Center for Access & Attainment > About > Student Profiles > Gloria Zavala

Gloria Zavala

"I knew I wanted to have a meaningful career, but I didn’t know how to get to college."

"I was born in Chicago. After my parents divorced, my mom, family and I moved to Mexico when I was 5. We moved back to the U.S. to Delaware when I was 10. I barely knew any English — I was in bilingual classes at school and that made the transition back to the U.S. easier for me. But in middle school, I was placed in all-English classes and I only understood a small percentage of what was taught. Yet I always had one Spanish-speaking friend in each of my classes who told me what the homework assignments were and helped me with my homework.

"I didn't start thinking about college until my senior year of high school. I knew I wanted to have a meaningful career, but I didn't know how to get to college. My mom finished middle school and my step-dad only learned to read and write, but they were so supportive of my education. The only tool I knew about for applying to college was the Common Application, so I looked on their website for schools that might suit me.

"On winter break of my senior year, I came to Chicago to visit my dad after 12 years, and he took me on a tour all of the colleges in Chicago. We visited DePaul and immediately I knew there was something about the university that I loved. I applied and received the financial aid I needed and I am really happy with my choice."

"I was never a leadership type of girl… But in college, things really changed."

"When I came to DePaul, I was placed in the STARS program and received a mentor for my freshman year. My mentor told me about Student Support Services and I applied to the program. My mentor also encouraged me to go to the Career Center to explore the sorts of careers I might be interested in — that's how I discovered my interest in math and computation. Thanks to my mentor, I really got involved at the university. Now I'm a STARS mentor for freshman students.

"I am most proud of being inducted into two honor societies as a sophomore — Golden Key Society and National Society of Collegiate Scholars — as well as being a Mitchem Fellow and STARS peer mentor. I am also proud of starting a chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers here at DePaul. We now have over 30 members in our organization. Many members aspire to go to graduate or medical school, so I arranged for admission officers from other universities to come and talk about applying to graduate school. We also had an engineer come and talk about getting into graduate school and starting your career. When I was in high school, I was never a leadership type of girl. I was shy and would sit in the corner and just follow along. But in college, things really changed."

"The Mitchem program staff is like a family to me."

"The Mitchem staff help me to keep my feet on the ground while allowing me to fly and explore my dreams. Having their encouragement is so important, and they constantly remind me that even if one door closes, another will open for me to continue on my path. My freshman year, I would talk to Anita Rosso (director for Student Support Services) and tell her about my goals. She asked if I ever thought of going to graduate school — I said no. But she encouraged me and told me that I could go a lot further in my career with a graduate degree. She connected me with the staff in the Mitchem program, and after learning more about it, I now want to pursue a graduate degree in computer science focusing on software engineering after DePaul.

"I learn something new from each of the workshops in the Mitchem program. My first quarter, we had sessions every Friday with a new research topic each week. The first quarter, the topic was bathrooms. I would have never guessed about the impact of bathrooms in our society. With academic research, you can take the smallest thing and turn it into something so significant. The Mitchem staff help us to nurture our imaginations and express that through research."​