Student Spotlight 2023: Rigoberto Rico, U.S. Navy

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and grew up in Madera, Chihuahua, Mexico, and retired from the Navy in December 2023. My job was as a personnel specialist, which is closely related to human resources in the civilian sector. I joined the military for many reasons: escapism, a sense of duty, searching for a challenge, and educational opportunities. More specifically, serving a nation that opened opportunities for me, leaving my current situation in New Mexico to better myself, challenging myself with something different and harder to achieve, and getting educational benefits after I was done with my service were all factors that drove my decisions to enlist. The Navy not only provided me with all these, but I also matured mentally and emotionally. I gained physical, mental, and emotional grit, which gave me the ability to adapt to any circumstance and make it work to my advantage. A fun fact about myself is that in 2024 I will be attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail to explore my love for nature and hiking further.

Why did you decide to participate in WSP this summer, and was there a shift in your confidence level from the first day of the course to the last day?

I’ve always loved academia, and I wanted to see if I would be able to excel in this environment. WSP offered something I could relate to. First, they called their program a “boot camp,” which I already knew was going to be challenging. The way it was described on their website let me know I was getting into something hard but, at the same time, something where it was up to me to make the best of it. So, I decided to give it a try. Plus, it was offered to me for free. Thank you, WSP!

The first day for me was chaotic, pretty similar to my actual day in Navy boot camp. I felt lost and demoralized; my confidence was nonexistent. Just ask Harry Foster and the humanities team. They had to pick up the pieces and push me to get rid of my impostor syndrome (I am still working on it).

By the end of humanities week, I was able to grasp what WSP was trying to do. I tackle almost everything in a linear way, but WSP is nonlinear, a challenge that I was willing to accept. By the end of STEM week, I felt better prepared to enter academia with a good sense of what to expect. My confidence level had reached a new height. For the STEM team h=\frac{v_{0^{y}}^{2}}{2g}, and now I just need to figure out how to utilize this downward motion to gain momentum to feed my confidence.

What were some key insights you gained during your course, and what is your biggest takeaway?

During WSP’s humanities and STEM course at The University of Chicago, I was able to see how college works by talking to the fellows and experiencing it firsthand from the professors. I now know that there will always be someone willing to help me with my education, either one of my classmates or a professor. I just need to have the courage to ask for help. I also learned to have confidence in myself and my abilities. I can be successful with hard work and dedication.

In one word, How would you describe your overall experience?


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