Feature Stories

Student Impact

Howdy, Marlisa Marquez '21

By Taryn Woody '19

Student writer

Did you always want to go into the sciences?

No, because I never actually pictured myself attending college. I chose biology as my major because it was my favorite class during my senior year of high school, and my teacher was amazing. Believe it or not, I actually like organic chemistry!

Marly Marquez '21 is a biology major from Rio Grande City, Texas. She's a Science Leadership Scholar as well as a Regents' Scholar.

Why did you choose Texas A&M University?

I decided to attend Texas A&M after learning that I had been offered several scholarships. No one in my family has ever attended college and because my mom is my sole provider, I knew I needed to go somewhere that would offer significant financial aid. Texas A&M was by far the most generous university I applied to, and it is such a great school academically. As soon as I saw my financial plan, I knew this was where I was going. My mom couldn’t stop crying tears of joy. My family is proud of me, and I am very thankful because I wouldn’t be here without the support I received.

What is a Science Leadership Scholar?

The Science Leadership Scholars Program is for first-generation students like me in the College of Science. As a scholar, I attend weekly meetings with other recipients and our amazing adviser, Victor Castillo. We’ve all become good friends and even have our own study lounge in the Blocker Building. The group is very special, because it gives us a chance to participate in academic workshops and connect with other students in similar circumstances who are also trying to navigate their way through college as first-generation students.

Is it hard being away from your family?

Yes, especially since I have a little brother. I wish I could see more of him growing up, but I know my being here will be good for my whole family. Now, my cousins ask me about college and say they want to attend after they graduate high school. One of them even talks about becoming a nurse, and she’s only a sophomore in high school. When I was a sophomore, I didn’t have any aspirations about college.

What are you involved with outside of class?

I volunteer with the Texas A&M Emergency Care Team at various campus events, like football games and Breakaway. I recently passed my CPR and first-aid tests, so I am now officially certified to help in any emergency. I also work with Starlight Aggies. We go to local hospitals to hold story hours and volunteer with S.H.A.R.E. (Special Horses and Riders Excelling), which assists special needs children in horseback riding. I love volunteering with S.H.A.R.E. because I get to interact with children, horses and dogs—my favorite things!

Ask Me Anything:

Secret talent: I can play the trombone, and I’m learning to play the guitar. My favorite songs to play are “Lost Stars” by Adam Levine, “Seattle” by Sam Kim and “Paper Hearts” by Tori Kelly.

Weirdest Aggie tradition: All of them! I was especially confused the first time I heard a wildcat.

Favorite thing about science: Science can explain many things, but there are still so many unanswered questions, which leaves room for discovery. That excites me!

Favorite scientist: Tu Youyou, a Chinese chemist who discovered treatments for malaria and aided millions with her discoveries. She was also the first Chinese woman to receive a Nobel Prize. She inspires me every day.

Best advice ever received: My mom tells me to work for what I want in life. From a young age, she and her siblings worked on plantations to make ends meet after emigrating from Mexico. I want to work as hard as she did for me, and I hope that higher education can be the new norm in my family. 

Most cherished childhood item: I didn’t have much growing up other than a box of school supplies that my mom bought for me and my brother in elementary school, with the directive to make it last. It's funny because that box did last for years, and my mom gave me the box to bring to College Station. Today, when I happen upon one of our old drawings, it makes me smile.

Aiding Aggie Scientists 

The Science Leadership Scholars Program was established in 2016 with the help of private gifts and accepts 20 scholars per year. One of its biggest supporters is longtime College of Science donor Thomas W. Powell ’62, who gave a $500,000 gift that was matched by the college. His donation helps provide financial and academic support to high-performing science majors in the program who share common at-risk factors, including being first-generation students from low-income families. In addition, the program targets demographic areas with high dropout rates through mentorship and community programs that focus on acclimating students to college. Students in the program are twice as likely to graduate in four years with a STEM degree when compared to students from similar backgrounds who do not participate. Moreover, their participation doubles their success rate from approximately 35 percent to more than 70 percent. 

To learn how you can support the Science Leadership Scholars Program, contact Randy Lunsford below. Give to the program online here.