Student Speakers

image placeholderDanielle Sandoval, B.S.

Danielle Sandoval is originally from Albuquerque, NM. She attended the University of New Mexico (UNM) from 2006 until 2009. She was looking towards pursuing a degree in Dental Hygiene when she had a change of heart. She then attended Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) mostly taking psychology courses to pursue a minor in psychology, still unsure of what program she wanted to major in. Danielle took a turn in 2012 when seeking a career in the IT field as a Desktop Support Technician at Molina Healthcare in Albuquerque. It wasn’t until 2015 when she decided to move to Southern California to be closer to her family. She was fortunate to transfer her same position to Molina Healthcare Headquarters in Long Beach, CA. She then registered and went back to UNM after 9 years. Being a distance learner, she needed to find an appropriate program to complete her degree. Danielle met with Ian Drackert, a liberal arts advisor, who introduced her to the Organization, Information, Learning Sciences (OILS) program. She knew that this program would be the right fit for her to accomplish her future career goals with developing and conducting training sessions. Danielle then landed an ideal job in 2019 at FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific as an IT Support Specialist being able to pursue her educational background with instructional technology and training. She is now revising and improving training documentation and videos within the IT department for new hire orientation and knowledge-based instructions. She has slowly started to deliver and evaluate these training sessions. This is just the very beginning of how she would like to apply her Bachelor of Science degree in Instructional Technology and Training. She is also excited to see what the future has in store for her.

Danielle's Address to the Graduating Class of 2020

Class of 2020,

First and foremost, let me share with you all that I don’t think of myself as one to provide wisdom, quote the utmost inspiring words some people live by, or even find the encouraging words to motivate others. I am just a student who dropped out of college my junior year to return 9 years later, ecstatic to finish school and celebrate on graduation day with all of you. While I write this speech I find myself sitting here thinking of why I was chosen to do so. To think about it, this speech has taken me 14 years to write.

Graduation has been a goal and a dream of mine for a very long time. My father instilled in my brain that it doesn’t matter what I do in life, as long as I receive a college degree and graduate (oh yeah and learn how to speak español, which I am still working on achieving…slowly). Well Dad, it’s better late than never, right? I was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. I went to Cibola High School and attended UNM right after graduation in 2006. I also had the opportunity to attend CNM after my first attendance at UNM. Then, everything changed when my father suddenly passed away when I was 24 years old. This was the first tragic reality that I have ever had to experience. Soon after that, I was lost and living in the past. If it wasn’t for my loving family and my admirable friends I wouldn’t have had the strength to move on, learn once more how to live in the moment, and prepare for my future.

I would now like to turn the page to all of you. Here we are, graduates of 2020, stuck at home during our graduation commencement and convocations with no place to go but to celebrate online with one another. Though I know it’s not ideal, I’d say it’s a nomadism and millennial way to finish strong; to accomplish our educational journey we worked so long and hard for. Isn’t it weirdly unanticipated how the Organization, Information, Learning Sciences or OILS program prepared us for this horrific pandemic of COVID-19? This commendable program has shown us how to understand others, have empathy for one another, and have resiliency within ourselves. These are only a few examples of what the OILS program has taught us about adult learning and preparing us for the unexpected. In the end, it doesn’t matter how or where we graduate but the fact that we are here now, celebrating each other’s successes and failures. 

I mentioned successes and failures as I am sure you know as much as I do that it’s not likely to succeed without failing a bit, heck even failing quite a bit, and steadily. As a matter of fact, I could have never arrived to this very moment without stumbling and falling as much as I did. Looking back to my past I realize now that even though I have regrets, memories I never want to remember or to nevermore return to that time in my life, I know for certain without those moments I could have never matured to the person I am now. I would have never moved to be with my family in California, I would have never met the man I met, and I would have never gone back to school without his motivation and consistent guidance. The saying, that everything happens for a reason is believed by some as the modern, New Age version of the old religious saying: “It’s God’s will” and others believe it’s their journey towards health and prosperity. I personally believe it is God’s will as I was blessed to recognize my faith once again after many years throughout my own journey. What I am trying to say is that it doesn’t matter what you believe in, it’s never too late to start over, rectify yourself, and make positive changes in life. I mentioned I dropped out of UNM, feeling unclear of what I really wanted to do with my life. Who I wanted to become. To feel unsure for so long and then return after 9 years is not an easy decision. Nor is it something everyone can do or is willing to do. These types of choices we make in life need to be celebrated as they are turning points of our failures and defining moments of our successes.

This is a time to reflect upon yourself; your experience within the OILS program, the various subject matters learned, and classes we have taken that are the essence and foundation of what will happen next in our educational journeys. As I reflect, I remember the very first time I was introduced to the OILS program. My liberal arts advisor Ian Drackert, who at the time was also part of the OILS program, provided me with the options that UNM conveniently offered for distance learners such as myself. I have had an exceptional group of people who have lead me to this very moment that I would like to gratefully thank. Leandra Monique Barreras who is part of the Graduation Project Program and Manuel Machuca who gave me the opportunity to be part of the Graduation Project film. Christopher Larranaga who has been a tremendous help as my OILS advisor. And to all of my instructors, who have taught me more about myself during our studies together. Lastly, Dr. Kang, I will never forget your professional stories you share with your students and the excitement you have when we undoubtedly recognize the concepts you teach us. The laughs, the encouragement, the incredible team that we are grateful to have rooting us on.

To the graduates of 2020, take what you have learned so far and continue to flourish and grow within your educational journey as we know now learning will never hinder, it’s inescapable. This is our day to raise our glasses and cheers to the long nights, countless assignments, numerous tests, group projects, and the definite dedication and hard work we have put forth to celebrate our accomplishments with one another. Congratulations, class of 2020, we did it!


albro-michelleMichelle Albro, M.A.

While working as the Director of Career and Professional Development Programs for UNM Anderson’s School of Management Executive & Professional Education Center, Michelle completed her OILS master’s degree in Adult Education and Professional Development with a 4.15 GPA in December 2019.  As a successful business manager for over 20 years, mostly with Xerox Corporation as a Client Manager, Michelle encompasses a solid background of collaborative teambuilding, comprehensive and professional program development, as well as quality improvement guidance. She applies her leadership and management background to encouraging everyone to grow both professionally and personally, recognizing the importance of lifelong learning for mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Michelle strives to provide a positive, instructive environment where adults learn and are inspired to engage in constructive self-reflection, recognize strengths, and stimulate continuous learning.

Though gaining her OILS master's degree was truly a proud moment, her most valued title is ‘Bamma’ bestowed upon her by her grandson, Zander. Traveling with her boyfriend and visiting her ‘babies’ (daughter, son-in-law, and grandson) are among her favorite things. 

Michelle's Address to the Graduating Class of 2020

Hello, fellow OILS graduates. Congratulations on this truly momentous achievement! Please do take some time to acknowledge your accomplishment and celebrate yourself in this moment.

I am not a great writer or speaker, so I was deeply honored when asked to deliver, now write, a speech for my fellow graduates. While writing this, we are under ‘limited operations’ due to the COVID 19 pandemic. It is disappointing that we are not able to celebrate physically together; and, some of you may not have the opportunity to participate in the formal graduation ceremony where you walk across the stage and receive your diploma. However, despite this global tragedy, you now have a tremendous advantage. All educational and training organizations, including the University of New Mexico, now recognize and need professionals, like you, who understand the online learning environment and how to engage adult learners in a constructive and effective way. You have wisely chosen a career that is now in demand!

No matter what your field of study is, completing a degree is a significant accomplishment. I researched a couple of online resources, all of which state a similar statistic. In the United States, the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree is around 37%; and, the percentage of adults with a master’s or higher degree is around 9%. (retrieved from You are now more educated than more than half of the adults in the United States; and, if you have a master's, more than 90% of them. You are in an elite group!

I completed both my bachelor's and masters as a non-traditional student: working full time and as a single parent. Not only do I understand the importance of continuing to learn and grow; but, I also understand the hardships that come along with choosing to complete these endeavors later in life. The hardships won’t stop now that you completed your degree; there will be new ones. Don’t let this be discouraging.  As we have learned, we learn most from the journey and even our failures.

One philosophy that I have followed throughout my life is best told by a parable I heard in a church service. (I can see my daughter, who now lives in Houston, rolling her eyes at me because I have repeated it to her a number of times.) I have since learned that there are numerous versions. It is a tale of an old shepherd and his old dog. The shepherd was digging a hole. The old dog accidentally falls into the deep hole. The shepherd, thinking the dog was too old to be able to get out, starts filling in the hole with the dog still in it. Each time the shepherd throws a shovel of dirt in the hole, the dog shakes it off and steps up. Not paying much attention, the shepherd finishes shoveling the dirt back in the hole, looks up and there is his dog (giving him a dirty look, no doubt!) Shake it off and step up. I have had to follow that advice over and over again throughout my career and life.

I know there were times when I buried my head in my hands when asked, yet again, to write another ‘reflection’ post or paper. But we learned, and practiced time and time again, an invaluable skill: self-reflection. The ability to self-reflect creates self-awareness, and self-awareness is the road to self-actualization. As you move forward into a new career or continue to develop in your current one, give your best, but don’t be afraid of challenges or to make mistakes or even fail. Look at each obstacle as an opportunity to learn and step up. Examine, reflect, and learn from the failures; then modify, and keep trying. Shake it off and step up! 

Congratulations and many blessings on your new journey!

 perea-franFrances Perea, M.A.

Fran Perea is a proud native New Mexican. She began her career in retail and realized her passion for employees and entered the field of HR. Fran was in the HR field for over 25 years when she was allowed the opportunity to work in organizational development. She found the piece that would complete the puzzle of her HR career.  It was suggested to Fran that she take a few classes or certifications in Organizational Development. She chose to go back to school and obtain a master’s degree instead.  Graduating was a milestone in her life. She has been married 30 years to husband Paul Perea and is the mother of two beautiful daughters – Nicole and Shelby; mother-in-law to Ryan and grand mom to Zoey. Her passion is helping people reach the goals they have set for themselves. I believe in a “pay it forward” mentality.

Fran's Address to the Graduating Class of 2020

Greetings to distinguished guests, professors, administrators, friends, families, and Ph.D. students of class 2019.  Thank you for allowing me to address you on this notable day. 

I left home many years ago to pursue a bachelor’s degree.  Higher education was not discussed in my family, but I always knew that it was the path to success.  The road was not easy, but when I graduated, I felt pride in myself knowing I was the first person to graduate from college.  Having a degree opened doors that would not have been available if I did not have one. 

Fast forward 20 years and I began thinking about seeking a master’s degree.  During those 20 years, I was married and had two beautiful daughters.  How was I going to pursue a degree while working full time and raising a family?  Again, it was the voice inside me convincing me that this was the next step in my life.  My daughters were eight and five years old.  My youngest would mimic me as she grabbed her pad and pencil to work on her “project.”  I did not know at the time that my education journey would influence them.  Both of my daughters graduated from UNM in 2017.

Again, fast forward 15 years after obtaining my first master’s degree.  I had been working as an HR professional and I never thought I would change direction in my career.  I discovered that my passion was leadership development and knew I needed to go back to school. 

During this journey, I had many exceptional mentors and support that came from my friends and family.  Was I crazy to start school at 57 years old?  A lot of people asked me that question.  Again, there was the voice telling me this was my next chapter.  I had my share of challenges in the OILS program – for example – learning to write a paper again.  But, I never have had so much fun, made so many friends, and learned so much to apply towards my new role in organizational development. 

As I graduate, I told myself that this is my last education chapter.  Although I love learning, I am one of the lucky ones to be in the profession I was meant to be in. Thank you to everyone in the OILS program that helped make it happen. 

jemima organ Jemima Neddy Organ, Ph.D.

Jemima Neddy Organ is a Ph.D. graduate from the Organization, Information, & Learning Sciences (OILS) program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Her focus is on Instructional Design (ID), Adult Education & Professional Development (AE&PD), and Motivational Interviewing in leadership (MI-Lead). She holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Counseling from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Jemima has over 26 years’ experience in the mental health profession and is also a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in New Mexico. Jemima has over 15 years as a training consultant. Her visionary personality has enabled her to provide insights as an internal consultant of how to expand counseling services to a wider clientele for a counseling agency in New Mexico. She has worked as a graduate and teaching assistant in the OILS program and is currently working as a graduate assistant in the UNM Health Science community behavioral health (CBH).  Jemima has also successfully worked as an instructor and training consultant in the Middle East and has been honing her Organizational Development skills in the OILS program for the past five years.

Jemima's Address to the Class of 2020

Distinguished guests, professors, administrators, friends, families and my fellow PhD students of the class of 2020.

I am humbled and also honored to address you today.

My mother constantly told us, her children, that “Education is the key to success”.  She believed-and also made us believe that-education would open doors we never imagined, lead us to meet people we never thought of, and go to places that were in our fantasies.

Indeed I have gone through open doors that I never imagined, met people I never thought I would and gone to places like ABQ that I had never conceived. All this at a cost, a cost of leaving all that was familiar behind; my family, friends, and a rich social capital.

My experience has made me question what my mother meant. She said education was the key to success, what success? Success of growing into a heartless human being, where you crush all those around you in order to feel good about yourself? Or was it the success that comes from brokenness of one’s spirit, probably due to constant humiliation.

Or was it success of growing in humility and wisdom, to know that we don’t know everything and need to humbly seek knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Seeking these three; wisdom, knowledge and understanding adds flavor to education though they are costly. One feels like being in a hot furnace that is being purified. The hotter the furnace the purer the gold. The more pressure exacted on rocks that are embedded with diamonds, the more diamonds will emerge from the rocks. Unless a seed kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only one seed. But when it dies, it produces many seeds.

The Ph.D. experience is meant to exact pressure on us to break us, mold us into greater people for us to have a greater impact on those we encounter. If the seed dies it produces many seeds. The Ph.D. experience is meant to help us become a sphere of influence in society. The more educated we become, the more it is assumed we know how to navigate life and the relationships around us. But is it so?? If the seed does not die it remains only a single seed and can be very destructive. So is education, it can be used to enhance success in a society or to destroy.

So yes Education is a key to success, success to us and those we shall encounter in life. The journey is humbling, but rewarding in the end. But education without wisdom, knowledge and understanding can be very repugnant to us and those around us.

As we graduate today, my hope is that to add on the education we have received, we shall embrace wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Thank you