Briselda Molina is currently supporting UO Dreamers* as an intern for the UO Dreamers Working Group (DWG) and as a liaison for the Dreamers Student Advisory Board. She is a graduate student at Oregon State University studying College Student Services Administration and hopes to pursue her PhD in Counseling and Psychology at the University of Oregon. She is a proud mama of one boy and two girls. Her life passion is to create scholarship or student development with a focus on DACA/Undocumented students as well as holding a high-level leadership position at a higher education institution. During her downtime she enjoys cooking, running, and trips to the beach with her children.
In this interview Briselda speaks to the hardships that come with being a DREAMer in a higher education institution and, more importantly, how it is that she has navigated these spaces to help her achieve her goals. As a DREAMer, there are multiple avenues to help you gain the experience you need to thrive and we hope that Briselda’s words can offer you insight into the possibilities you have in higher education and beyond.
Who has inspired you/been the most instrumental in helping you be successful in your career path?
My father who showed me the behavior that I will not tolerate in a man. His mistreatment towards my mother and myself set the foundation and my strong desire to find happiness in my career and life. While I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood bitter towards him, today I hold no resentment against him and I'm grateful for the experience because it made me into the resilient woman I am today.
What key parts/experiences have gotten you to be where you are today in your career?
In first grade I was placed in a corner with a hat made of donkey ears because I was failing my teacher's expectations. It was this day that I decided to never wear donkey ears again in my life. After making this decision, I soon became part of the children’s group whose pictures were displayed in a wall of fame where the "smart" children were praised. Another key experience in my life happened when my mother told me that I had been brought to the US undocumented. This was devastating for me because my plans included going to college. But then, I decided that no matter what, I would find a way to pay cash for my school and I did. It took me nine years to graduate with my undergraduate degree—and many tears and learned lessons—but I'm proud of my journey because it has evolved into my deep passion today for developing a mentoring program for DACA/Undocumented students in college.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during this pandemic (both personally and in your career)?
Being reminded by higher education institutional policies that as a DACAmented student I don't have access to the same financial help as other students and then learning that the help I qualified for was depleted. I lost a great job offer because of Covid-19 and this was hard to find out as well. Either way I know I will find a way, I always do!
What are your future goals after graduating? 1 year from now? 5 years from now?
My plan is to get my master's degree in College Student Services Administration from Oregon State University next spring 2021. I'm currently starting my application for a PhD program in Counseling & Psychology here at the UO and hope to start this program in the fall of 2021. Five years from now I hope to be celebrating my graduation from this PhD program.
How did you find this position at UO to intern for the Dreamers Work Group (DWG) under Justine Carpenter and as a liaison for the Student Advisory Board?
I met Justine Carpenter at a summit in my last job and I asked for her card. I reached out to her and asked for a meeting. We met and I talked about my interest to intern in the Dreamer Working Group. I'm very hands on and I'm not shy when I reach out to people I need to. Then, one thing led to another and I currently serve in both the DWG and the student advisory board.
How have opportunities like this internship helped you build your career path?
I'm learning a lot about program structures and how they develop and run. I love working with underrepresented students because I share this identity with them and to me this work makes me very happy. Learning more about the needs of underrepresented students is helping me to work towards my goal to start a mentoring program for DACA/Undocumented students in the near future for higher education institutions in college success. Most importantly, the people connections and positive relationship building is what I believe can help anyone fulfill their goals. We are all interconnected and need each other to create programs and services for students.
What advice can you give other DREAMers to help them be successful in navigating the university systems as well as life after college?
Go for it. Everything is possible! No matter your immigration status, you belong in college just like anyone else. Act and disclose your status with a strategy in mind and seek the help you need. Finally, look for community. I can 100 percent assure you that you are not alone in this journey and remember you create your destiny with goals and intention. Go for it!
Call to Action
What message would you like to share with others about how to best support DREAMers in their career paths?
For student affairs practitioners: Really listen to DREAMers, they know what they need and use their stories to create new programs and services specifically focused on their unique needs. Advocate for scholarship that empowers DREAMers and that contributes to breaking one-sided truths. Don't impose your fears on them about their status, let them decide what to tell and when, but don't stop them. Be a mentor who helps them find community and use your privilege to lift them when they need it.
Based on your conversations with other DREAMers (through the UO Student Advisory Board or your experience with OSU DREAMers), what can UO be doing to better support DREAMers right now? What can the greater community be doing?
- Normalize conversations about DREAMers’ fears.
- Acknowledge their presence in events, meetings, and within leadership.
- Celebrate their wins and stories when they feel empowered to share.
- Do word of mouth advocacy and really make an effort to help with their needs, or at the least, offer your ear to listen and/or follow up with services available on campus for them.
- Show up at DREAMer meetings and introduce yourself, tell them what you have to offer and follow up with them over coffee, lunch (you invite), or just over the phone.
So what can you do as a DREAMer to thrive within a larger institution like the University of Oregon?
Following the wise words of Briselda, it all starts with building positive relationships—if you are a DREAMer in need of making connections with other students or mentors on campus, just know that there is a community for you here at the UO. Remember, you belong here just like everyone else! There are resources on campus to support in your career path as well as resources to support your academic, financial, physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
Believe in yourself and just go for it! Surround yourself with positive people and lean on your community to help you be successful!
*We use the term “DREAMers” to refer to Undocumented, DACA-mented, Tuition Equity, and students of mixed status families.