Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Michael Doris

Michael Doris

Name: Michael Doris

Hometown: San Diego

Role on campus: Student, double major in physics and electrical engineering.

Years on campus: 1 year, 6 months

Will you continue your education beyond a four-year degree? I was on the fence for a long time. I also felt like I wasn’t good enough or smart enough for graduate school. However, thanks to the many people I’ve met at Butte College and Chico State, I now see that I can do this, and that everyone deserves to be a part of higher education. I decided to pursue a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering and a PhD in physics.

Why did you choose Chico? As a first-generation student from a low-income family, I had no support system. Chico State was close to where I was already living and working, and the tuition was low enough I could feasibly afford it with employment and financial aid. Also, the faculty and staff were incredibly friendly and demonstrated a passion I rarely see. You’re not just a student or ID number with a grade; you’re a person they want to get to know and help, to ensure that you can achieve whatever you aspire to.

What first sparked your interest in a college education? I didn’t want to let others define who I was or what my future would be. I wanted to make a difference in the world, and to do that I needed an education.

What were some barriers that prevented others in your family from completing a four-year degree? Coming from a low-income, single-parent household has placed a large burden on the ability of my siblings to pursue college. My father was a military man, and he dropped out of school to enroll into the US Army. Although he went back later to get his high school diploma, he never went to college due to his commitment to the military and his family.

Who can you point to as a mentor or inspiration in your pursuit of a four-year degree and why? Most of my family had given up on me. To grow up feeling like almost everyone around you has given up on you, or told that you’re a failure and worthless, is crushing. My father and a family friend were the only ones who never truly gave up on me. They tried to plant seeds of thought that I could do something if I tried. When I went to Butte College and was accepted into MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program, it was Nena Anguiano who pushed me to say yes to every opportunity and showed me that I could achieve so much if I really tried. She would always tell me a small choice or change I make, like saying yes to that opportunity I’m afraid to take, can lead to a small shift and eventually expand to engulf changes and experiences I would never have dreamed of having. Then, (at Chico State), the discovery of so many people, with their own unique stories, who share this common thread of hardship and feeling of not belonging, showed me how important it was to not only succeed for myself, but to help others succeed as well. Those individuals who are the first in their family to succeed set an example for the rest of us—they give us hope that we can do this, too.

What does being first-gen mean to you? Hope and the opportunity to show others that you are worth something and can achieve anything you set yourself to.

What challenges do you struggle with or have you overcome as a result of being first-gen? I struggle with the occasional feeling of not being good enough, but I think that is a normal thing for many first-generation students. I pretty much always struggle to balance my finances and time. So, like many students I know, I work outside of class. At one point I was working two jobs at upwards of 50-60 hours a week and doing a full-time load of courses. Programs like MESA, TRIO, and CSC2 helped be that guiding light through the fog and confusion of college.

What is your wildest ambition? I would love it if I could work in some fancy national lab and help produce groundbreaking discoveries or research. I would like to be able to say that I helped the world in some small amount.

What message do you want to send other first-gen students? Please don’t give up, and stay hopeful even when things seem their darkest. Seek out others like you, talk to your professors, or take part in the many support programs available here at Chico State. It can be incredibly difficult at times, and you’ll feel like you don’t belong or that you can’t do it. But you can’t give up and you can do it. When you finally walk that stage with diploma in hand you’ll be so much stronger after the hardships and difficulties you’ve overcome. You’ll be an inspiration to others to follow in your footsteps. Show the world that you are worth something and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.