2017-05-19 / Schools

It’s deja vu for CSUCI grad earning 2nd degree

Soriano is among more than 2,000 in college’s class of 2017
By Hector Gonzalez


LIFELONG LEARNING—California State University Channel Islands student Stephanie Soriano, 24, will be among the students taking part in commencement exercises tomorrow at the Camarillo university. When Soriano walks across the stage to receive her biology degree from President Erika Beck, it will be her second bachelor’s degree from CSUCI. 
Courtesy of Stephanie Soriano LIFELONG LEARNING—California State University Channel Islands student Stephanie Soriano, 24, will be among the students taking part in commencement exercises tomorrow at the Camarillo university. When Soriano walks across the stage to receive her biology degree from President Erika Beck, it will be her second bachelor’s degree from CSUCI. Courtesy of Stephanie Soriano Back when she was an incoming freshman at Newbury Park High School, Stephanie Soriano was more into ditching class than doing schoolwork.

“College really wasn’t on my mind,” she says.

It’s on her mind now—and has been for years.

The Newbury Park resident got her act together, graduated from high school and now attends California State University Channel Islands.

Tomorrow she’ll be among the 2,267 students who receive degrees this year, the largest graduating class in the Camarillo university’s 15-year history.

When Soriano walks across the stage to receive her biology degree from President Erika Beck, it will be the second bachelor’s degree the 24-year-old has earned at CSUCI.

And Soriano’s not through yet. This fall she heads to the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, where she’ll spend the next six years working toward a doctorate in neuroscience.

At Newbury Park High, Soriano admits, she “hung out with the wrong friends, got into trouble a lot and fell way behind.”

A sobering conversation with school counselor José Ireta helped steer her life in a new direction.

“I didn’t know what the next step was going to be. Nobody in my family went to college. It wasn’t expected. It wasn’t talked about. Nobody ever told me what the process was. So I ended going to my counselor,” Soriano said.

“I was like, ‘OK, I want to go to college.’ And he says, ‘No. You’re not. You’re not in the right classes. Your grades aren’t good enough.’ So I said, ‘OK, what do I have to do?’”

What she had to do was take remedial classes at Moorpark College during the morning and summer school at Thousand Oaks High in the afternoon to catch up. Her hard work paid off and, in her senior year of high school, she was accepted at both CSUCI and California State University Northridge.

“I guess what happened was I didn’t want to accept the ‘no,’” she said.

Soriano enrolled in CSUCI in fall 2010, and in 2014, she received her first degree from the university—in psychology.

But after working at two jobs that summer in her chosen field, as a behavioral therapist and a mental health rehab worker at a clinic in downtown Ventura, Soriano realized the profession wasn’t for her.

She decided to go back to school and enrolled in CSUCI biology professor Nikita Parmar’s biotechnology course, which offers a study-abroad program. Each year, Parmar takes a group of students to India to study biotechnology. For Soriano, it was her first time away from home, and it was an eye-opening experience, she said.

“It was startling to see these huge, beautiful mansions right next to slums,” she said.

After she completes her doctorate work, Soriano hopes to end up back in the place she once thought she’d never make it to— college.

“I want to become a university professor,” she said. “I want to inspire other underrepresented students to succeed.”

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