What if every single part of Taylor could be seen as a safe place for every single student? What if Taylor was a place where diversity was at the center of every class, activity, building and event?
Fostering this type of atmosphere is one thing that Maribel Magallanes (‘13), director of student leadership and intercultural programs and Taylor alumna, hopes to accomplish through her position.
As a first generation college student, Magallanes had to overcome many obstacles to arrive at the place she is today. Although this was difficult, maintaining a positive and determined mindset allowed her to achieve goals neither she nor her family originally thought were possible.
Magallanes’ parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago under a strong influence of Mexican-American culture.
Up until fourth grade, Magallanes attended a Spanish-speaking elementary school. Although there was an elementary school right next to her home, she was not allowed to attend that school because she did not speak English. Instead, she was forced to attend a school much farther from her home.
Her father eventually managed to get her into the English-speaking school and Magallanes began attending that school halfway through her fourth-grade year.
“I had to push myself to learn English in order to succeed,” Magallanes said.
She carried this mentality of perseverance and hope into her high school years where she excelled academically.
When the time came for her to start looking into college, Magallanes was unsure of her next steps. Being a first-generation college student made it difficult for her to undergo the college search process.
“I didn’t really have any guidance or anybody leading me through the college process,” Magallanes said.
A girl from her church attended Taylor, and one day, Magallanes asked her if she could visit her at college.
While visiting Taylor, Magallanes fell in love with the campus and the Christian community. She knew that Taylor was where she wanted to be, but her parents told her that there was no way it would be financially possible.
“I would have conversations with God and say, ‘If I’m also your daughter, and you know that my desire is to grow in faith and be around a community like that, finances should not be something that should stop me.’” Magallanes said.
Year after year, the Lord provided for her, allowing her to attend Taylor. During her time at Taylor, she was the president of the Latino Student Union, a leader of freshmen students and participated in intramurals.
Magallanes graduated from Taylor in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“To be able to set that new standard for my family was a big thing,” Magallanes said.
During her senior year of college, Magallanes was encouraged by former President Gene Habecker to apply for the MAHE program at Taylor. Getting a master’s degree was something that she had never thought about or considered, but she decided to go for it.
Halfway through her first year in the MAHE program, Magallanes and her husband Diego found out they had a baby on the way, resulting in her completing her second semester while pregnant.
Her goal was to come back with her daughter and finish her second year of MAHE, but this was put on hold when Magallanes underwent a cesarean section that led to infection and then to a three-month-long bed rest.
“That led to postpartum depression because I was struggling with trying to make a connection with my daughter, while also struggling with the fact that I couldn’t come back to finish the second year,” Magallanes said.
Not long after deciding to go back and finish her master’s, Magallanes found out she was pregnant with her second child.
The next year, she decided to go back and the same thing happened: she found out she was pregnant with her third child.
Five years later, when she wasn’t looking for it, God made it clear to Magallanes that it was time to go back to Taylor and complete her Master’s degree.
“Sometimes, we try to fight God’s timing and we want it our way,” Magallanes said. “But the importance of waiting for God’s time is essential because when we do that, everything just kind of falls into place.”
Returning to college, she was no longer focusing on herself and her accomplishments, but instead on the impact she hoped to make in the lives of first-generation college students.
After completing her master’s in the summer of 2020, Magallanes and her husband were trying to figure out their next step when a spot opened up in the Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP) at Taylor. Working in the OIP was something that Magallanes had dreamed of, but never imagined would be possible for her.
“I think the most rewarding part is seeing students accomplish great things that they never thought they would be able to accomplish,” Magallanes said.
Although starting this new job has not been easy, and balancing family and work can be tough at times, Magallanes has focused on trusting the Lord and allowing Him to use her to impact and help others.
Through her position in the OIP, Magallanes hopes to impact and motivate the students she interacts with.
“My desire is that over the years, our students will be able to see any place on campus as a safe space for them. So (we can) bring about diversity in our academics and our alumni and admissions and all throughout the university, and that we can see diversity played out all throughout campus, not just in the OIP,” Magallanes said.