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José Eduardo Huerta graduated from the University of California-Berkeley and worked as an international group leader for an educational nonprofit before coming to Binghamton University.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2016 profile: José Eduardo Huerta
May 16, 2016Tweet
José Eduardo Huerta’s parents moved to America to give their four young children a chance at an education and a better life.
“I’m the oldest in my family,” he said. “When I was 12, my parents told my sisters and me, like many migrants families do, that we were leaving Mexico so we could have an opportunity for better education.”
When Huerta started middle school in Salinas, Calif., he knew only a few sentences of English. Today, he’s pursuing a dual master’s degree in public administration and student affairs administration (MPA-MSAA) in the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA).
Huerta believes student success — at any level of education — ultimately relies on your support system.
“I was the first person in my family to go to college. I didn’t have the social capital to understand the college admission process,” Huerta said. “Throughout my career as a student, I have received a lot of support from student affairs professionals, which is why I want to help students in my own career.”
Huerta’s parents, farm workers in Mexico and the United States, have always pushed their children to continue their education. In 2007, Huerta was accepted to the University of California-Berkeley on a full educational opportunity scholarship.
“Even though my parents don’t speak English — so they were never able to help me schoolwork — they have always provided me with moral support and done everything they can to help me. They’ve supported all of my decisions.”
As an undergraduate student, Huerta studied abroad in Brazil for a semester: “It exposed me to how big the world is, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I got the travel bug. From that moment I wanted to meet new people and cultures because those interactions helped me understand the value of diversity, equity and justice, in addition to providing numerous opportunities for reflection and personal growth. I also learned to speak Portuguese.”
After graduating from Berkeley, Huerta took a two-year gap prior to pursuing his master’s. He worked as a substitute teacher and literacy tutor before moving into the public sector, working in human resources for Monterey County.
The summer before starting graduate school, Huerta found another opportunity to travel abroad. He worked as an international group leader for an educational nonprofit, the Experiment in International Living, which offers cultural immersion programs for high school students.
“It was hard to explain to my parents why I wanted to travel across the world, where I knew nothing about the culture or customs. But they’ve always listened to me and understood my decisions,” said Huerta, who spent his three summers with the organization in Chile, Costa Rica and Spain.
Another big decision for Huerta was coming to Binghamton University in the fall of 2013.
“I knew I wanted the flexibility to work in an educational, nonprofit or local government setting. The [MPA-MSAA] degree is very unique, there aren’t many programs like it in the country.”
Huerta packed all of his things into his compact car and drove across country to start a new chapter.
“I arrived in Binghamton a few days before classes without an apartment. I researched listings on a computer at the Broome County Library, and I was ready to sign a lease after a few hours,” Huerta said.
While at Binghamton, Huerta spent a winter semester in Shenzhen, China, with the Public Administration Department’s study-abroad program.
“Eduardo took advantage of opportunities to explore the changing world, specifically the effects of globalization and the sustainability challenges it brings. During the trip, he was continuously reflecting on the experience and challenging his classmates to think critically about globalization,” said Susan Appe, assistant professor of public administration who traveled to China with Huerta.
“One of my strengths is adaptability. As a migrant and traveling abroad so much, by the time I moved to Binghamton I wasn’t scared of the unknown,” he said.
“Eduardo represents so much of what we want to see in our MPA students. He will move on to great things,” Appe added.
For the past year, Huerta worked as a graduate assistant at the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. He collaborated with the schools and colleges across campus to develop interactive and informative pre-orientation materials for new students.
“His willingness to research and learn new software is outstanding,” said Paula Russell, the senior director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “His perseverance with learning new productivity tools and taking on challenges has greatly assisted our team.”
Huerta also loves taking pictures. He doesn’t charge for his services (he takes headshots and pictures of events across campus) but requests small donations instead.
“I call it ‘photography with a purpose,’” Huerta said, laughing. “During college and graduate school, I’ve received several scholarships that I’m so grateful for. These scholarships have not only helped me financially, but remind me about the importance of giving back.”
He wants to save enough donation money to establish a $1,000 scholarship within CCPA.
Huerta’s mother, father and three sisters will travel to New York for the first time to see him walk across stage. After graduation, he plans to stay on the East Coast for a few years and aspires to work in higher education.
“My parents’ hard work planted the seed for my success,” he said. “Now it’s my turn to show them how I can grow.”