Dr. Herbert Medina

Herbert MedinaCurrent Position: Provost

Alma Mater: UCLA

Major/Undergraduate field of study: Mathematics and Computer Science

What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?

It was scary, exciting, it gave me a sense of pride and also made me feel like I had a lot riding on my success.

Are there any unique challenges you faced as a First Generation student?

In retrospect, I was quite unprepared to attend university. Sure, I had gotten good grades in and had a solid foundation from high school, but I was not prepared for the level of academic work that was required of me to be successful at UCLA. During my first year of studies, I struggled in my calculus classes which were going to be the foundation for much of the mathematical education that was to come. I thought that "studying" meant sitting on my bed or a desk reading the calculus textbook. I thought that I would learn math by reading math as opposed to "doing" math. I didn't ask questions during class. I didn't go to office hours. I didn't seek out study groups. I basically tried to do it all on my own. It didn't work. So during spring semester of my first-year, I earned a poor grade in my calculus class. I realized over summer that I needed to change what I was doing. I realized that I really needed to "engage" the material. I needed to get my questions answered. I needed do lots of practice problems to prepare for exams. I needed to treat my math classes, and all classes for that matter, as "contact sports" in order to learn and grow academically. I came back in fall semester of sophomore year with this revised attitude and saw the results almost immediately. My grades on quizzes and exams were higher. I was understanding lectures better. I was actually learning the material in my classes. By the end of sophomore year, I was on the dean's list!

Do you have any advice for FGEN students at UP that are facing challenges?

Think of your classes as "contact sports." You need to "hit" the material. You need to "engage" your faculty. You need to find some "teammates" to help you to go "toe-to-toe" with the material that you're learning. Ask your teammates and "coaches" (i.e., faculty and staff) for help when the material is "hitting back" so that you can again begin to get a handle on it. In addition, work to make UP your own. Remember that this is YOUR university. The university exists to serve its students so think of it as your own. It is your home as much as it is anybody else's. Both of the recommendations above point in the direction of taking control of your education. You will have lots of help at UP, but if you think of what you are doing at UP as being YOUR education, you will have a lot more say in how it gets done and how successful you are.

Did a mentor play a role in your experience?  How so?

Yes, I had some faculty and fellow students who inspired me. Some of them served as role models as to the type of student I wanted to be.

How do you feel your experience prepared you, both professionally and personally?

I would not trade having been a first-generation college student! Having to learn how to navigate the university system taught me perseverance, independence, how to be tough, how to work harder than my peers, etc. The experience has helped me in every aspect of my professional life.

Connect with Dr. Medina