The support and encouragement of family is a critical component to student success in higher education. But for two recent Creighton University graduates, the concept of family goes way beyond a traditional definition. At Creighton they found another family - a community where Catholic, Jesuit values guide the teaching, learning and living environment and the emphasis is on helping students succeed.
Born in Vietnam, Nhu Le moved to Omaha as a child to be near her grandmother. Although she could barely speak English, she always had dreams of higher education and going to college. She attended Central High School and excelled academically. She remembers vividly the day her uncle drove past Creighton University and told her that if she wanted to go to the best college, to go there. That became her goal even though, she said, "I was painfully shy, and not very confident as English was not my first language."
All that changed when she came to Creighton. The scholarship student and 2013 graduate with a bachelor's degree in chemistry said the University lives its mission and is committed to student success.
"Everyone is very helpful and seems to genuinely care about each other - from the simple gestures of greeting and making everyone feel included," she said. "You never felt alone - even though there is a diversity of students and cultures, you were part of one big family or community."
Le became a leader and active member of many organizations at Creighton and participated in numerous service immersion trips. However, her college days were not without challenges. She had to balance family and school. Her parents do not speak English so she lived at home, helping her family navigate paying bills, doctor appointments and other daily chores.
"But staff and faculty believed in me and wanted me to succeed ... especially helpful was Creighton's Student Support Services (SSS)," she said. Their efforts paid off. Next fall Le will enter Creighton's School of Dentistry.
Another student who credits Creighton's Jesuit-based, student-focused approach with his success is Guillermo Guzman. Originally from Mexico, he grew up in South Omaha, where his father was supporting an extended family on a single income and Guillermo helped out.
"I had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet," he said. "Although I always wanted to go to college, I wasn't sure we could ever afford it."
Creighton helped him financially through scholarships and convinced him that he could realize his potential. In fact, he credits Tami Buffalohead-McGill, director of SSS in keeping him focused.
"She convinced me by helping me. I call her my college mom. My parents only made it through elementary school. They knew I could be successful, but Tami really motivated me," he said.
He also found at Creighton a spirit rooted in the Catholic tradition.
"Studies not only focused on a specific discipline but engaged you in reflection on how you could apply that knowledge to make the world a better place." he added.
Guzman graduated from Creighton in 2007 as an undergraduate with a double major in international business and economics. He graduated in May 2013 from the School of Law and is currently working as a law clerk in a local firm as he studies for the bar exam. He hopes someday to own his own firm in South Omaha and give back to his community.
"Creighton has meant everything to me. There are many outside influences that can impact young people of diversity today, but when you have an extended family like what I had at the University, all you can do is succeed," he said.