Adriana Alexander is determined to be the first in her family to graduate from college. The Simi Valley, CA native has dreams of getting a PhD and MD, and eventually going on to do reproductive research for the National Institute of Health. As part of her plan, she is pursuing a B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry here at SOU.
Out of high school Adriana was accepted to every school she applied to. She knew a college education would help her have a successful career and be able to provide for a family. She soon realized that despite having the aptitude for and being accepted into any school of her choice, she couldn’t afford them. “It was a scary situation. Being low-income limits your possibilities and your choices even if you have the skills and the talents,” Adriana explains. She settled for the cheapest option that enabled her to live with family. She soon realized this was not the best academic option. “With more than 40,000 students (at my former school), I didn’t feel like I was getting the education that I wanted or needed. I wasn’t able to meet with my teachers. It felt like a business.”
Adriana was impressed by the faculty in SOU’s biology department when looking for a new academic home. “The biology department webpage talked about their focus on students. That was something completely lacking at my other school. I also liked how it talked about doing projects in the surrounding community. I wanted something that had personality and would help foster my growth as a student and a scientist.”
Equally important, SOU was a school she could afford to attend- especially with the help of multiple scholarships. Adriana receives a research and internship scholarship from the National Institute of Health, the Sherman and Wanda Olsrud Endowed Scholarship, the Ralph and Mary Herbald Scholarship, and the Robert R. Robinson Memorial Biology Scholarship. “I’m very grateful and blessed to get all these scholarships. Everything is covered. I didn’t have to take out any loans this year! I’ve been able to actually focus on my education and keep up my GPA. More importantly, scholarships allow me to spend more time with my son. Without them I would have had to choose between being a mom and pursuing my degree.” She also attributes much of her success to becoming a member of the Ronald D. McNair program where she receives mentoring to help her reach her doctoral goals.
Adriana is now taking full advantage of opportunities to grow and values the investment in her education. While maintaining a 4.0 GPA Adriana has interned at the Bowerman Lab at the University of Oregon, won an award for her research presented at the Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students, founded the SOU National Society of Collegiate Scholars chapter, and is currently completing her capstone at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Genetics. She regularly volunteers at the Ashland Community Hospital, the YMCA, and Uncle Foods Diner, and is an assistant water polo coach.