Sarmiento ’23 credits welcoming environment at North Central for making her into a “Rising Star”

First-generation and transfer student seeks to pass on the guidance she received

Dec 19, 2022

Nanci Sarmiento '23 won the 2022 Illinois Rising Undergraduate Star Award from Region IV-East of NASPA, the national organization for student affairs administrators in higher education. She received her award at the NASPA Regional Conference in Chicago on November 7, accompanied by her parents and Marissa Gaigalas M ’20, associate director of first-generation initiatives at the College.

Sarmiento is a transfer student, having come to North Central in the fall 2021 semester from the College of Lake County. Since then, she has wasted no time in getting involved, becoming a leader within Cardinal First—the College’s program for first-generation college students—as well as an ambassador and tour guide for the office of admissions and a resident assistant at her dorm.

Consideration for the award is based on a series of criteria set by NASPA, including being a current junior or senior in college, excelling academically, making contributions in service and leadership above and beyond other students, and helping create a positive environment for classmates. It is also required that the winning student intend to pursue a career in student affairs after graduation, which Sarmiento does.

Julie Carballo, assistant dean for first-generation, transfer and veteran initiatives, nominated Sarmiento for the award. She also received letters of recommendation from Gaigalas and Davin Allen ’20/M ’22, area hall director. Sarmiento plans to take her experiences with her for a career in student affairs after she graduates.

We caught up with Sarmiento and asked about her experiences:

You got involved very quickly after coming to North Central. Why is it so important to you to offer your help to other students as a resident assistant and transition ambassador? 

When I was studying at College of Lake County, I often found it difficult to not only be involved on campus but (to) find mentors and peers I could rely on. When I began my first semester at North Central during the fall of 2021, I (was amazed by) all the support I was receiving. This made my experience as a transfer student soothing and welcoming. I became involved with the Office of Residence Life because I wanted to create an environment for my residents like the one I (found). I strive to create an environment where everyone feels welcomed and make them feel like they have a space and true presence on campus. As … a transfer and a first-generation student, I found myself relying on other people with similar experiences. I wanted to be able to provide future transfers with the resources I was once so graciously given and become a mentor to them. I have always had a love for programming and community engagement, and being a resident assistant and transition ambassador gave me an opportunity to give back to the campus that so kindly welcomed me into my new home.  

How did Cardinal First help you in your transition from Lake County to North Central? What was the most important thing you needed that you got from Cardinal First? 

Cardinal First gave me the proper resources to become involved on campus and to be academically successful. The workshops they provided for transfer students helped me get acquainted with campus life. Marissa and Julie have also become my mentors and people whom I greatly look up to. During any challenges that I have faced, they have always been there for me and have allowed to grow both professionally and as an individual.  

What do you like to share about your own experiences when you give tours of campus? What advice do you offer to prospective students who are thinking about college? 

I like to tell prospective students that they aren’t in any rush. To take time to figure out what college they truly want to call their home for the next chapters of their lives. I always like to share how I had a sense of uncertainty before transferring and that it took only one good experience on campus to realize how much North Central was (right for me). 

What is the most rewarding part of being a resident assistant? 

The most rewarding part is having residents that … come to you with any problems they might have and knowing you are able to help them. Also, when I host programs, … my residents show up and I get to spend time with them, it’s also really rewarding. 

What appeals to you most about working in student affairs after you graduate? 

The thought (of) helping other students find themselves and their calling is what compels me to pursue a career in student affairs. I want to be a mentor and a resource to future students and their families. 

How does it feel to be a "Rising Star?"  

I don’t feel any different, but I can certainly say that my mom is extremely proud of every single one of my accomplishments and everything I do is for her and the rest of my family. If anyone is a rising star, it’s my mother due to all her hard work and the support she’s always giving me. 

North Central College student Nanci Sarmiento accepts her NASPA Rising Star Award.