‘I Am A First’ Faculty and Staff Bios
Angie Covarrubias Aguilar
I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and luckily enough when I was in high school I participated in the HMC Upward Bound program. Upward Bound is a federally -funded program for first generation, low income college bound students. The goal is to help students develop the skills and motivation necessary to success in a four-year university and beyond. Upward Bound really introduced me to opportunities in education and institutions that I wasn’t aware were available to me. With their guidance I applied and was accepted to Georgetown University. This West Coast, first gen., was headed to the East Coast! Transition was not always easy but I was constantly encouraged by what I learned in Upward Bound, encouraged by my family and community and I knew that my success was at times bigger than me.
Department of HSAamnewman@g.hmc.edu
I’m a total product of the California public education system. Growing up in Sacramento, I was lucky enough to participate in the Early Academic Outreach Program where students from UC Davis came to my high school and mentored us about college application requirements. Even though my parents and grandparents hadn’t gone to college themselves, my sisters and I were raised with the expectation that we would go to college. Wanting to move away from home, but not too far, I went to UC Berkeley as an undergraduate. Staying in California for graduate school, I went to UC Santa Barbara for my PhD in Sociology.
Maureen Ruiz-Sundstrom ’10
Office of Admissionmruizsundstrom@hmc.edu
I was lucky because I grew up under the assumption that I’d go to college. My parents grew up in Nicaragua and did not get the opportunity to study so they always hoped their children (they only had me) would have a traditional college experience. Navigating the college application process on my own (not just because of my parents’ lack of familiarity, but their lack of English as well) was a lot, but I often reflect on my lack of college-awareness as I was going through the process with a bit of humor, particularly since I now work in college admissions. For example, I enrolled at Mudd without realizing that there were other colleges in Claremont and was so confused during Orientation when someone asked me if I wanted to go to “the other colleges.”
The truly tough part was figuring out how to navigate Mudd on my own. Slowly admitting that I was keeping myself from reaching out and asking questions (partly because I didn’t even know what questions I should ask) and realizing that the reason most of my peers knew how to address issues and use resources was because they had someone at home giving them that guidance. Outside my roommate and other first-gen friends, my main support systems were staff members (particularly within DSA) and some professors who made me feel valued as a person even when I wasn’t rocking it academically. They helped me become aware of opportunities and programs and feel more confident as a Mudder.
Office of Communications and Marketingthussey@hmc.edu
I grew up in a small town in rural Alabama and attended the university in my hometown, Troy University. There, I majored in print journalism with a contract in public relations. I knew from an early age that I wanted to attend college, but at the time, I was convinced I was going to be a reporter for The New York Times. Although both of my parents really wanted me to attend college, since neither of them had gone to a four-year college or university, it was really difficult for me to get any of my questions answered about the process, what to expect, etc. They were incredibly supportive throughout the entire process, and their belief in me and my abilities was one of the main reasons I pushed myself to pursue my bachelor’s degree.
When I got to college, my first quarter (we were on the quarter system instead of semesters) was absolutely horrible, and for a time, I thought I wouldn’t make it. I didn’t feel like I fit there, and at times, I really questioned whether I belonged. I was always shy and was terrified of asking people for advice or help. It was a real struggle. After the first winter break, I came back and was determined to find a place where I would fit in. I took my first journalism class and was encouraged to work for the student newspaper. Getting involved in that outside-the-classroom activity gave me a support system of friends and taught me incredibly valuable skills that I still use in my career today. My work there eventually opened the door to a chance to work in the university’s Office of University Relations, and through this work, I found my future career path. Today, I oversee Communications and Marketing for Harvey Mudd.
Interestingly enough, for a kid growing up in the middle-of-nowhere Alabama who hated his first quarter at college, I have become someone who has devoted his career to helping colleges and universities tell their stories. It’s been an amazing journey!
I am a first gen, low income person of color from a single parent household. Although I had initially been accepted to UCSD for pre-med (my dream school), I was unable to attend because I couldn’t afford it. I opted for the much cheaper option of community college, Palomar College, where I found a new passion for Sociology and Psychology. I transferred to Cal State San Bernardino where I received my BA in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. There I became a peer advisor where I helped students figure out their class schedules and help them graduate within the 4 or 5 year goals that they had set. After receiving my Bachelors, I went to the University of Redlands to pursue a MA in Higher Education because I knew that I wanted to help other students navigate higher education the way I wish more people would have helped me. The biggest influence in my pursuit of higher education was my mom. She immigrated to the US from Mexico as a single mom and although she had little education, she continued to go to night school when I was little to pursue her GED. After getting her GED, she continued to go to the same community college I went to learn English and although I didn’t understand it, I knew that it meant a lot for her to attain these milestones to show me and my sisters that anything is possible. She passed away in 2005 and did not get to see me graduate from any schools, but every degree I get is always in her honor. I plan to pursue a EDD in Education and I so proud to be a strong educated Latina who has opened a pathway for more of my cousins and siblings to also pursue higher education.
CISUndergraduate institution: Trinity College DublinHome town: born in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Irelandvaughan@g.hmc.edu
My Dad was a primary school teacher and taught all of his eight children for at least three years each. When he was trained as a teacher in Ireland, it was two years of preparation and did not involve a university degree. He was a big believer in education and wanted me to go to College, as did my mother. I did not want to go, but I did in the end. Support systems were practically non-existent at Trinity in the 80s and they were pretty limited when I arrived at UCLA in 1985 to do graduate work (after my first ever plane flight from Dublin to Los Angeles!
Office of Facilities and Maintenancecalbrigo@hmc.edu
Hello! My name is Christina Albrigo. I was raised in La Verne, Ca. Neither of my parents or grandparents graduated from a four-year college. As a child, my dreams included graduating from college and becoming a lawyer. My mother always communicated to me, that I could accomplish anything I desired. Although my family supported my goals, they were not equipped to provide me financial or academic support. I looked to my friends and their parents, for advice and information on how to be successful and navigate the collegiate system. For many years, I worked full time to support myself, I attended school part time at Mt. San Antonio Community College. Later, I transferred to Cal Poly Pomona and completed a bachelor’s degree in finance after a total of eight years. While working at Harvey Mudd, I completed a master’s degree in accounting. Several people who encouraged me during that time can be found at HMC. My coworkers and friends have made great contributions to my success.
Department of Computer Sciencelbang@cs.hmc.edu
I grew up in Las Vegas and began living independently while still in high school, working at a restaurant washing dishes to pay rent. I pretty much expected to have a career in cooking (I eventually became a kitchen supervisor), but one of my high school teachers convinced me to speak to an admissions counselor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). I was accepted and started taking math and engineering classes. I became a McNair Scholar, and eventually earned three degrees: BS Mathematics and BA/MS Computer Science. My master’s program advisors strongly encouraged me to apply to PhD programs. Now I am a professor! I joined the HMC Computer Science Department faculty in 2018 after finishing a PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I worked on automatic quantitative program analysis, my current primary area of research.
Department of Biologyhur@g.hmc.edu
I was born in South Korea and despite not having had much opportunities, my parents overcame the odds and immigrated to the US in 1984. Since then, we’ve made the greater Los Angeles area our home. Maybe because they had never had the opportunities that we did, my parents were always very supportive of my sisters’ and my education in every way–the people they wanted us to emulate the most were all well-educated scientists and leaders. In particular, I had one particular uncle who managed to make it through university on his own, all through scholarships, and he was definitely the greatest inspiration for my family. Both of my older sisters entered college before I did, and I followed their footsteps as best I could. I ended up attending Caltech for my undergraduate degree, and the school was amazingly generous due to my low-income and first-generation statuses. Of course, I also had my family supporting and cheering for me every step of the way.
Office of the Registrarnvillafana@g.hmc.edu
Nabel Villafana grew up in Chino, CA and received her B.A. in Communications from the University of California, San Diego in 2012 and her MBA at the University of La Verne in 2016. She decided to pursue higher education because of her passion for learning and continuous growth. The biggest influences in her life are her two parents who immigrated from Mexico and have taught her the value of working hard and helping others. Her biggest support system in college, aside from her family and friends, was the inspiring staff and faculty at UCSD and ULV who were willing to not only help answer questions, but who also provided support when she felt she was not good/smart enough to push through the roadblocks she encountered. Helping underrepresented and first-generation college students complete their college education is of great importance to her, and besides serving as a mentor, Nabel has also been involved with various community initiatives to provide students with the skills and support needed to succeed in the higher education setting.