Dr. Illya Medina came to the U.S. as a 30-year-old Ph.D. student. She now teaches in the WNMU Natural Science Department, advising exchange students from Mexico and Hispanic students from the U.S. on how to get the most out of their experiences at WNMU.
As someone who migrated to the U.S. for education, she understands, “the cultural transition and the language barrier can be challenging.”
Dr. Medina encourages students to be proud of being bilingual and Hispanic. “It’s an advantage. I always tell them work hard so you become better, but never be ashamed of who you are and your native language,” she says.
Through the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation, Dr. Medina mentors student researchers. “I’ve encouraged one Hispanic student who wants to pursue a degree in medicine. I always tell her, ‘You need to be a doctor in both English and Spanish, because that’s going to be important for you.’ It’s more and more important to be bilingual,” she says.
Dr. Medina says she feels fortunate to be part of WNMU because she’s never faced discrimination of any kind. “Faculty are very welcoming, and I know they’re supportive of Hispanic students. Not only international students but students who struggle with finances or have family histories that are difficult. I know it’s not exclusive to Hispanic students,” she says. “Being an HSI is a great opportunity, because a lot of the Hispanic students are first generation. It’s about letting them know they have the same opportunity. They can make history, choose the path of their lives.”
This piece is part of a series WNMU produced in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic Serving Institution Week.