The first-generation student shares his thoughts on being a Red Raider and how he helps make Texas Tech a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus.
In 1923, Texas Tech University welcomed its first class of 914 students. Since then, the university has grown to include more than 40,000 people who come from their hometowns around the world to teach, learn and work at Texas Tech.
In 2019, the university achieved official designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), an effort of the entire university community serving the needs of its diverse campus. The HSI designation makes Texas Tech eligible for up to $10 million in additional funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support the enhancement of educational opportunities for all students. As the Texas Tech community celebrates this achievement, students, faculty and staff are taking a moment to reflect not just on their own time in Raiderland, but to also celebrate those who have worked to make Texas Tech a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus.
Aaron Tejeda of Midland is a business administration in management major in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business. He also is pursuing a minor in film and media studies.
Now in his senior year, he's sharing highlights from his experiences as a first-generation student and an undergraduate researcher in the Texas Tech McNair Scholars Program.
First-generation college students have parents or guardians who have not received a bachelor's degree. As a McNair Scholar, Tejeda is part of a graduate school preparatory program for undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups, like first-generation students, who demonstrate strong academic potential for graduate research and studies.
We sat down with Tejeda to learn more about him and his experience at Texas Tech.
What types of activities have you been involved in during your time at Texas Tech?
"The main thing I've been involved with here at Texas Tech has been the McNair Scholars Program," Tejeda said. "They've been instrumental in helping me prepare for graduate school and in my research, which is based around film and media studies."
This June, Tejeda traveled to Los Angeles for a two-week internship with the New York Film Academy. His research during the internship focused on how media is used in everyday life.
"It's something you can't really escape anymore," Tejeda said. "It's become ingrained in our society. My research in digital media focuses on cell phones, social media and things like that, and also the way media is released now, particularly distribution. For example, most people never pick up a newspaper anymore. It's mostly just directly from your phone. So in essence, it's sort of cutting out the middleman and the rise of digital media."
In July, Tejeda traveled with other Texas Tech McNair Scholars to the University of Buffalo's annual Undergraduate Research Conference to present his work. He said he hopes the next step is getting published, followed by graduate school, where he hopes to study film and media.
"I sort of discovered film and media in the middle of my undergraduate studies and it's definitely a big passion of mine," Tejeda said. "I just really like film. I like watching films and making films. I'm actually an aspiring filmmaker. Conducting undergraduate research has been an interesting experience, because this is my first time doing any research. And, especially as an undergraduate, I think it's going to help me a lot once I get to graduate school, because I already have that experience."
How do you personally relate to your major and research project at Texas Tech?
"On a personal level, I relate to my work with the McNair Scholars Program through the group of students we work with, mostly because we're all from underrepresented groups. I think that's really important for diversity and inclusion," Tejeda said. "The Texas Tech community is what connects me to my major – the welcoming environment in the Rawls College of Business, and just the general atmosphere of the university."
What motivates you to continue the work you're doing at the university?
"My family, definitely, is my biggest inspiration, my biggest motivation," Tejeda said. "I have a little sister, she's 7 years old. I just want her to see that she can do whatever she wants to as long as she puts her mind to it. Representation is important, especially among groups like ours, first-generation and minority groups."
As Texas Tech approaches its 100th year with a community that is its most diverse ever, what impact can students have in regards to creating a campus environment that reflects diversity, equity and inclusion?
Tejeda said there are several things students, faculty and staff can do to create an inclusive campus environment for all Red Raiders.
"The main role for students is just getting involved and representing these different backgrounds and bringing them all together," Tejeda said. "Doing your best academically is definitely a big part of that, too. It's the duty of not only students, but also faculty and administration to perpetuate this current climate of diversity, equity and inclusion that we have going so far, and I think we've done a tremendous job."
Can you tell us of a faculty or staff member who made an impact on your life and your work?
Tejeda said his mentor within the McNair Scholars Program, associate professor Scott Baugh in the English department, has stood out among the faculty and staff members he has interacted with during his time at Texas Tech.
"He's helped foster my passion for film and media," Tejeda said. "When I started my first year here at Texas Tech, I took his introduction to film studies class. He just made everything super easy to understand and just so fascinating. He has a way of teaching that really opens it up not just for people studying film, but for everybody. I went to his office hours to get some help on an essay, and he really took the time to help me out and sort of explained everything to me. From there, it just spawned this whole passion that I now have with film and media studies. As my mentor, he's been tremendous. He helped me set up my internship and refine my research into what it is now."
As Texas Tech University continues to achieve excellence, stories like Aaron Tejeda's let students know that from here, it's possible.