchu is the president of Rider’s Gail Bierenbaum Women’s Leadership Council, and noted also that this self-advocacy and confidence will be carried into her experiences on campus, especially in predominantly white spaces.

People that ‘look like me’

Each of the students involved in the fellows program touched on the importance of having programs specifically designed for supporting Hispanic students.

Lopez-Rosa said, “It was nice to see that other people that look like me were in the program and it’s a program for us.”

Menchu said, “I got to talk to people who are successful in the industries and the companies that looked like me. They also went through the same struggles of being first gen[eration].”

Molina shared a very similar sentiment; “You’re there with like-minded individuals who want to see a young Latino succeed, and they’re there every step of the way. … They want to help individuals who, at the end of the day, are able to make it to college and have a similar background as them.”

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