The motivation and inclination were already in place for Sandra Ramirez-Espinoza.
Still, as the Ferris State University soon-to-be graduate has come to receive her
Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design, the Holland native reflected with appreciation
on an opportunity that came her way during her time at West Ottawa High School.
“I was an honor roll student and had my mind set on continuing my learning in graphic design,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “I was excited to begin my higher education during the summer of my junior year at West Ottawa, by participating in Ferris’ Promesa Summer Success Program.”
Ramirez-Espinoza also found that the program provided valuable experiences, as she prepared to be the first in her family to earn a college degree.
“We came to the United States from Mexico when I was 11,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “I had heard many good things about Ferris, as I approached the final years of high school. I enjoyed our tour of the Ferris campus and a variety of cultural experiences in Grand Rapids and Holland, all thanks to the Summer Success Program.”
She began her Ferris studies in Fall 2016 and found opportunities to gain professional and personal experience outside the classroom.
“I joined the Hispanic Student Organization and have been a member of the executive board of that registered student organization, since my sophomore year,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “My first role was as their treasurer, and I have greatly enjoyed being the social media chair. That allowed me to apply my Graphic Design studies to develop our posters and announcements for the various events we would organize. I found this to be a great opportunity to support the organization and its goals while building my skills.”
She has also completed three years as a member of the Promesa Scholars program, which has afforded Ramirez-Espinoza valuable experiences in developing cultural awareness while striving for academic excellence and making contributions to the campus community.
“I am proud that I will be the Scholars’ first graduate in Graphic Design,” she said. “I was able to be a mentor to three amazing Latina women. It was a great experience to serve my community by giving advice and guidance to my mentees. Also, I was able to attend and participate in a research conference, La Academia del Pueblo, where I showcased my research regarding the Latino community. Also, during my junior year, I volunteered to create a program booklet that was used for a professional networking night in Grand Rapids with many Latin@ professionals around the area. During the 2018-19 school year, I was awarded the Distinguished Scholar Award, which was a great honor. Overall, I’m very happy I was part of the amazing Promesa Scholars Program community.”
Ramirez-Espinoza also gained valuable experience through participation in the Greek Life program.
“I joined Sigma Lambda Gamma in the spring of 2018, joining the Chi Epsilon chapter, which was founded several years earlier,” Sandra said. “One of the most significant activities I collaborated on was developing a virtual presentation to the Center for Leadership, Activities and Career Services, as Sigma Lambda Gamma was seeking financial support. Being part of a Greek organization that empowers its members and provides many opportunities has been one of the greatest decisions I made during my college career. It allowed me to be able to serve as the chapter’s secretary and social chair, where I got to connect with other Greek organizations and apply my design skills by designing and promoting events on social media. It has been my honor to expand my opportunities, by representing our chapter on the United Greek Council, where I serve as vice president.”
Ramirez-Espinoza said the UGC was founded to promote the advancement of Ferris’ multicultural organizations, and she is excited about the contributions she has made in her leadership role.
“I have gained great perspective on how to manage a meeting, what is required to make an effective presentation and how to work with effectively, and lead others,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “We have worked very hard as an executive board to allow the council to continue pursuing its goals in the years to come.”
Ramirez-Espinoza furthered her learning and professional experiences with an internship with Our Daily Bread Ministries, a nonprofit, Grand Rapids-based organization. She followed that experience with her Graphic Design internship, which allowed her to contribute to the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities nonprofit in downtown Grand Rapids.
“They offer an after-school enrichment program in a socio-economically challenged area of the city,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “The GAAH holds the annual Dia Del Sol, or ‘Day of the Sun,’ as their major fundraising event, in support of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center. I have been actively creating materials to promote and accentuate that opportunity, which is a great experience in terms of my building skills that will serve me professionally.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic arising near the midpoint of Ramirez-Espinoza’s internship at GAAH, it has brought about adjustment, both to her service to the nonprofit and the execution of the necessary promotional work.
“A great deal of planning had gone into many of the projects I had taken on before the pandemic came about, which took all of us off the nonprofit’s campus,” she said. “We intend to debut a website in the first full week of May, which will allow students and their parents to sign up for GAAH programs online.”
The Dia Del Sol will go on, Ramirez-Espinoza said, but what has traditionally been a festive occasion under late spring skies will be altered for 2020, due to concerns about hosting a large-scale gathering of supporters.
“We are holding weekly meetings to organize the June 11 event, which we will offer as a virtual celebration,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “It is our intention to work through the logistics of a Facebook event, or some other social media platform that our supporters can enjoy so that we meet the GAAH goals for the program.”
Ramirez-Espinoza said that she will remain committed to involvement with Dia Del Sol, though the event will be held more than a month after the Spring 2020 semester ends.
“Some aspects of our production have been delayed, or certainly changed, as a result of the pandemic,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “We are ramping up our promotion and focus on this event, in terms of the overall GAAH operation. This has been a very valuable experience, in terms of demonstrating the scope of projects I expect to encounter, professionally.”
Another activity calling for Sandra’s time and attention was her capstone Graphic Design portfolio review, an annual activity for students preparing to graduate from the program.
“We had departmental reviews on Zoom, which required that I develop and launch a portfolio website,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “Taking all of that work to the virtual realm brought on a few challenges, but I was able to successfully complete the review process.”
She has started the search for her first professional role, though she would like to stay close to her family and community.
“If I can begin my career in the Grand Rapids-Holland area, that would be ideal,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “I very much enjoyed my internship in Grand Rapids, so I know that if an opportunity were to present itself there, I could stay with my family and do very well with that.”
Ramirez-Espinoza said her job search and support of the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities event are made easier by her parents’ and siblings’ support, as the first college graduate in the family.
“My father, Daniel Ramirez, and mother, Hortencia Espinoza, are so happy, always telling me how proud they are of my accomplishments,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “While they don’t understand each detail of my portfolio materials and project work, they always want to see what I have produced.”
Her older sister and two younger brothers are also excited about Sandra’s achievement and what it can mean for them as individuals and as a family.
“My brother, Fernando, is 14 and is very interested in coming to Ferris, to study engineering,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “He has had a lot of questions for me during my college days, asking about how things are going.”
Ramirez-Espinoza looks with great anticipation to what the weeks and months to come will bring her to build upon the learning and experience she was able to gain from her years as a Ferris student.
“I believe I had a great experience, from the beginning to the end of my days as a Bulldog,” Ramirez-Espinoza said. “I could not have imagined that I would have the variety of experiences in the classroom, and those that came thanks to my involvement with Promesa Scholars, the Hispanic Student Organization, Sigma Lambda Gamma and the United Greek Council. I very much hope that someday, while I am working to be a contributor in my industry and community, my brother Fernando can experience many of these same things, as our family’s next student at Ferris.”