First-generation college student now pursuing doctorate at ASU


Gabriel Sandler

Angelica Amezcua was the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree. Then she was the first in her family to receive a master’s. Now, at Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC), she is the first in her family to pursue a doctorate.

“This is my third year here in the Spanish linguistics PhD program, and I’m focused on heritage language pedagogy,” Amezcua said.

Heritage language pedagogy focuses on inclusive teaching methods that work with students who bring language skills from home into the classroom. Amezcua points out this has many differences from teaching students who did not experience the language at home.  

Each level of education presented unique challenges for Amezcua, but she credits support systems with helping her find the way. By the time she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies, she felt confident enough in her field to come to SILC.

A trailblazer in her family, Amezcua has had to adjust to each new level of education without much reference, finding at SILC a challenging but welcoming program.

“”[At SILC], the most challenging thing has been, as a first generation student, not knowing what to expect from a PhD,” Amezcua said. “It had been rough, a rough start … but I feel prepared, I have developed so many skills and abilities that I feel secure.”

The confidence shows. In her time at SILC, Amezcua has received honorary mention for the Ford Fellowship, earned funding through the Graduate College Fellowship and been recognized within the HASTAC fellowship. This recognition of her research and capability will support more academic work, conferences and other professional opportunities.  

“Her creativity and resourcefulness make her classes engaging and effective," said Sara Beaudrie, director of graduate studies at SILC and associate professor. "Above all, her students appreciate how approachable and supportive she is, her enthusiasm and passion, and her kindness” Beaudrie said. “she has held several other leadership positions within her graduate program, which are evidence of her deep level of commitment to her program, department, and university and her high level of motivation, organizational skills, and excellence.”

Once finished with the doctoral program at SILC, Amezcua has no intention of slowing down, and plans to find opportunities to continue researching and teaching her passions.

“Eventually I want to be a full time professor, at a university where I can work with heritage speakers,” Amezcua said. “Especially first generation students … in every class I want to create a community.”