Lizeth Parra ‘21: A Sociology Major Who Found Her Place in Aggieland
As graduation approaches, Lizeth Parra ‘21 reflects on her college experience as a first-generation college student.
By Mia Mercer ‘23
When Lizeth Parra ‘21 first came to Texas A&M University in the fall of 2017, she didn’t know what to expect. Wanting to stay in her comfort zone, Parra entered the university as a Spanish major, hoping she could use what she already knew about the language and apply it to her future. After taking a sociology class her freshman year, Parra’s life and career path changed completely.
As a first-generation college student from Beaumont, Texas, Parra was both excited and nervous to attend Texas A&M. Her initial fears were soon put at ease once she arrived in Aggieland thanks to opportunities, programs, and support groups offered to students in the College of Liberal Arts. Now, Parra is a senior sociology major with a minor in Spanish, ready to cross the graduation stage and step into her future.
“Texas A&M helped me in my academic career because it not only expanded my knowledge and provided me with a great education, but it also opened my eyes to other people on campus,” Parra shared. “I’m from a small town so I’ve never really seen all these types of different people and cultures, and being a student here made me aware of how many people go here and how big the world really is.”
Before college, Parra had never heard of sociology, but like many students she enrolled in SOCI 205 class to fulfil one of her core curriculum requirements. She immediately fell in love with the subject.
“Making sociology my major and then Spanish my minor was the perfect combination for me because I’m passionate about both subjects,” Parra said. “In sociology, I learned about how people interact and the theories behind those interactions, whether that be classical theories or contemporary theories, or based on people’s backgrounds, racial groups, or cultural groups, and that really interested me because I felt it applied more to my everyday life.”
In addition to discovering the field of sociology her freshman year, Parra was also a part of Regents Scholars, a scholarship program that goes beyond funding educational dreams and aims at helping first-generation students become accustomed to college life. The program requires students to enroll in special Regents Scholars classes where they learn how to be more successful college students and gain access to resources designed to further their careers.
“Before taking both Regents Scholars classes, I didn’t know anything about [Supplemental Instruction] sessions, additional tutoring, or the importance of really getting to know my professors and not being intimidated by the large number and ratios of students to professors,” Parra explained. “So I really made an effort to go to office hours, especially during my first two years at Texas A&M, because I wanted to lay a really great foundation with my professors and excel in my classes.”
As a student in the College of Liberal Arts, Parra was able to make life-long memories and connections. She considers both Katheryn Dietrich from the Department of Sociology and Adriana Perez-Smith from the Department of Hispanic Studies mentors who made a difference in her life.
“I met some of the best professors at Texas A&M through the College of Liberal Arts,” Parra shared. “Dr. Dietrich helped me so much with figuring out who I am as a person and especially as a student. Adriana Perez-Smith has always been there for me when I needed advice.”
Starting in the fall, Parra will begin a year and a half long master’s program in educational psychology at Texas A&M in the hopes of becoming a certified English second language, or ESL, teacher.
“Because sociology helps me understand the way people interact, I feel it will definitely help me be a good teacher,” Parra said. “I will be able to figure out how to work with others by applying what I’ve learned through sociology to my interactions with every student.”
Although she is excited to start the next chapter of her life, Parra said it’s bittersweet to see her time as an undergraduate coming to an end. Being a first-generation college student is not easy, but the programs and people within the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M helped Parra navigate the ups and downs of undergraduate life with grace.
“The College of Liberal Arts opened a lot of doors and opportunities for me,” Parra said. “In high school I was taught the basics, but here I was given the opportunity to expand my knowledge on stuff I didn’t really know and focus on learning about what I really enjoyed.”