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Sandra Castro-PearsonWorking Mother and Student

During her days at the University of Minnesota-Morris, Sandra Castro-Pearson often helped her friends identify what classes they needed to take for their degree program. She had no idea she was preparing herself for a job in academic advising.

Sandra moved to New York City from Ecuador when she was 18 years old with only $600 in her pocket, and worked diligently to save money so she could go to college. Now a Minnesota resident, mother of one and academic advisor for Mathematics, Science and Nursing programs at MCTC, she is also enrolled at Metropolitan State University to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Math. She understands students who struggle to balance school and their personal life.

“When students tell me, ‘I don’t have time,’ I tell them I get it,” she said. “I work full-time, I’m taking eight credits and I have a son. Life is crazy. So how do we make it work?”

Like one third of MCTC students, Sandra is also a first-generation college student. She uses her past experiences and background to advise students who have similar life situations. She’s all about making a plan.

“When I started college, I had really good and bad experiences. I repeated classes and didn’t have much guidance,” she said. “Now I feel like I’m in a position to give back to students what I didn’t receive. I think it’s that empathy and understanding that makes us work well together.”

Before 2011, each of MCTC’s academic advisors advised students from all programs. Sandra was part of the team that implemented a new advising model in which the programs were split among the advisors who specialized in advising specific program areas. The new system, called embedded advising, allows for a more personal relationship between student and advisor.

“The students know that I’m their advisor,” she said. “If they’re struggling, they know they can discuss it with me.”

Sandra is thankful she’s able to do the job she does. She loves sitting down with her students and helping them achieve their academic goals.

“If you’re not happy, I’m not happy,” she said.

She moved out of the Academic Advising office in the MCTC Technical Building into the Science Center across the street to be closer to where most of her students are. When she isn’t in the classroom pursuing an Applied Mathematics degree, Sandra is solving different kinds of problems with her students at MCTC.

“I love working with STEM students in particular here at MCTC because of the amount of diversity we have,” she said. “Traditionally, there aren’t as many underrepresented folks in these areas of study so I think MCTC has an incredible opportunity to have graduates in these fields. To me, that’s very important because these are the jobs of the future.”

Published October 2014


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