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Nayelli Guerrero: Undeclared to Unstoppable

June 14, 2018

Portrait of Nayelli Guerrero.

Portrait of Nayelli Guerrero.
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

Discovering American Studies

Choosing a major can feel like finding a needle in a haystack when you’re interested in a variety of subjects. For Nayelli Guerrero, whose interests include medicine, writing, history, and law, it’s no wonder she started off her college career as an undecided major.

Originally enrolled in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), Guerrero’s plans when she started college were to either enter the medical field or focus on special education. However, as she explains, “I realized my interests were not there, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it through so much schooling without the passion for it.” Continuing her search for potential majors, Guerrero thought back to the classes she enjoyed in high school. “I really liked classes like history and writing, and I’ve always followed current affairs,” she says.

A class with Professor David Karjanen, previous director of undergraduate studies for the American Studies department, led Guerrero to consider majoring in American  studies. She explains that Karjanen took the time to sit down with her to discuss career options with an American studies degree. “It seemed like the perfect fit for my interests!” she exclaims. The major provides a strong foundation for her wide-ranging interests, especially law and journalism. Guerrero appreciates that her major gives her the freedom to pursue her diverse interests. “I never thought I would be a liberal arts major, but turns out that’s the path that I’m going down. [The College of Liberal Arts] gives me the opportunity to combine my passions of research, writing, law, and medicine. There's a lot that you can do with a CLA degree.”

Guerrero sees the American studies department as a hidden gem. Its small size allows for more one-on-one time for students than larger programs can offer. The specialized attention from faculty and staff allows students to take part in more opportunities. “Whenever there’s new research or internship opportunities they’ll contact you. I would definitely recommend American studies,” she concludes.

Seeking Opportunities

Now a sophomore, Guerrero continues to thrive and has been on the dean’s list for the past two semesters. This year, she’s focusing on studying, working, and volunteering on campus. She'll be working toward earning a Spanish minor in Mexico this summer and doing a directed study this fall with American studies faculty.

Last semester, Guerrero landed an internship with a federal agency, where she was assisting in media management. Some of her duties involve taking photos, drafting and publishing news releases, creating social media posts, and referring callers to specialists within the agency. “I've mastered my job duties and am looking forward to further challenges,” Guerrero says.

In addition to work, Guerrero volunteers. “I do 50 hours of community service a year,” Guerrero explains. She is a member of the Student Cultural Center at La Raza and is a volunteer at the University of Minnesota’s YMCA. She’s currently involved with their Latina women’s group and the UY Literacy Matters Program, tutoring first graders in reading and writing skills two hours a week.

Looking to the Future

Before graduating, Guerrero would like to participate in a research study--perhaps on labor laws which pertain to the rights and responsibilities of workers. “There is a research program called the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). If I can get it, I would want to conduct research in labor law,” she expresses. 

“I want to join the pre-law society this semester. I’m pretty sure I’m going to law school. I’ve talked to the undergraduate law adviser who told me to take more communications and law classes. The Intro to Law class solidified my decision, because we had a lot of guest speakers who were professors at the graduate level,” she explains. Looking beyond her undergraduate career, Guerrero hopes to pursue a graduate degree from the University. “I'm looking at a JD or a master's in American studies,” Guerrero says. “I'll see where my interests lead me!”

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.