Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.
When Esperanza Biggs walks across the stage at Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's convocation this December, she will be stepping into a life that she first discovered was possible through a middle school project.
“I was in a gifted program, and we got an assignment that required us to find the degree we wanted, a graduate degree in the same field, and research colleges that we would be able to go to — and that’s how I found ASU,” she said.
By that time, Biggs already knew she wanted to be a nurse. She gets into the very personal reasons why nursing is her calling below. Now, at 21 years old, the outstanding graduate from Albuquerque, New Mexico, says it’s surreal to be done with her Bachelor of Science in nursing.
“I wasn’t always sure I would be able to get out of the state or be able to be as successful as I am because I’m a first-gen college student. No one in my family has really left New Mexico, and a lot of people get stuck there,” she said. “So reflecting on my middle school self is absolutely wild.”
Her success is the result of hard work and doing hard things, like moving to Arizona — a state where she knew no one — in the middle of a pandemic. What makes her accomplishment even more impressive is that throughout her time in the nursing program, Biggs was battling her own health issue.
“I started getting pretty sick, and it just got worse and worse but I didn't know what was going on. I was seeing some doctors back in New Mexico who said it was just anxiety, and I was stressed from college but I know my body and I knew something was wrong,” she said.
Biggs continued to advocate for herself and eventually saw a doctor in Arizona, where she was diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis. By this point, it was affecting her pelvic floor and bowels, and she had to have surgery.
“Living with a chronic illness isn’t easy, and I’m still trying to navigate life after the diagnosis but it has made me stronger and made me more passionate about health care,” she said.
Now as she prepares to start her pediatric nursing career, Biggs reflects on the experiences that led her to this point — and the professor who helped her see that she can do anything in life.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: My aha moment actually came years ago. It is a story that I hold so close to my heart and makes becoming a nurse and finishing nursing school that much more of a big deal and that much more rewarding. When I was younger I was also the kid that was like, I wanted to be a doctor.
When I was in fifth grade, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I didn’t leave his side in the hospital. It was during that time that I realized that the nurses were the hands-on people and the ones who were actually helping him. The following year my godbrother was born with a hole in his heart, and at exactly 2 weeks old he passed away. It was that day I made the promise to myself and to him to do whatever it took to help other babies and kiddos like him, and that is exactly what I did.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: Something I learned while at ASU is that life is limitless. There are so many opportunities in this world, and as long as you open your eyes and accept them, you can do anything you put your mind to. ... ASU gave me the chance to explore and reach out and do things I never imagined, like being able to go on a volunteer trip to Mexico for a week through the ASU and Tia Foundation partnership.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: I think the professor who taught me the most was Professor Ana Murphy. There were times when I think she believed in me more than I believed in myself and always pushed me as hard as I pushed myself. She helped me see that I really can do anything and as long as I open myself up to opportunities, they will come and so I need to be ready for them.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Hold onto your why. Use it to drive you and motivate you, but find a why and a purpose. Whether it be a patient, your parents or children or partner or whatever it is, find that and let it drive you and inspire you and push you.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I was in the Phoenix Children’s cohort for my nursing school clinicals, but I also work there as a patient care tech. I feel really grateful that after graduation and passing my boards to get my license, I will be staying in Arizona to work in the hematology/oncology unit at Phoenix Children’s.
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