Ariana Milla Ramírez, who is originally from Honduras, is a graduate assistant at AU. Milla Ramírez earned her undergraduate degree in general studies and business administration here at AU and is currently working on a master’s in business. Milla Ramírez worked as an RA for two years and has been involved in the Hispanic Latino Student Association in the Cultural Resource Center.
Q: Before coming back to AU, you were going to be taking a position in Canada. What exactly was the position that you were considering?
A: It was a graduate assistant position, and I was going to get my master’s in Hispanic studies with a concentration in literature, immigration and culture. I was going to be in charge of helping the Spanish professors, actually teaching a lower level Spanish class at the university, and doing lots of research.
Q: Now that you’ve come back, what kind of work do you do as a graduate assistant here at AU?
A: I work with educational support services, and we are just another means of support for students that are struggling academically or that just need accountability. We work with them at study tables, find them tutors and stuff like that. We work really closely with the Kissinger Learning Center, and we just make sure they are being successful during their time here.
Q: What was the motivation behind your decision to come back to AU?
A: Mike Thigpen gave me a call, and he said, “We have this job opening, and I really think you should apply.”
I thought about it, I sent in my application, then the next day, Christie Luna, my current boss, was trying to get in touch with me. It was a little hard because I was in Canada, so we did a Facebook Messenger call. We talked for a little bit, she had some recommendations for me, and she said, “It’s yours if you want it.”
I love AU, and I felt like I wasn’t done with it. Honestly, it just felt right. It was definitely God opening this door. I was in Canada, all settled and everything, but it felt like this was where I was supposed to be.
Q: What about AU is special to you?
A: AU has been my home away from home. I’m from Honduras, so coming here as a freshman I was getting to meet people, and meeting people that actually cared about me a lot, especially professors, staff and the RDs I worked with in the Cultural Resources Center. Even though I was away from home, I knew that this was also home.
The way people care about you, and the way some people want to actually get to know you, that has been one of the major reasons why I love AU. I felt accepted and welcomed here, so my motivation has always been to make other incoming students, and even students that are already here, feel accepted and comfortable.
Q: How have you been able to build relationships with others through campus involvement?
A: My freshman year I was in Rice Hall, and my floor clicked. They enjoyed my humor and enjoyed getting to know some stuff about me, and I did the same. They started to give me the whole American experience.
Just by being an RA and getting to hear the stories of my residents, or being in the CRC and just hanging out with people, getting to know them and getting to know their story has been very rewarding. I’ve been honored to have been able to do that, and it has helped to create the relationships that I’ve built with staff members that have been there for me whenever I needed.
Also, when I was a telecounselor at admissions working with other telecounselors, I realised that we’re different, but we all are a part of the community. I learned to be okay with being different, and being willing and able to get to know the differences of everyone else. I think that has helped me create really strong relationships, and I’ve met really awesome people and some of my best friends. I know we will be friends for a long time, and that has been one of the best parts of AU, just getting to build relationships.
Q: How has AU being a Christ-centered university helped foster the closeness of the community here?
A: I think that in my experience coming to AU, I made faith my own. I knew what my parents had taught me. I knew what my parents believed. I was able to be open and to be able to learn that it’s time for me to believe what I think I should believe, and to be able to defend what I believe in.
I think that, at the end of the day, we’re working for the same reason, which is bringing the kingdom of God closer to Earth. I think that’s what helps with relationships.
There are also a lot of people on campus that don’t share the same faith that I do, and it has been great to get to know them, get to hear about their beliefs and about what they have put their faith in.
I think that trying to discover where our faith is, and discover what our faith is together, makes the community closer. Even though we are on different paths, or we are in different stages, the fact that we are all looking for something to believe in, something to put our hope in, has brought us together. Being a Christian university, being a great community, looking after worshiping God, makes us a lot closer.
Q: How have you grown as a person due to your involvement in activities on campus?
A: My leadership skills have improved. I have been in really hard situations where I had to decide what kind of leader I was going to be. I was very supported by my RD and fellow RAs. It reassured in me that community was very important to me, and it also helped me realize the difference in culture. I learned as much in the classroom, as in the residence halls or as in passing in Decker Hall. I think they all have contributed to the person I have become, and will contribute to the person I will be in the future.
Q: What is it like to help others grow in leadership?
A: It was really awesome to be an RA and just see girls from your hall decide they wanted to become student leaders next year.
There have been international students who have come, and you just see how they become more involved around campus, or you see how they want to step up and take control of whatever situation is going on within our cultural clubs, or in the next year be in charge of the cultural clubs.
It’s awesome to be a small part of that, and how they feel free to come and ask the questions they need. It’s a really nice experience when they trust you enough to ask you how they can change a certain thing when it comes to their leadership. Just seeing them step up and become leaders has been very nice.
Q: What would you say is valuable in learning to be a leader?
A: I think the biggest thing about being a leader is you have to remember that you’re not just telling people what to do, you’re doing it with them. It’s about setting an example, not just being a leader because you have a title, but that your actions reflect that you are a leader. Not every leader has a title, and that is something that we have to remember. Even if you’re not involved in student leadership, or you’re not the head of a club, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a leader.
We can be leaders in any area of our lives, so leadership is something that has to be developed within us, especially when we go out into the world, and we get jobs. I think our leadership skills are going to be tested, and they are tested during our time here. It’s important to be aware of where you are.