Driven by passion for Latino community, first-gen grad reflects on experiences

April 24, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Angélica César spent the last three years at Arizona State University seizing opportunities and advocating for the Latino community and undocumented immigrants. Angélica César Angélica César will graduate from the School of Transborder Studies and the School of Politics and Global Studies this May. Download Full Image

As a dual major studying in the School of Transborder Studies and School of Politics and Global Studies, César participated in a variety of experiences including serving as a Democratic staff intern at the Arizona Legislature, interning with U.S. Representative Mike Levin through the Hispanic Caucus Institute and serving as president of ASU’s Aliento.

“I was able to see the broad concepts that I was learning in class specifically for my civic education and political theory classes and how it actually functioned in the real world,” César said.

As a first-generation student, César said she never expected to participate in any of the experiences she has, or even to pursue a degree.

“I never thought that I would have the opportunity to obtain a bachelor's degree or anything of the sort, just because I never saw it,” she said. Her dedication to obtaining a degree goes beyond the impact it has on her own life, she said she’s also doing it for her family.

“The last time that I got to go to Mexico City, they all greeted me with a huge hug and were just telling me how proud they were that I would be the first person to graduate from college and that I was pursuing the things that I was passionate about,” she said. “I know that it means a lot to them and I know that for instance, like my mom, that's why she came to this country. I know that she wanted me to have these opportunities. So to me, getting this degree is not just about me getting it. It's also recognition for my family and I understand how much that means to them. And I understand that this is a transformational experience for them as well. For instance, my mom has taken up classes at the local community college to hone her English skills.”

César said her experience in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was aided by the encouragement by mentors and professors who answered questions and encouraged her to take on new opportunities, while helping to make sure she stayed on track. Reflecting on her journey, she said her choices have always been intentional and driven by passion.

“I don't take on opportunities just for the sake of doing it. It's all because I really care about the Latino community. I really care about moving forward great work here in the state of Arizona and ensuring that students who come from families like mine or students who wouldn't typically have access to the opportunities that I've luckily had here at ASU, have it in the future and are connected and can find those resources as well.”

César answered questions about her experience at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I grew up here in Arizona during the era of SB 1070. I have undocumented family members and that kind of served as my call to enter not only the political sphere but also advocacy and organizing. So I knew just from my experiences, and I think from the experiences of my family members, that I needed to become engaged. I really felt the necessity and a kind of responsibility to learn more about politics, specifically immigration policy and economics and how that impacted my family and members of my community. So political science and transborder studies really helped me to hone those interests and to develop my goals as a young advocate.

Q: Did you encounter any challenges coming to or while attending ASU? If so, how have you overcome them?

A: One of the biggest challenges was funding and, as a first-generation student especially, I think just coming in not knowing how I was going to pay for my education was very difficult. But that challenge was overcome through different opportunities that I was able to apply to. I was able to apply to the ASU Sun Devil Family Association scholarship, the director scholarship with the School of Politics and Global Studies and the School of Transborder Studies scholarship. I was fortunate enough that those opportunities were there because I think that had it not been for that support, I would not have had the ability to go out and take on professional development opportunities through internships. I think that I would have been more focused on just working as opposed to studying and really developing professionally during my undergrad.

Q: What has been your best memory at ASU?

A: I'm a part of Kappa Delta Chi, a Latina founded sorority. We focus a lot on community service and academics. I think that just joining and being a part of that has been among my greatest moments as an undergrad at ASU. I was able to find a support system that is much needed, especially when you're in advocacy and you're studying politics and all these things that are constantly changing. Just to kind of have that home away from home on campus, to have people who share your background, share some of your experiences and are really passionate about the same things … I think that's been my greatest moment at ASU.

Q: What skills and/or what experiences have you gained from your time in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that will help you achieve your future goals in life?

A: The College helped me to develop the skills that I needed to be successful at these internships and that I know I'll need beyond graduation in whatever pursuit I take on. It's also helped me to find the issues that I'm most passionate about by providing me with the opportunities both on and off campus to integrate myself into work that's already being done in areas like immigration or education policy. So it's been great in that sense. And then too, having mentors who have guided and paved the way for me to be able to take on these opportunities.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Simhony. From the first class that I took with her, she always encouraged all her students to be prepared and bold and to ask critical questions both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. And then in my work with her as a junior fellow, she really pushed me to be bolder in the questions that I would ask or to really challenge myself and push outside of my comfort zone and how I was questioning some of the concepts that we were discussing in class. So her advice, it's really helped me not just in the classroom, but I've found it helpful in how I interact now with my coursework and approach professional development opportunities. She really encouraged me to be more confident and bold.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Pursue the things that you're passionate about with no reservations. ASU has so many resources and opportunities for engagement so don't be afraid to just show up. I think it takes initiative from us as students to become involved and to really contribute to campus, don't be afraid to do it. I think that held me back for a little bit and then the second that I was able to realize that nobody was judging me for wanting to be involved — that in fact people are very welcoming — that really helped me.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: It's still in the works as of now. I know I'm participating in a summer institute with Duke law, taking courses on law and public policy and how the laws apply to specifically Congress and then the administrations. I also have received an offer with the U.S. House Judiciary Committee staff to be a legislative fellow but haven’t accepted yet. I think ultimately I really want to take the next year to prepare my law school applications and to really hone my skillset and advocacy, specifically with immigration policy, so that I can be as best prepared to serve in the future as I can.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


ASU linguistics student masters art of discovery

April 24, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Chenay Gladstone is competitive. Graduating ASU student Chenay Gladstone / Courtesy photo Graduating linguistics student Chenay Gladstone poses at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah during spring break. “10/10 would recommend if you’re ever in that area,” she said. Download Full Image

The Phoenix native has typically channeled that energy into club sports — like volleyball, which she played throughout her undergraduate and graduate career at Arizona State University. Once in a while, Gladstone turns that high-beam, competitive laser on herself. In other words, she’s a bit of a perfectionist.

Gladstone pushes herself. She not only completed her Bachelor of Arts in English (linguistics), a minor in German and TESOL certificate in three years, she’s completing a Master of Arts in linguistics and applied linguistics this spring. In fact, she is one of the first students to graduate from this accelerated ASU program.

With a curiosity about the burgeoning field of forensic linguistics, Gladstone cornered her research in the subfield of “deception detection” — essentially, “lie detecting” in legal settings based on language cues.

“A lot of interest in that area is directed toward police interrogations and witness statements,” she said “so I thought ‘what about 911 calls?’ since those are often what kind of start an investigation.” Her thesis was titled, “Determining the Veracity of 911 Homicide Calls in the Metro-Phoenix Area Using COPS Scale and Concordance."

Oh, did we mention that she did her graduate work while teaching sheltered English immersion at Sun Valley High School and coaching girls’ volleyball at Valley Lutheran High School last fall?

One thing is clear: Gladstone makes no excuses. Even so, she lauds her professors, friends and the university at-large for their support, and for teaching her that it’s OK to be imperfect.

In an interview with ASU Now, she discussed not only why she chose ASU, but why she stayed here.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: I realized I wanted to study linguistics when I was a junior in high school. At the time, I was on an AFS (American Field Service) study abroad program in Germany. I didn't really know any German before leaving for the program, so everything I learned was basically from immersion. Going through the language learning process this way and getting to interact with exchange students from all over the world got me really interested in language in general. After doing some searching online, I discovered linguistics and decided that that is what I wanted to study if I went to college.

I realized I wanted to study my thesis topic — the veracity of 911 calls — at the start of graduate school. I had an interest in forensic linguistics after hearing about it in one of (ASU Regents Professor) Elly van Gelderen's classes in undergrad.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Something that surprised me was that people are a lot more accommodating than I thought. I have always been very apprehensive about asking for extensions or for forgiveness for some mistakes. I've had this weird idea in my head that people expect me to be perfect, but there have been several times throughout the past few years where life happened and I found myself in tricky situations in which perfection was far from attainable. I found that if I just explain my situation (whether that be to a professor, customer service agent at my bank or a Starbucks employee), people are often understanding and accommodating. It has been a huge weight off my back to realize that no one expects me to be perfect and that even the most intimidating of people understand that we are all only human.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU largely for financial reasons. I was accepted into the undergraduate program with a generous scholarship and financial aid that made going to ASU more possible than other schools.

I stayed at ASU because I was very pleased with the professors, class sizes and extra-curriculars. Aside from my one 400-plus person lecture freshman year, all of my classes have had around 30 students or fewer, which I was not expecting at a school with such a large population. All of my professors were reasonable and shared their personalities with us. They never assigned us busy work and the work they did give us was challenging and clearly meant to help us understand the topics at hand better. Outside of class, I was able to meet people through the outdoors club and the women's club volleyball program. I am especially thankful for club sports because I was able to continue pursuing my passion of playing competitive volleyball and simultaneously attend a big university.

I chose ASU for graduate school because the scholarship I had received was for four years and I finished my undergraduate degree in three. Because of this, I was able to afford to stay and get my master’s degree through the 4+1 program.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: (ASU Assistant Professor) Tyler Peterson. Sometimes students would ask him questions he didn't know the answer to and instead of trying to finesse an answer or play it off he would just admit "I don't know." I really appreciated that answer because it showed he was being honest with us and it demonstrated that no matter how knowledgeable someone is, they still aren't omniscient, and there are still things out there for us, as scholars, to discover.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don't think about what can happen in a month. Don't think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be. It's easy to get carried away thinking about the future, but try to focus on the little things — showing up to class, turning in assignments, meeting with your adviser, not buying your fifth iced coffee of the day, etc. — that make the big things — graduating, getting an internship, paying off tuition, etc. — happen.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Hayden Lawn! Some months it is simply too hot or too cold to spend time there, but in late fall and early spring, spending time out in the sun was my favorite. My second semester of undergrad I spent almost every day between class and volleyball practice napping and doing homework on Hayden Lawn. That's even where I met one of my former roommates!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: First, sleep. Then, move. Aside from the times I've studied abroad, I've been a resident of Arizona my whole life and I'd like to settle down, at least temporarily, somewhere a little bit cooler. I'm trying to get a job in New Zealand or Germany. As far as work goes, the semi-realistic dream is to work for the FBI, but applicants have to be at least 23 years old, so I've still got a couple of years to build a stronger background in forensic linguistics and explore other subjects I am interested in. I'm hoping to get a copyediting job until then.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: At the time I am answering this, the obvious answer is to give the money to various hospitals and manufacturers to help fund the people and businesses who are tending to those with COVID-19 or producing PPE (personal protective equipment).

If COVID-19 wasn't in existence, I would use the money to help charter schools provide more programs and extracurriculars at their school. I currently teach at a charter high school, and the school provides so much opportunity for students who otherwise would have none, and it would be amazing if the school and other charter schools had the funding to be able to offer sports, music classes or life-after-high-school classes, for example.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Senior marketing and communications specialist, Department of English