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Thanks to persistence and tough love, a first-generation student earns his doctorate in education

May 6, 2021
2021 Commencement: Rochester first-generation-doctorate-holder Miguel BaiqueThe inaugural director of student engagement and inclusion at Genesee Community College, Miguel Baique hopes to become a chief diversity officer after earning his doctorate in education. (Courtesy of Miguel Baique)

Miguel Baique says his Warner School experience moves him closer to his goal of being a chief diversity officer.

Miguel Baique teared up during his dissertation defense this spring. Nearly two decades earlier, he and his five siblings were moving house to house in a single-parent family trying to make ends meet, and now he was doing something he never thought possible—earning a doctorate at the University of Rochester.

“I give all the credit to my mom, an immigrant from Peru,” says Baique. “I’m living the American dream through my mom.”

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The persistence that he learned from his mom came in handy at the Warner School of Education, which initially turned him down.

“I was interested in education policy, so I applied for the PhD program at Warner, but I was told my career trajectory was not a good fit,” says Baique, who, at the time, was the inaugural coordinator of the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program at SUNY Geneseo. “Instead, they guided me toward the EdD, but I wasn’t interested.”

While the education doctorate degree is geared toward the practicality of education, as opposed to research, Baique took the advice of a colleague and decided to give it a try. This time he got in.

He found the first semester to be tough, but then the unexpected happened—he started loving it. “It was the Diversity and Equity in Higher Education course in my second semester that really sparked something in me. At that point, I decided to stick it out.”

Baique had some familiarity with the content, but being in the classroom, he says “allowed me to immerse myself in the literature, as well as take part in discussions about first-generation students, women in higher ed, low-income students, and stigmas faced by Asian communities. It touched on a broad range of minority identities that we should be conscious of in today’s environment.”

Baique says that course helped prepare him for the position he would take later that year—the inaugural director of student engagement and inclusion at Genesee Community College—but also a position he eventually hopes to hold—that of chief diversity officer. He describes his time at Warner as a roller coaster, largely because of the challenges presented by the pandemic.

And he gives a lot of credit to the “tough love” provided by Karen DeAngelis, associate professor and his dissertation chair, for helping him get through it all. “She was flexible and supportive, but she reminded me that I had goals to meet and that I needed to submit my work.”

It may be Baique’s name on the EdD certificate, but he understands that he didn’t do it on his own. First and foremost, he credits the example set by his mom and the support of his wife, Lisa Martinez-Baique. But he also knows that because of the guidance and counsel of the faculty—including DeAngelis and assistant professors Nathan Harris (his advisor) and Bryan Gopaul—as well as his fellow classmates, he can now be called “Dr. Baique.”

That’s why he’ll miss the classroom more than anything else. “I’m a lifelong student. I enjoy learning, I enjoy the discussions, and I enjoy learning from others.”

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