From Mentee to Mentor at Beloit and Beyond
Class of 2005
Zoila M. Ganuza Hoaglund, ’05, Ph.D., NCSP, is the lead school psychologist for Florida’s Okaloosa County School System. Her work builds both the world of the school and the world of the broader community, in particular making it more equitable and inclusive. She encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue advanced careers—a form of encouragement she learned at Beloit.
At Beloit, she participated in the McNair Scholars summer program, which seeks to increase the number of students in doctoral degree programs who are low-income and first-generation undergraduates, or students who come from groups underrepresented in graduate education. In summer 2004, she did a research project with faculty mentor, Prof. Sylvia Lopez, to answer the questions “What is Limiting First- and Second-Generation Hispanic Students from Finishing High School?”
The project gave her a taste for graduate school and she decided she wanted to pursue a Ph.D. But some people she shared her aspirations with were skeptical, and Zoila got discouraged. Then, she told Prof. Lopez about the doubts of others, to which Prof. Lopez replied, in a motivational voice, “pero no (but no), Zoila! You can do it!”
“That simple phrase helped me return to my goal of attending doctoral degree graduate programs,” Zoila said in a recent interview, “as it came from someone that looked like me and understood my background. I am forever grateful.”
With Prof. Lopez’s support, as well as the guidance, support, and resources provided by the McNair Scholar Program’s staff when she applied to graduate school, Zoila was soon accepted into a doctoral program at her “reach school,” the University of Minnesota’s Educational Psychology program.
That’s when things started to come full circle. It turned out that Minnesota had a McNair Scholars Program, too! Zoila started working for the program with gusto. “Not only was I able to acquire a graduate assistantship that paid for my tuition,” she said, “but also, I was able to guide undergraduate students from underrepresented groups on how to conduct research and apply to graduate schools. I was that person – the person who looked like them and held them to higher expectations, just as Dr. Lopez was for me.”
Today, Zoila continues that work in the Florida public school system. As a Latina school psychologist, she says it has been a great learning experience in terms of figuring out ways to teach understanding and to increase acceptance. Reflecting on Beloit, Zoila says: “Attending Beloit was an amazing experience and prepared me for graduate school. I was so lucky to attend a school where professors held you accountable.”
Sylvia Lopez, the Harry C. Moore Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, was recognized with the Underkofler Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award at Beloit College in 2019. Beyond the College and in the wider community, she was recognized as a Beloit Rotary Teacher of the Month in spring 2020.