In alignment with ACUI’s core values of unconditional human worth and diversity, the association’s MHB Internship provides graduate students of color the opportunity to enhance both their careers and racial diversity in the student activities field. ACUI is excited to introduce this year’s MHB intern, Abigail Garcia, a first-year student in the M.Ed. higher education program at the University of Houston who is also the marketing instructional assistant at the UH Student Centers.
In alignment with ACUI’s core values of unconditional human worth and diversity, the association’s MHB Internship provides graduate students of color the opportunity to enhance both their careers and racial diversity in the student activities field.
The internship is named after Marsha Herman-Betzen, who in August 1994 became the first woman to lead ACUI as executive director. During her tenure, Herman-Betzen helped lay the foundation for ACUI’s existing culture, centered on unconditional acceptance.
This year’s MHB intern, Abigail Garcia, is a first-year student in the M.Ed. higher education program at the University of Houston, after receiving undergraduate degrees in journalism and Asian American studies from California State University–Northridge. Garcia is also the marketing instructional assistant at the UH Student Centers, where she is responsible for supervising a student marketing team, planning and executing programming events, creating content and a monthly marketing plan, and overseeing event logistics and contracts.
In her primarily remote role as ACUI’s MHB intern this summer, Garcia will build upon her interests in advocating for student success, fostering inclusive campus communities, and providing support for sexual assault survivors.
We caught up with Garcia to ask about her past experiences, current roles, and plans for the future. Here is what we learned:
ACUI: Where did you grow up, and how did your early experiences influence your educational path?
Garcia: I grew up in Cypress Park, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, but I went to schools all across Los Angeles. I wasn’t the best student in middle or high school, but I knew that mobility out of the low-income bracket for my family was through education. I struggled with being the antithesis of the “model minority” myth, as I often questioned my identity because I could not excel in STEM-related fields.
Another experience that truly influenced my educational path was having my high school counselor look at my 2.7 GPA and say, “Are you sure you want to go to college?” I already knew the odds were stacked against me, but it feels completely different when someone else clearly doesn’t believe in your ability to succeed.
ACUI: Your experience and interests span multiple areas of study: You have earned undergraduate degrees in journalism and Asian American studies, are pursuing an M.Ed. in higher education, and have a passion for developing resources, support services, and peer mentorship programs for sexual assault survivors. Can you tell me a little about where you would like to go in terms of a career path?
Garcia: I hope to create programming and resources dedicated to supporting and providing growth for minority women, with a specific focus on Asian American women and sexual assault survivors.
There are two paths that I see myself taking to achieve these goals: One of them is to become a professor so that I can develop research that is fundamental to resource centers and used to support advocacy efforts for funding.
The second path I see is to become a director at a union or resource center; these are great spaces to create a program to support sexual assault survivors not related to Title IX. In my experience, I’ve found that this position allows for the creativity needed to develop programs focused on niche communities that are often neglected and intersectional.
ACUI: What will your work with ACUI entail?
Garcia: This is my first week as an MHB intern! I am just a sponge for now, but I hope this opportunity connects me with professionals who have similar development goals for student unions. I’m currently assisting with various projects, such as curriculum review for I-Lead and helping reboot CUPSI, but I am also looking to get some more event/ program planning experience under my belt as well.
I will also attend the IPDS: New Professionals Orientation, which will be held at the Indiana University–Bloomington’s Indiana Memorial Union on July 18–21. I am so excited to meet others in the field who want to help the next waves of college students receive an even better experience than we had.
I am most excited to hear about the innovative programming some of these campuses have that specifically aim to help underserved student populations. The transition to being a new professional is so daunting; it is great that there is a program out there to share that experiential knowledge that we otherwise would have to navigate ourselves.
ACUI: What is your proudest accomplishment?
Garcia: My proudest accomplishment was my year serving as the chair of finance at The Associated Students at California State University–Northridge, in the midst of the pandemic.
In addition to overseeing our $10 million budget and a committee of students and professional staff, I was able to add funds to many scholarships that would directly impact students in need. I also sent out student care packages designed specifically to build morale during such a mentally taxing time.
Our operations were 100 percent virtual. I wanted to make the finance process easier for students and organizations looking to create programming and build community, so I created an open and transparent process by making all finance decisions available on the finance homepage — and I did so all while living in a different time zone.
ACUI wishes Garcia all the best in working with the ACUI Central Office to learn more about event planning, trends in the profession, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and association management. For more information about ACUI’s Marsha Herman-Betzen Internship, visit the ACUI website.