As a first-generation college student as well as a professor of Business and Management and Academic Excellence Faculty Chair at DeVry, Dr. Robert Ramirez believes in the power of education – and has experienced it firsthand.
His mother, who did not have the opportunity to attend school beyond the 3rd grade, was adamant that her children receive an education. “In my family we had five kids,” Dr. Ramirez begins, “I've got a brother who’s a doctor, I'm a doctor, my other brother was an executive with a big company, my sister owns a good-sized business and my other sister is in healthcare.”
“So, what I love about this, is in one generation—I've seen it, I felt it —you can really turn it around. It's a whole future within one generation,” he explains.
Dr. Ramirez has passed this belief in the importance of education to his own children. “I've got six children and they all have a college degree or they're in the process of completing a college degree, and I just love that about education.”
But Dr. Ramirez also acknowledged some of the concerns that Hispanic students may have as they begin their academic careers, especially students who are the first in their family to go to college. “I had to figure things out as I went on, because I didn't have the guidance of my parents. You're attending with other students, who maybe their parents went to a nice college, so the parents could guide them and tell them what to do. But in many, many cases in the Hispanic community, they are the first ones in their family to ever go to college, so they need that additional push and motivation and reassurance that they're headed in the right direction.”
Dr. Ramirez began his academic journey at a community college. “I then went to California State University, and later got my master’s,” he says, “and I recently got my PhD about a year and a half ago. I'm 64, so the trick for me is to keep on moving, keep the momentum going.”
He also wants students to know that education can continue long after your career has already begun and hopes to inspire students who are making plans for their futures to always keep learning.
But what if you’re not sure where you want your career to go?
“I had no clue what I wanted to do,” Dr. Ramirez admits. “For me it was just momentum. I just kept taking one class after the next and moving forward,” he explains, “I think that comes from your inner self, to be motivated and to keep things going. Not to give up. Not to get down on yourself.”
This, in part, inspired him to become a mentor for the students in the NextGen Hispanic Scholars program. Ramirez says, “I want to be available to them, have conversations over the phone or one-on-one, provide reassurance and guide them.”
Dr. Ramirez believes that through helping students believe in themselves, he can help foster perseverance and determination, and encourage them to explore possibilities through trial and error. He also hopes he can encourage students to expand their horizons and pursue new opportunities, even if they feel they aren't available to them. “I feel that Hispanics are underrepresented in terms of management and leadership,” he explains. “I’d like to see a lot more business owners and leaders that are Hispanic, and I think having a program where they can see people like themselves who also have that drive to succeed could be extremely valuable.”