“I credit my Latin roots, culture, and values for my morals and work ethic," said Halmos College of Natural Science and Oceanography senior Bairon A. Madrigal-Mieles, who is majoring in biology and marine biology.
“My father is from Colombia, and my mother is from Ecuador, so I feel that I was raised very deeply in Latin culture. When I walked outside of our family house, I was in America. But when I came home, I was in South America.
“I was always taught to work very hard and diligently. We come from humble beginnings, and my parents have shown me through their lives what they had to go through in South America. You have to work from basically nothing to get somewhere. But my parents gave me a platform to build upon.
“My mother attended college later in life. She didn’t have the opportunity to go in her late teens or early 20s like I am. I am a second-generation college graduate, but the first in my family to do so this young. It is a lot of positive pressure and motivation.
“You do whatever you have to do for the purpose of family, not materialistic needs, or luxury needs. To me, simple is better. The Latin culture—our music, our food, everything—is basic and simple, and that’s the kind of life I want to live. That’s where NSU, my education, and my career path are going to take me.”
“I had the opportunity to go to a technical high school center. During the first two years, I completed all of my high school credits. So, my junior and senior years allowed me to concentrate on obtaining the technical license or certification of my choice. I chose the certification to work as a pharmacy technician, nursing assistant, and coordinator—to give me some exposure and experience working in hospitals, nursing homes, and all medical fields.
“At NSU, one of the opportunities is research, which is not limited to science students. There are independent study courses for psychology students and even law students.
“Today’s expectations for entering graduate programs and jobs are high, and undergraduate research is something people are almost requiring. Having a high GPA and staying involved in clubs is not enough. You have to enrich your application, enrich your knowledge, and enrich your education.
“Research is an experience-builder. Research can also help you focus on the type of career you want. I’m doing research on marine mammals by studying their teeth and bone collagen. Based on different carbon and nitrogen levels, I can assess the environmental changes that are impacting the whole ecosystem. We can actually figure out what impact humans are having on the ecosystem, or the impact of weather patterns. I want to go to veterinary school, so now I have a bit of background on marine mammals.
“Whatever research NSU students conduct, they will find that it is an eye-opener. It can help them clarify their path and mold what they want to do.”
“NSU is such a personalized school that everyone has a bigger chance to make waves. That’s why I love it.
"Professor Amy Hirons, Ph.D. deserves credit for prompting me to chase my dreams in animal care. For my leadership growth and social development, I credit the two and a half years that I’ve been in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at NSU.
“I joined a fraternity, although it wasn’t something I ever looked forward to even trying. I was shy when I first came to college, but the fraternity gave me confidence.
“When I joined, we were called a ‘colony.’ Fraternities are not guaranteed a spot on campus right away. They have to meet a certain set of requirements before they are allowed to charter and establish themselves as an actual fraternity chapter on the campus. At that time, we had been a colony for about a year. The fraternity’s headquarters and the university told us we had one year to meet all the requirements needed to establish ourselves.
“I was elected as president the next semester, which I never foresaw. But, the brothers in the fraternity believed in me and helped me take that position.
“All of us worked really hard. We got the charter—not within a year—but within one semester. It was a very gratifying and enriching experience for all of us to go through. It gave us a type of confidence that allows you to focus yourself in the right way so you can achieve something when the odds are against you.
“It was a very quick, maturing experience. Before, we were scattered, unorganized, and focused on doing all the fun things rather than the leadership element and the other important benefits of being in Greek life. Today, we are all considered founding fathers. We gained a lot of insight about managing groups or an organization and being leaders. It taught us how to take initiative and how to hold each other and yourself accountable.
“After my presidency in the fraternity, I was faced with the question: 'Should I take my leadership experience and put it toward the same type of outlet in the Greek community, but in a different way?’ I decided to expand my role. I ran for, and was elected, president of NSU’s inter-fraternity council.
“We have three fraternities on campus as of now, and the council makes sure that the relationship between those three fraternities is smooth. We try to make the fraternity members’ lives easier when it comes to events, recruitment, working with the university, and working with each other. We also ensure that everyone is held accountable because we have standards for all NSU organizations.
“Maybe being in a fraternity or sorority isn’t for everyone, but you can apply the same principle in other ways. In my academic career, I picked up a double major through meeting professors and taking the extra marine biology class that I didn’t really need at the time. Now I am pursuing a dream that I feel much happier about.
“If you don’t step out of your comfort zone, you’re never going to really grow, and you may miss an opportunity that can change your life for the better. And if you never try for the risk of failing, then you’re never going to succeed.”
“I started my freshman year as a biology major with the idea to eventually go to pharmacy school. My mother went to NSU for pharmacy school. (I basically have always been a Shark at heart!) And I grew up in a small family pharmacy. The thought of being able to help people all day fueled my desire to work in the medical field.
“In my freshman year, I took an Introduction to Marine Biology course for non-marine biology majors. I’ve always liked animals, but going to veterinary school seemed like an unobtainable goal. The instructor was really enthusiastic, and his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. It was one of the first courses I felt passionate about.
"As I began to take a few more courses required for my biology major, I was exposed to NSU’s chair of marine biology, professor Amy Hirons, Ph.D. She taught a Biology II course with a marine biology-twist. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have pursued veterinary school.
“Because of my Latin culture and values, I wanted to stay close to my family, which is why I commute. Attending veterinary school would require me to leave home. But NSU and the passion of the professors gave me the courage to say, ‘If I’m passionate about it, I need to just do it. I can make it happen’.”
“A lot of things don’t come naturally to me. I happen to be one of those students who has to put in extra time to study and understand concepts in order to do well.
“Dr. Hirons has always been someone to challenge me a little further than what I felt comfortable challenging myself to do. It made me exit my comfort zone and, in turn, my comfort zone has grown. She says, ‘If this is what you love, this is what you’re going to do’.
"She didn’t give me a choice, rather she changed my opinion. I can’t even quantify the amount of gratitude I have for that.”
“If I can give you one reason as to why countries are second or third-world compared to America and other leading developed countries with lower poverty rates—it is education. I have seen education change lives within my own family. Most of my family in Latin America are first-time high school graduates. Just by graduating high school, their income increases two or three times. You can only imagine the difference graduating college can make. The same principle applies in this country.
“When you are generous enough to believe in and invest in other people’s education—you’re not only investing in their personal life, but in whatever they become. You’re investing in someone who is going to become a biologist, a doctor, a lawyer, a student advisor.
"By investing in education, you’re investing in your community and in society as a whole.”
“It was an incredible honor [to speak recently at the Halmos College dedication]. What surprised me the most was how humble Steve Halmos and his family are. While the college bears their name, their generosity wasn’t about gaining glorification. It was about the investment they were making. It was one of those things that gives you a little more hope in humanity.
“He and his family had their own struggles, but they made it. Now they are paying it forward. Their gift says ‘we are part of this community, we see how prominent NSU is, and we want to help make other people’s dreams a reality.
“NSU relies on donations, so I would like to thank all of the donors. As a student whose future has been made possible by people I’ve never met, I know that if I am ever able to pay that forward, I definitely will.
"Donors are starting a cycle of philanthropy. Years from now, thousands of people are going to have benefited from your gift. And even if your gift does not go directly to a scholarship fund, your donations to improve our facilities at NSU, support research, or host events all play into our future.”
“I’m graduating—fingers crossed—in May 2016. Eventually I want to get into veterinary medicine and specialize in marine mammals or large animals. Dr. Hirons wants to take me on as a graduate student to continue conducting research. At the same time, I want to explore volunteering or get a job at a veterinary clinic.
“I made a self-promise that I’m not going to give up, or settle for less. If it’s something that I want to do, I’m going to make sure that I get it done.”