A first-generation college student and daughter of immigrant parents, Liliana Perez Rodriguez is graduating cum laude with a major in English Education and a minor in Spanish. She is a Smittcamp scholar, Arts and Humanities honor student, president of the Fresno Sigma Tau Delta English honors society, and a member of the National Council of Teachers of English and the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society.
“Her experience as a Mexican-American first-generation female college student, whose own parents came to the United States as undocumented immigrants, informs her abiding interest in actively working to bring more diversity – and more appreciation of that diversity – to higher education,” said Dr. Alison Mandaville, associate professor.
As a young girl, Perez did not speak English when she first walked into kindergarten. Her parents had recently immigrated from Mexico to seek a better life for their children. While she did well in school, it took her time to find her place.
“I felt situated between two worlds, two worlds that I could not entirely identify with; yet, two worlds that I considered home,” said Perez. “Over time, I started to see this double consciousness as an advantage rather than a setback, as my bilingual and bicultural experiences have granted me a critical lens through which to look at the world.”
Her life experience has shaped a passion for honoring and fostering support for multilingual, multicultural learning spaces that respect diverse learners. For one of her service-learning projects through the Fresno County Library literacy program, she was matched with a young woman who was a refuge from Syria and was struggling with English. She was able to draw from her struggles and work as an educator with insight and sensitivity.
Growing up in Fresno, Perez graduated valedictorian from Washington Union High School. At Fresno State, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA and was accepted into at least eight of the top universities in her field. She chose Ohio State University and will study in the M.A./Ph.D. Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy program with full funding.
Throughout her time at Fresno State, Perez has held several tutoring positions, including a supervisor position for the Writing Center. She has presented at several regional conferences, and her work has been published in several Fresno State publications.
Perez has been on the President’s List every semester, received the Francisca Olivas Carrasco Hispanic Scholarship, the Carla Millar London Semester Study Abroad Scholarship, the College of Arts and Humanities Honors Medallion, the Professor Emeritus Eugene Zumwalt English Scholarship, the Association of Mexican American Educators Scholarship, the Ruiz 4 Kids Hispanic Scholarship, and the Smittcamp Family Honors College, President’s Honors Scholarship.
“Without a doubt, Liliana represents the very best of Fresno State,” said Dr. Reva E. Sias, assistant professor.
After obtaining her Ph.D., Perez plans to direct a university writing center.
“I realize that many people with my similar background and story often do not make it this far and, as a result, their voices and interests fail to become represented in higher education. Thus, I fully intend to shine light on those important student narratives and tell peoples’ stories through my teaching and research,” said Perez.