Stem Alumni panel accentuates preparedness


Cody Casares/ The Advocate

CSE Alumni Christian Talavera (left), Ramon Valencia, Elleanor Pangilinan, Kevin Hernandez and Duy Musuno share their experiences when transferring to a four-year college in PS-132 on Friday.

By Nora Alkrizy, Staff Writer

The Center for Science Excellence invited five of its distinguished alumni STEM majors who are enrolled at University of California campuses and San Jose State back to the college to share their personal journeys as transfer students.

The panel of five successfully transferred students sat before a group of college and high school students in the Planetarium on Friday at 2 p.m.

During the opening, they shared the experiences and struggles they went through before they transferred, as well as their transition to a four-year university.

“My number one (piece of) advice,” biochemical engineering major Kevin Hernandez said is “start your search for housing early on if you want to get yourself a convenient place to stay.”

All five members recollected how the first semester is always the toughest after transferring.

It is not tough in terms of school load alone, Hernandez said, but it can be hard in familiarizing yourself with the campus and getting used to it.

“Choose your classes wisely,” molecular and cellular biology major Duy Masuno said. “The first semester’s workload is always the toughest as one is still adjusting to the transition, so make classes your priority your first semester.”

Nutritional science major Elleanor Pangilinan talked of the importance of choosing a university based on your major and interest.

“There are factors that can affect which college you choose,” she said. “I got accepted into other places, but at the time (UC) Davis was the sufficient place for my major and the fact that it was not far away made it my choice.”

The alumni encouraged students to take advantage of their time at Contra Costa College.

“Develop good studying habits,” Hernandez said. “Develop a professional personality internally and externally. Once you transfer, there will be so many other things on your plate and trying to renovate yourself there will be very tough.”

Christian Talavera is a first-generation college student studying mechanical engineering at San Jose State. He said he slacked off in one of his engineering classes at CCC which came back to get him in one of his courses at San Jose State.

“Don’t do that,” he said. “Take CCC seriously. Once you’re out of here, trust me, it’s going to get more tough.”

Talavera said he had to do double the work to pass that class. He had to teach himself concepts he should have had under his belt if he had paid more attention in his CCC physics class.

“Don’t be the small fish swimming among the big fish,” Talavera said. “Be the big fish, and you can be so by making use of your opportunity at a community college and getting yourself ready.”

The panel emphasized how important it is to create a resumé, apply for scholarships and internships and look into financial aid and meet the deadlines.

Hernandez said his internships helped him be on top of his classes. The skills and knowledge he gained helped set him apart from his classmates who started at San Jose State.

“You don’t want to be just a walking encyclopedia,” Talavera said. “Consume the experience. A body of knowledge requires the skills to make it stand out.”