Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 5:58 am | Fair 32º


UCSB Student’s Courage, Persistence Pay Off

Ruben Salvador, who has received one of the university's highest honors, didn't let adversity stop him from achieving his goals

Completing of a journey that began 17 years ago when he was a 13-year-old immigrant from Mexico, Ruben Salvador of Guadalupe, recipient of Alyce Marita Whitted Memorial Award, will receive his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering at UCSB on Saturday. His journey was fraught with roadblocks and obstacles unknown to his peers.

Ruben Salvador
Ruben Salvador

Salvador immigrated to the United States from Mexico City with two of his sisters, ages 17 and 15, to reunite with their parents. Once here, he began working in the fields as a laborer, becoming one of the primary wage earners in his household. In high school, he demonstrated a passion for learning and began dreaming of a college education.

Upon graduation, he enrolled at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, but because of his responsibilities to his family, he continued to work full time, attending college when he could. After eight years, he had earned five associate degrees, in engineering, math, physics, chemistry and liberal arts.

In 2005, he was admitted to UCSB’s College of Engineering. He wasn’t eligible for financial aid, however, so he continued to work in Santa Maria and commuted to UCSB. During his first quarter, he worked long hours on the weekends and in the evenings. He often slept in his car near campus to make it to class without the additional commute. Eventually, however, the stress of the schedule took its toll, and he withdrew from the university.

Salvador subsequently attained permanent residency status, which allowed him to apply for financial aid. In the spring of 2006, he quit his job and returned to campus, but after two quarters, he again found himself in academic distress and was dismissed from the university. Undeterred, he enrolled at SBCC, where he completed several transferable courses, and then enrolled in a summer session at UCSB. He returned to UCSB as a full-time student in the fall of 2007.

He began working as a student employee in the Mathematics, Engineering, and Sciences Achievement (MESA) program, where he organized local and regional Science and Technology Days, and participated on outreach panels to underrepresented junior high and high school students. Empowered by his success in this endeavor, he sought out campus resources, continued to achieve academic success and served as a math and science tutor to a small group of students.

Because of his perseverance in attaining his degree, Salvador has been honored with UCSB’s Alyce Marita Whitted Memorial Award, which recognizes a nontraditional student’s endurance, persistence and courage in the face of extraordinary challenges while pursuing an academic degree. The Whitted Award is one of the university’s highest honors.

After graduation, Salvador’s agenda will continue to be full and demanding. He’ll work through the summer for the MESA program, serve as a mentor to the Santa Barbara Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, study the Fundamentals of Engineering examination (the first of two examinations required for licensure as a professional engineer) and pursue a career in electrical engineering in the Santa Barbara area.

— Tony Rairden is the communications manager for UCSB’s College of Engineering.

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