Family comes first: Ruth Chavez

Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Ruth Chavez dreams of becoming a Disney Imagineer and, without question, possesses the resolve and tenacity required to achieve her goal.

“With determination and persistence, you can accomplish anything,” she explains. “There’s no limit to imagination at Disney, and that’s just amazing.”

Ruth’s interest in engineering started in junior high when she participated in the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program at her school. She spent a lot of her time programming robots, and once even made shoes that walk on water.

“It gave me an insight into what an engineer does,” she says. “I’ve always loved math and science, so in high school I started looking into the different types of engineering, and decided my interest was between industrial engineering and engineering management.”

She graduated from high school in 2015 with a full-ride scholarship to Kansas State University — her dream school. Then, the unthinkable happened. Her younger sister, who was already in remission from lung cancer, was diagnosed with leukemia. With two little brothers also at home, her mother struggled to balance their needs with her sister’s doctor visits.

“I didn’t want my little brothers to have to be babysat by others who weren’t family,” Ruth says. “My mom needed all the emotional support she could get, so I rejected the scholarship.”

Although giving up her dream school was no easy decision, Ruth knew it was what she needed to do, and that she still had other options. She soon decided on the University of Arizona, which also had an industrial engineering program.

“I was ready to leave when they called to tell me I wasn’t on the list anymore,” she says. “I was devastated because I had already planned everything out. They told me I could wait and reapply next year, but I couldn’t lose a year of school.”

It was at that moment that she received a flyer from ASU. Knowing she would never regret trying, she sent an email — and was pleasantly surprised to receive a call the next day.

“I told the woman everything,” Ruth explains. “She thought the ASU Online engineering management degree would be the perfect fit, as it would allow me to stay home and help my mom while still studying. She gave me the option to apply and after two weeks, I got an email that said I was in. I didn’t think it was real but she called me again and said, ‘You’re in, Ruth!’”

After going through orientation, Ruth became nervous. Many of her fellow students were much older and had already been working in the field for big companies.

“But they’ve all been so nice and have shared their experience with me,” she reports. “Everyone is like family, not just classmates.”

She has also been amazed by the amount of support she receives from her professors, even after the courses are over.

“I still receive emails asking how I’m doing,” she says. “They remind me that there is a tutoring center. My Success Coach is also always there when I need advice.”

In addition to the ASU community, Ruth credits her family’s ongoing support as one of the main drivers of her success.

“[Being Hispanic], in a way it has impacted my experience because my mom and grandparents have always supported hard work and dedication, in addition to family values,” she says. “Having them around me to tell me I can do it is so important. Sometimes I ask myself why I am online instead of on campus. Then I remind myself that I’m doing it so that I can be here for my mom and brothers. I’ve found a way where I can be with family and support them emotionally through this time, while still getting my education.”

And, she adds happily, her sister is doing great.

Learn more about ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management degree.

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