Motivation Monday: Gerardo


University of Oregon | 2003
Sociology / Latin American History

Hometown: Michoacán, Mexico
Currently: Higher Education Administrator working on diversity and inclusion at Linfield College
Self-described: Someone who is driven, willed, and has urgency - What we Latinos call ganas
Enjoys: Spending time with family, playing with and walking my 5-pound Yorkie named Mambo, and golfing (but I'm bad at it)

Above all, find your 'why,' the source of your inspiration. When college gets hard, why are you doing it? Whom are you doing it for?

Tell us about yourself!

I am a first generation college graduate and also first in my family to attend a college or university. I am the oldest in a family of six who immigrated from Michoacán, Mexico. I have a younger brother who is a graphic designer, a younger sister who is a physician assistant, and another sister who is on track to be a dental hygienist.

I have worked in higher ed for 13 years after working with high school students on their path towards a better future. I have worked on addressing the gap between what students need and the opportunities colleges can offer. I have always strived to be the bridge between student needs and college opportunities. I knew that I wanted to be a college administrator, but I didn’t always know how, but it was my task to find out in the interest of serving students. To truly serve the needs of students, it has been important to work in, with, and for the community. In order to do this effectively, I Identified people who were already doing the work I wanted to be doing and asked about the steps they took to get there.


Greatest source of inspiration

For my undergrad, it was definitely my parents; they immigrated to the U.S. when I was 9 years old and have a combined education of 12 years. They valued education so much and sacrificed immensely that my siblings and I could have a better future.

For graduate school, it was my wife, who is also a first generation graduate. She not only inspired and supported me, but she also led the way and challenged me as a professional. She was also incredibly patient while we lived apart for what seemed like an eternity as I completed my graduate program.


How did other people help you get to where you are today?

My mentors and my wife challenged me to grow academically, personally, and professionally. My mentors saw potential and guided me towards the right direction, particularly because no one in my family had travelled this path before.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee, of course. I live in Portland, OR.

Introvert or extrovert?
Both, but if I have to pick, extrovert for sure.

Adventurous or cautious?
Cautious, but with an adventurous mind.

Early bird or night owl?
Early bird gets the worm.

Major / Minor
Sociology / Latin American History
Higher Education (Master's Degree)

Years Attended

Grad Year


Favorite thing

Every day was different and I got to meet a lot of people. I liked that I met new people every semester; they represented new opportunities to learn and grow.


Least favorite thing

Tuition. College should be as affordable as possible for every family.


Tell us about a challenge you faced. How did you overcome it?

During undergrad, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism; this thyroid dysfunction negatively impacted my health and my academics. I had to take a year off from school to take care of my health because it was deteriorating and getting in the way of my academic potential, and also impacting my belief that I could succeed.

Being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism impacted my health so much and it became my biggest challenge. I was ordered to stop participating in all physical activity due to fears I would have a heart attack. My dysfunction sped my metabolism and gave me excess energy, so I couldn’t concentrate, sit in a class, or read a book. Sleeping also became a huge challenge. To overcome it, I learned to prioritize my health, to ask for help, and I realized I needed to reach out to family and mentors; I couldn’t do it alone.

As a first generation student, I felt lost at a big university and I needed to put “me” first. After a year away from school and taking care of my health, I restored my belief in my academic ability.


What advice would you give to your freshman-year self?

Above all, find your “why,” the source of your inspiration. When college gets hard, why are you doing it? Whom are you doing it for? Keeping your “why” front and center will help push you through the hard times in your path towards your goals and dreams. No one gets from point A to point B entirely on their own. In your journey, find mentors and people who can guide and challenge you to stay focused and true to yourself and your purpose. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, particularly if you’re a male. As men we often struggle asking for help; it’s important to remember that asking for help does not make you less of a man.


Best advice you received?

Todo Con Ganas. In life, you have to be willing to put in the work, the will, and desire to achieve your goals to achieve anything you want to achieve and overcome all the obstacles that may arise.


What's your secret for time management and productivity?

I have a “top three” strategy to keep me organized and productive. Of all the things you have to do on any given day, identify the three most important things that need to get done and work on those three things in order of importance. As you complete tasks, identify the next three important things. This helps me keep things manageable and prioritized. Remember, if everything is important, then nothing is important.


How do you de-stress?

This year I joined a pilates club that has been a lot of fun and has helped to manage the stress. I also like to binge-watch a Netflix show here and there. Most of all, I’m a big fan of a good story; be it in Netflix, books, personal storytelling. I love a good story, particularly if it is an underdog story. It’s why I’m so passionate about serving first generation college students; first gen-ers have great stories to tell.


Book recommendation

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
It’s a book about following your dreams, finding your purpose, and overcoming uncertainty. Now that I think about it, it’s time for me to read it again; it’s a classic, it never gets old.


Is there anything else that you'd like to share with the community?

We’re living in a time where the future is uncertain for many groups of people. In times of uncertainly, education becomes both a privilege and a safety net. Keep working towards achieving your college dreams. Your education is something you always take with you regardless of where you go; it becomes a foundational piece to the future you.

Can students contact you directly? If so, about what?

Yes, about being a first generation college student and leveraging your personal story.
Connect with Gerardo