Eastern Oregon University > Mountaineer Magazine > Spring 2021 > ‘Go for it’: Discovering the Eastern Edge

‘Go for it’: Discovering the Eastern Edge

By Katy Nesbitt

Cassandra Sanchez, a first-generation college student who will earn her degree in biology in 2022, found that participating in choir hones her ability to recognize patterns during scientific observation.

Looking for a four-year college close to home, Cassandra Sanchez of Ontario chose to transfer to EOU from Treasure Valley Community College

Sanchez was attracted to EOU’s financial aid options and its programs specifically for children of migrants. A first-generation Mexican-American, Sanchez said she will be the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

In addition to her molecular biology major and chemistry minor, Sanchez also joined the choir. Her passion for singing became a major outlet, balancing time spent in the lab with her artistic side, something encouraged by one of her biology professors.

“I thought my involvement with choir would end at Treasure Valley, but Dr. John Reinhardt advocates for staying in the arts, so when you are in your profession you will see patterns—just like in music,” Sanchez said. 

She took choir as a class and when she could fit it into her schedule, and continues to pursue singing as an extracurricular activity. She said last year when the university put on its annual spring choir show, it was her first opportunity to be part of a big production. Rehearsing in class alone wasn’t enough and they practiced almost every afternoon. The time commitment was demanding, but Sanchez said she has met her closest friends in choir—helping her get over her nervousness about being away from home.

“I’ve become more independent and I’m learning to work through my problems without leaning on my family,” Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, her biology workload has been intense. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, Sanchez said she’s taking some of her classes online, but much of her time is spent in the lab. During the winter 2021 she had four labs, including organic chemistry. 

When she graduates in 2022 Sanchez has her sights on studying dentistry or attending dental hygiene school at Oregon Health Sciences University. She’s also considered pursuing a teaching degree.

Not only are the biology courses more rigorous at EOU, Sanchez said her grade point average improved since transferring. She credits her success to the relatively small classroom size.

“I thought my GPA would tank with the bigger class sizes and I wouldn’t have as many one-on-one opportunities as I did at Treasure Valley,” Sanchez said. “But even though the class sizes were a little bigger, I was still comfortable enough with the professors and I’ve absorbed tons of great habits from them as well.”

She said the newer habits she’s formed helped her studying overall, like joining study groups, another fertile field for forming friendships.

“Students are hungry to continue learning,” Sanchez said. “We’ve even formed our own study groups.”

EOU has also provided Sanchez exposure to the variety of ethnicities represented through clubs and events highlighting Latino cultures, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.

“I thought my involvement with choir would end at Treasure Valley, but Dr. John Reinhardt advocates for staying in the arts, so when you are in your profession you will see patterns—just like in music.” – Cassandra Sanchez, ’22 

“The clubs do a really great job spreading awareness and you don’t have to be a part of the ethnicity to join a certain club—you just have to be interested in the culture.”

As her time in La Grande winds down Sanchez shares her enthusiasm for the university’s academics, clubs and arts as an EOU Ambassador leading tours for incoming students and working in the Admissions Office. She’s even appeared in recruiting videos available on YouTube.

In one video Sanchez encourages high school students to consider what an education will do for their future: “What I tell prospective students about attending a community college or university is, ‘Go for it!’”