This is Itzel Calleja-Macias.
When walking into her office, we find Itzel laughing and helping two Biology majors prepare for their first Fall Semester exam. She was wearing a floral embroidered blouse and had churros ready to eat in the middle of her desk in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. The festive ensemble seemed inviting to students and faculty, which we later found was so indicative of her fun spirit.
Itzel was born and raised in the southeastern region of Veracruz Mexico, the capital, called Xalapa, a relatively small town known for its lush tropical vegetation. This is also where Itzel grew up with her grandparents and two younger sisters. She leans in saying, " I grew up in a very loving home and my grandma was always making good food for us." She continues reflecting, " It (Veracruz) was where I went to high school and finished my education until I was 23 years old." Eventually, Itzel would move north to, Monterrey, an industrial mountain town, where she got her Master's in genetic engineering and Ph.D. in molecular biology from Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon. She would also meet her husband there. His name is Jorge and he currently works helping with Alzheimer's at U.C.I.
While completing her Ph.D., her P.I, short for Principle Investigator, told Itzel she would be continuing her research in the United States. Although she did not realize at the time, this would be her first step in her immigration story. After leaving her homestead, Itzel started working in research at University California Irvine, under a J-1 status or work visa. She continues to look back on her experience and transition in acclimating to American life, " You know, it was a very scary time and I had to sacrifice a lot. I did not have family here and it was scary knowing my that my life could change at any moment (depending on status)," Itzel continues, " I was newly married then and knew I wanted to eventually start a life here for my family."
Despite Itzel's parent's established careers in the science field in Mexico and the United States. Her mom, Laura, being a chemist in Mexico, and her Dad, Roberto, a Medical Doctor in Texas. Itzel made the decision and effort to settle in Southern California.
In 2006, the Mexican government declared war on drug trafficking syndicates known today as, Cartels. As a result of the sale of the illicit drug market, violence and corruption have been an ongoing issue for the government threatening the safety of innocent lives and local businesses, which is a very frightening environment to be in especially to ordinary folk who are trying to make a living. Like many other immigrants before her, Itzel carries the torch as she continues writing her story as a soon to be American citizen. She is proud to embrace the traditions of those before her that helped mold her view of the greater world she sees, but at the same time, she can now be in a place to create stories for her and her children. Itzel has two kids, Alexander, who is 14 and Mia, who is ten.
In winter 2016, Itzel went online and found that VU was hiring for a Bridge Coordinator position but was later told that she was overqualified with her graduate education. Although at the time, Itzel was eager to find a different job, God had bigger plans for her. Dr. Sirvent, Dean of Natural Sciences, asked if she wanted to come on board as an Adjunct Professor.
Today, she continues to teach full-time on campus as an Assistant Professor of Biology. When she is not working, she enjoys hosting friends at her house and going sightseeing in Newport Beach with her husband.
Vanguard University is so grateful for Itzel and the joy she brings inside the classroom.
- university news