For Jackie Gonzalez ’22, the University of Redlands has been a place of self-discovery.
After growing up in Chicago, Illinois, Gonzalez wasn’t sure if she wanted to attend college out of state. As the first in her family to pursue a college degree, she researched schools with her high school counselor and came across the University of Redlands.
“I always liked the idea of California,” she says. “I wanted to explore.”
Once she arrived on campus, Gonzalez—who was originally planning to study chemistry—enrolled in an art class. The subject had piqued her interest because she didn’t have the chance to delve into the arts as a child. Before she knew it, she had changed her major to Studio Art.
Professor of Art Anna Gaitan proved to be a helpful resource for Gonzalez, who says: “The small class sizes let me get to know all of my professors on a personal level, but I was able to connect with Anna because we come from similar backgrounds. I felt like I could be open and ask her questions about my major and other decisions.”
Other faculty members have helped Gonzalez envision what a future career in graphic design might look like by talking about their previous positions as graphic designers and creative directors. Their experiences have taught her about creative work environments and how best to approach design projects. She notes the support she has experienced from faculty and staff members has been one of the biggest surprises about her Redlands education.
Gonzalez says the sense of community continues outside the classroom. The friendly and supportive environment she found at the U of R has helped her break out of her shell. “Getting to know my peers has been one of the experiences I’ve enjoyed most so far,” she says. “I’ve definitely changed from the person I was in high school—since I’ve arrived at Redlands, I’ve felt more confident in meeting new people and I’m more curious about learning.”
Because of this, Gonzalez feels a strong pull to give back to the campus community. As a member of Students Together Empowering Peers (STEP) and Training Radical and Involved New Students (TRAIN), she encourages other first-generation students and offers assistance where she can. Both organizations help new students connect and develop leadership and study skills.
The friendships she has formed through her involvement in both groups have enhanced her experiences as a student and taught her to ask for help when she needs it.
“Growing up, I never felt comfortable asking for help,” she says. “I always thought I had to do things on my own. But being at Redlands has taught me to push myself. I know that I can rely on people, and they know that they can rely on me in return.”