International student's transfer journey from Cochise College to ASU

First-generation college student inspired by her family to pursue her love of medicine, engineering

May 4, 2022

Arizona State University transfer student Paulette Iniguez Erunez is the first in her family to not only study outside of her home country of Mexico, but also the first to continue her studies in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree.

As an international student, Iniguez Erunez decided the best way to transition into postsecondary education was to begin at a community college because of the proximity to her family, the financial savings it afforded her parents and the scholarship opportunities offered. So Iniguez Erunez started her college journey at Cochise College. portrait of ASU student Paulette Iniguez Erunez Download Full Image

Inspired by her dreams of working in both the medical and the engineering field, Iniguez Erunez sought to merge these two passions as a means to give back to the community, serving people of lower incomes in rural areas.

“My grandparents live in a rural area, and many people are experiencing poor living conditions," she said. "Most of them cannot afford attending a hospital or traveling to a big city for medical attention. My grandfather has been my greatest inspiration to continue pursuing my bachelor’s degree.”

During her senior year of high school, Iniguez Erunez further learned about the field of medicine and bioengineering, which is when she decided to pursue a career in biomedical engineering in the United States.

When asked why she chose ASU, Iniguez Erunez said, “I chose ASU because it offered me some great scholarships and the opportunity of keeping the ones I had earned during community college. The engineering program for my specific major was of great interest to me, and I loved the decision of transferring to this awesome campus.”

Iniguez Erunez will be completing her BSE in the Fulton Schools of Engineering biomedical engineering program in May 2022. Here, she talks about her path to ASU and plans upon graduating.

Question: Why (and when) did you choose your major?

Answer: I chose my major during my last semester of high school. I wasn't even sure if I would continue my education in Mexico or the U.S. During the last months of my high school experience, I decided I would pursue a degree in the United States in biomedical engineering. During that time, my grandfather was battling his cancer and the treatments it involved. I wanted to be part of it and know and gain as much knowledge as I could about it. When my grandfather was diagnosed with kidney and prostate cancer, the limited treatment options due to him being a high-risk patient led to the inevitable. It has always been a great motivation to me and made me realize the importance of innovative technologies to treat such diseases and reduce the limited treatment options, and I plan on working towards my goal of making improvements in the medical field.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or organizations at your community college? If so, please share which one(s) and how your participation impacted your community college experience.

A: Volunteering has been part of my extracurricular activities since I was in middle school. While in community college, I was part of Phi Theta Kappa and it helped me to participate in activities, as well as gaining leadership skills and the experience as the club’s vice president for fundraising for the Douglas chapter at Cochise College. It taught me that small changes have a big impact and it helped me become more engaged with my community. I was part of several activities since I was an active member in several clubs, such as Phi Theta Kappa, the Disaster Relief Club and the Research Club. The activities that I have been part of are the Blood Drive, Pit Fire, Relay for Life, Regional Conference, Highway Cleanup and Hamburger Sales. I was part of a research project for the Special Topics and Applications in Biology course.

Volunteering is an act of kindness since it is something you do without expecting anything in return; it is a very rewarding experience. We learn to give and participate for the community we live in, different people, and different circumstances. Also, while in community college during my last semester, I participated in Habitat for Humanity. This project consisted of helping rebuild houses for people in need. This project took place in San Diego, where two different clubs worked together and traveled to the city for an enriching experience. The region experienced floods, which impacted many families and affected their home structures. We partnered with the group and volunteered on repairing the damages such as the insulation of the walls, roof shingles (and) painting the exterior, among others. We learned to work with different tools and wore protective gear to help with the construction. During that trip, we also formed part of the San Diego Coast Keeper Project, whose purpose was to collect as much trash as possible from Mission Beach, which helps keep record of what trash is most common and help inform the people about it. That way they can help keep the beach clean and support the community with raising awareness.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your ASU experience so far?

A: What I have enjoyed the most is the life near campus, the diversity it offers and all the fun activities happening. I have had the opportunity of living off campus but still very close to it to experience the life of a college student, which I believe is an important aspect of every college student's life. I enjoy the classrooms and the amiability of the professors as well as my classmates. I have made great friends here that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a new transfer student?

A: I would recommend they look out for the requirements for their specific program. It will be a great advantage if before transferring they know what they need to take, or even better, that they take their prerequisite courses needed at their community college, if possible. This is what I can offer from my experience. I wasn’t aware of the prerequisites for important classes, which lead me to hold back a year for graduation, so it is crucial for them to be immersed in that aspect. Use the transfer resources that ASU has to offer, such as MyPath2ASU, so you can keep track of your courses that will successfully transfer.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate with your bachelor's degree?

A: My career goals are to obtain a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering at Arizona State University. Once graduating, I plan to pursue a master’s degree as part of the 4+1 program ASU offers. I would like to be part of clinical research rather than going into industry. Of course, plans may change, but I would like to pursue the research field when graduating.

Melanie Pshaenich

Coordinator senior, Office of the University Provost, Academic Alliances


Double major defied the odds to achieve her dreams

May 5, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

When Yishu Li graduated from art school in China, she had been playing piano as a professionally trained musician for 12 years. She had chosen to attend the technical secondary school (the equivalent of high school in the United States) so that she could focus on music. But she wasn't sure she wanted to continue studying piano, and she began to question whether she was on the right path.   Yishu Li smiles at the camera. She has fair skin and medium-length dark hair with bangs that cover her forehead. She is wearing a black long-sleeve shirt with Keith Haring-inspired art on the front of a red heart and several stick figures. Spring 2022 graduate Yishu Li came to the U.S. in 2017 with limited English-language competency. She worked hard to complete English as a second language classes, an associate degree at Phoenix College, and now two bachelor's degrees at ASU. Next up for Li is a master's degree program at Harvard University. Download Full Image

Li was a big fan of Japanese pop culture and had begun learning the Japanese language in elementary school, when she also taught herself how to draw. These two passions would end up becoming her focus several years later at ASU.

Now, Li is graduating as a Barrett, The Honors College student with bachelor’s degrees in Asian languages (Japanese) and art (painting) from the School of International Letters and Cultures and the School of Art, respectively. 

“Part of what makes Yishu so special is the range and diversity of her interests — she has studied everything from Japanese literature, to business, to studio art, and has been dedicated to all these pursuits,” said Judit Kroo, assistant professor of modern Japanese linguistics, who served on the committee for Li’s honors thesis project. “Accompanying this diversity of interests is Yishu’s extraordinary work ethic and determination. During her time at ASU, she has taken a truly astonishing number of classes and has excelled in them across the board.” 

But when Li first came to the United States in 2017, she couldn’t dive right into her studies the way she wanted to. She had to take English as a second language (ESL) classes to improve her English-language competency before enrolling in college-level courses.  

I was extremely depressed and stressed,” Li said. “Studying day and night helped me skip several required ESL classes.” 

She earned her associate degree in two years from Phoenix College, then transferred to ASU in 2019 with a 4.0 GPA. Originally, she was majoring in Japanese while also being a part of the honors college. She later added a minor in studio art, to connect back with one of her childhood interests. 

Another of those passions – Japanese pop culture -- was highlighted in her honors thesis project, which examined the fujoshi subcultural community. Fujoshi refers to female fans of yaoi, a genre of media that depicts romantic and sexual storylines between men. For her project, Li interviewed eight Chinese women about their relationship to this community and analyzed how it has been shaped by China's online environment. 

It was my first time realizing that I could tightly connect my interests to my academic research studies," Li said.  

She also realized that she still wasn’t quite where she wanted to be. She liked what she was learning at ASU, but she also felt like she wasn’t doing enough to fulfill all her academic passions. 

In 2020, the pandemic led everyone to study at home, and I started thinking about my future more frequently than at any time (before),” Li said. “I was not satisfied with what I had got so far, and I wanted to dream big.” 

She began taking introductory oil painting classes via Zoom and eventually switched her art minor to a major in her senior year, working hard to complete the additional classes she would need in order to graduate with concurrent degrees. In her final semester of study, she received the Excellence in Senior Exhibitions Award from the School of Art. Her academic success was also lauded by her professors in the Japanese program. 

“Throughout her time in our section, Yishu distinguished herself tremendously with her spectacular academic record, enthusiastic participation in Japanese and (School of International Letters and Cultures) events, and strong sense of social responsibility and engagement,” said William Hedberg, associate professor of Japanese. 

And Li wasn’t done surprising herself with what she was able to accomplish. As she ramped up and then wrapped up her studies at ASU, she challenged herself to apply to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, which she described as “a nearly impossible school for me to attend.”  

To her delight, she achieved the “nearly impossible”: She was accepted to Harvard and offered scholarships. This fall, she will begin work on a master’s degree in the human development and education program, which will allow her to focus on language education and art education for adult students. She will also be able to take some courses through other departments at Harvard and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

“I believe these interdisciplinary subjects will inspire me in my future career in social-emotional development and curriculum design for adults in a school setting,” Li said. 

These next steps for her studies and future career represent yet another full-circle moment in Li’s life, because the job she held while working on her bachelor’s degrees was as a student success specialist at Phoenix College, where her U.S. academic journey began. 

In that role, she helped ensure an inclusive environment for all students regardless of their background with learning English. She also advised students to help them solve issues related to learning, financial aid, work/life balance and other aspects of college. The skills she gained in that job will guide her through her next steps as she moves thousands of miles away once more to pursue her education. 

“I believe this experience profoundly relates to my interests in language learning and teaching and makes me eager to learn more about adult student development,” Li said. 

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures