In the realm of higher education, stories unfold that embody the essence of determination, resilience and Coyote spirit. Kim Gonzalez, an honors Master of Business Administration (MBA) student set to graduate in May 2024, is one such individual. Being the first in her family to pursue higher education, Gonzalez stands as a trailblazer, breaking barriers that her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, could only have dreamed of. Her choice of CSUSB for her bachelor's degree was influenced by her father's admiration for the university, a place he had eyed since he had arrived in California.

“My dad would drive by the university and admire the buildings,” Gonzalez said. “He has always inspired me, and I wanted to attend CSUSB as much for him as for myself.”

During her upbringing, Gonzalez learned invaluable lessons in determination and discipline from her parents, laying the groundwork for her tenacity. Throughout her teenage years, she immersed herself in martial arts, progressing from a student to an instructor once she had earned her black belt. Under the guidance of her martial arts mentors, she delved into literature on self-development and leadership.

“At my martial arts academy, we had tenets we followed: perseverance, self-control, courtesy (respect to others and to oneself), patience, discipline, indomitable spirit,” said Gonzalez. “I learned those at a young age, and it’s been one of the biggest influences on my life.”

While in college, where she majored in child development, she ventured into entrepreneurship by starting a small online beauty tools business. Much to her surprise, her online shop flourished amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Motivated by her success, she embarked on a journey to learn more about business. Teaching herself marketing skills through LinkedIn Learning, she discovered her aptitude for the field, which led to a desire to pursue further education on the subject.

Kimberly Gonzalez and Tomás Gomez-Arias
MBA student Kim Gonzalez with Tomás Gomez-Arias, dean of the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration

After graduating with her bachelor’s, choosing CSUSB for a business graduate degree was, for Gonzalez, the next logical step. The university's inclusive, supportive environment gave her the confidence to take risks. Echoing the indomitable spirit that her parents and her martial arts training instilled in her, she took the leap to apply for the MBA program with a concentration in marketing management and was accepted.

Gonzalez’s achievements, from obtaining her black belt to being an honors student in graduate school and serving as president of the American Marketing Association campus club, carry profound significance. These accolades are not just personal victories but represent a celebration of the dreams her parents dared to dream when they migrated to the United States.

Gonzalez anticipates receiving her MBA with enthusiasm and, already working as a social media manager, she demonstrates the transformative impact of education in shaping one's future.

Her academic journey has become a beacon of hope for the younger members of her family, as well. She’s an inspiration to her nieces and nephews, who proudly wear the CSUSB T-shirts she’s given them, envisioning a future beyond what was once deemed possible.

Her advice to other first-generation students is to "never stop believing in yourself.” It’s not just a mantra for academic pursuits but a rallying cry for those who, like her, come from humble beginnings, aiming to carve out their space in a world of possibilities. Gonzalez, a first-generation college and graduate student, is not just defining her future at CSUSB; she's rewriting the narrative for generations to come.