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Not too long ago, Monica Mendez was in Denton advising students at the University of North Texas.
Mendez is still advising students. Now, they are TCU students.
The 24-year-old San Antonio native is the new program coordinator and minority student adviser, whose predecessor was here for five years.
Mendez said she likes working at the university.
"One reason why I accepted the position was the intense challenge the university offered," she said. The primary challenge now facing Mendez is dealing with students and university administrators as they grapple with multicultural diversity and inclusiveness.
For the moment, Mendez, a Hispanic-American, is involved with the Chancellor's Minority Task Force and its findings.
She is especially concerned with the group that will bear the brunt of the committee's recommendations—minority students.
"Minority students face more developmental and crisis issues," Mendez said. "That's why I wanted to work with them."
Although many predominantly white universities are attempting to promote inclusiveness, Mendez said universities aren't doing enough for minority students.
"I believe on predominantly white campuses, ethnic students are not prepared academically or socially and it is imperative students have services to make their stay successful," Mendez said.
Mendez understands the emotional hurt and pain inflicted on minority students because she's had her own to deal with.
During her matriculation at the University of North Texas, a request made to university personnel for a housing payment extension illustrated the pervasiveness of bigotry.
"The woman made assumptions that my parents were poor and that I didn't work," Mendez said. "I felt degraded."
From that experience and other professional and personal incidents similar to it, Mendez now attempts to educate the people who may not be sensitive to the needs of others.
In her position as minority student adviser and program coordinator, Mendez is the vanguard for minority students and is perfectly positioned to educate.
The position in the student activities office allows her to counsel minority students and work with minority group organizations to implement and plan campus programming.
"I'm very pleased with her," said Susan Batchelor, director of student activities and Mendez's supervisor.
"She has learned a lot in a short amount of time," Batchelor said. "She is very interested in students and a delight to be around."
"She is a fine addition to TCU," she said.
Mendez has been the recipient of a number of awards and scholarships. She excelled in student groups while studying for her bachelor's degree and appears to be making strides in her profession.
Although Mendez is successful today, her success springs from a determination to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds facing her family.
"I was a product of a teen-age pregnancy," Mendez said.
Born the eldest of four children, she was raised in a family that had strict Catholic values and very little else.
"We did without a lot, but we had the family," she said. "A happy family."
That early background of not having enough is what inspires Mendez today.
Her work with the Adopt-a-School program and peer advising is her way of not forgetting the past.
Although she ultimately plans to pursue a doctorate degree and not work directly with minority students, she said, "I know I'll never lose touch."
In her spare time, Mendez enjoys jogging, hiking, camping and working out.
In the near future, she plans to become active with the League of United Latin [See Mendez, page 2]