Emily Rivas received a B.A. in History from Fresno State in 2018, and the following semester she began working toward her master’s. She’s had a passion for history since she was a little girl because she saw her father as the unofficial historian of her family, carrying their history from El Salvador. Rivas works with a non profit organization in Fresno. Her goal is to become a professor of Central American history but would also like to start her own non profit focused on empowering first-generation Latina college students.
“History is fun, you can find out all kinds of things from immigration patterns, to what people were eating in the 19th century. It’s all up to you and what interests you!”
Emily Rivas shared her academic experience at Fresno State in a Q&A
How did your academic journey at Fresno State begin?
My academic journey at Fresno State almost didn’t happen. My parents live around 10 minutes from Stanislaus State and they really wanted me to stay. I even skipped my dog days orientation because I was so conflicted! Luckily I came to the make up session, found an apartment, and the rest is history.
What is your career goal?
My career goals are definitely unique in terms of what I am getting my degree in. I of course would love to be a professor at a community college. Hopefully one day that happens! But I currently work with a non-profit organization here in Fresno, run solely by Latinas. I get to work on things like education reform, civic engagement, immigration history, and knowing your rights campaigns. If I could stay in a field of advocacy, I feel as though I would be using my degree to its highest potential.
What do you think about the College of Social Sciences (COSS) and our professors?
As an ASI Senator for the College of Social Sciences, my saying all year has been “COSS til Death,” and I truly mean it. I remember taking my first class in this college, a Chicano Studies course. I can recall thinking, “this is the most seen I’ve ever felt.” Next, I took Women’s Studies courses and was only a couple courses short from receiving a minor in WS. COSS has helped me find myself, my passions, and most importantly a sense of belonging within a college system that wasn’t set up for people like myself.
Did you experience any challenges as a student?
Of course! Whoever says they haven’t are lying. So much happens during your time in college. If everything goes as planned, it’s at least four years of your life spent in college. For me it’s been six. In those six years I have lost a grandparent, missed out on birthdays, family events, lost jobs, anything you can think of, it’s probably happened. But what is most important is realizing that this journey will have bumps in the road, but you can and will get to the finish line. Even if things take longer than expected or you feel like things are falling apart, as long as you keep to your goals you’ll make it. Another really great resource in dealing with my challenges, was the Fresno State Health Center. Therapy on campus is free and essential!
What is your most memorable experience at Fresno State?
I think my most memorable experience at Fresno State has been being involved. In my undergraduate career, I was shy, quiet, and did not want to make waves. When I returned for my graduate degree, that all changed. I read a book called “Getting What You Came For” that was given to me as a McNair Scholar. The book encourages graduate students to not only hold themselves accountable, but to also hold all systems around them accountable. I took this message to heart, realizing that I had the opportunity to enact change, as long as I believed in my message and morals. Soon after starting my graduate degree I joined clubs, joined student government, and even started my own club on campus called “Define American.” I am so very proud to have made Fresno State more accessible and enjoyable for other students.
How do you feel about being recognized as an outstanding graduate student?
Truly honored, I knew this recognition was a thing, but I would have never thought I’d be recognized as an outstanding graduate student. Although I feel like my dedication to my passions have enacted some sense of change on campus, I saw my work as things that needed to be done rather than things I was doing for an award. I am so humbled to have been chosen as an outstanding graduate student. I shared the news with some of my cohort members and they all said it was well deserved, I began to cry over just how special this made me feel.
How do you think COSS has prepared you for the future?
If I could talk about every way COSS has prepared me for my future, I would be here all day. COSS has given me the confidence, the knowledge, and the education to lead me anywhere my heart desires. I truly feel like the COSS has set me on a path of success that I would not have imagined for myself when I moved away for college at the age of 17. COSS has given me every opportunity to lead and be led.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
Hopefully in 10 years, I’ve completed a PhD. I would want nothing more than to be a professor of Central American History. However, I would also like to start my own non-profit focused on empowering first generation Latina college students. Wherever I am in 10 years, I can only hope to feel as empowered as I do in this moment.
What is your advice for other students?
USE YOUR RESOURCES AND CHECK YOUR SOURCES. As students we pay so much into tuition, take advantage of what your tuition goes to. It’s easier said than done, but use resources like the Health Center and the Student Cupboard. If you run into any trouble, seek out the help of your representatives in student government. As scholars, we must check our sources in any way we use them. The greatest lesson history has taught me is that everything has an author, and everyone has a story. Question things, hold people accountable, and make sure you know where you got your information from.
Rivas would like to thank the many people who have made her accomplishments possible thus far.
I’d like to thank my family: My parents Sandra and Fidel Rivas, my sisters Tatiana and Maricruz, my brother in law Severo, and my niece and nephew for always supporting me in every journey I decide to take. I’d like to thank my friends for always making me laugh and reminding me to take breaks in between my busy schedule. I’d like to thank all of my professors for helping me on this journey, for reminding me that I am a powerful woman and for believing in me. I’d like to thank anyone and everyone who invested time, energy, edits, tears, sleep, guidance, or luck into this thesis, my words could never amount to the appreciation I have for each and everyone of you. Lastly, I’d like to thank my senior year guidance counselor who told me to forego college because it “wasn’t for me”. Thank you for discouraging me, it only furthered my drive to become an educated woman.