First-generation college student Nancy Ramirez found a home at Wilkes, then discovered a wider world.
When Nancy Ramirez started looking at colleges, she originally set her sights on the West Coast. Then the Scranton, Pa., resident tagged along on a Wilkes visit with a friend. “I fell in love with the campus.”
Though she was unsure of a major, she found plenty of people to help her find her way. “I really liked that I wasn’t coming in as undeclared and completely lost.”
As a freshman, Ramirez competed on the swim team. Coach Mark Barnes encouraged her and taught her to take care of herself in spite of a busy schedule. “He can see when people need a little extra push,” Ramirez says.
Academically, it was Andrew Wilczak, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, who helped Ramirez find her passion. When she expressed interest in human trafficking, Wilczak connected her with an expert in the field. He encouraged Ramirez to pursue a double major in criminology and sociology, guiding her toward her goal of helping child victims of human trafficking.
Wilczak tries to be the professor he wished he had in college. “I’m really student focused,” he says. “That’s what I like about Wilkes. Our students aren’t just a number.”
As her advisor, Wilczak helps Ramirez plan her class schedule, but Starbucks helps the busy student stay on track outside of the classroom. “I am a fan of Starbucks. It’s my favorite thing on campus.” She is a Wilkes admissions ambassador, giving tours and introducing visitors to campus. This past year, she also served as resident advisor to Panamanian schoolteachers attending a professional development program at Wilkes. The experience gave Ramirez, a first-generation American whose parents are from Mexico, a chance to practice her Spanish skills. In return, she helped teachers improve their English and learn about American culture.
Ramirez worked closely with Rosi Ponce, the University’s executive director of international engagement. “She shares a lot of the same values,” says Ramirez. “She always puts family first, which I really admire.” After spending time with Ponce and the Panamanian teachers, Ramirez plans to explore international admissions as a possible career path as well.
Ramirez’s future is wide open. But one thing is certain: Wherever she goes, she’ll take the guidance of her Wilkes mentors with her. “It’s not any advice they’ve given to me. It’s just the way they are. They’re dedicated to their jobs. I’m very thankful for everything they’ve taught me.”