When Alma Fausto first arrived at UC Merced in 2008, she felt pangs of doubt common to many freshmen.
Fausto was hundreds of miles from the family home in Orange County. She had too much time on her hands, and worse yet, she didn’t have an Internet connection.
“The first weekend I was here, I was getting ready to leave,” Fausto said.
But the combination of homesickness and boredom quickly faded. Fausto soon embraced the warmth and opportunities offered by UC’s newest campus and flourished both as a student and as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Prodigy.
Now the 22-year-old political science major is preparing to graduate May 12 after four years at UC Merced. Fausto is heading to graduate school — she’s been accepted to the Columbia School of Journalism — with the prospect of a career in journalism, communications or public relations.
Fausto is a big fan of UC Merced, where she worked on her natural shyness as a reporter and gained greater appreciation for teamwork. She also stayed busy with a tough academic schedule and other activities, including a recent lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., and a regular column in the Merced Sun-Star.
“I value work ethic even more now,” Fausto said. “And I understand the value of teamwork more than ever.”
Along with her sister, Fausto is a first-generation college student. Her working-class parents, Arturo and Graciela, have always supported her decisions.
“Hard work was something both my parents always stressed the importance of to me and my siblings,” she said. “My father is a walking book of proverbs, and the majority of all of his lectures and words were always about working for what you want.
“For that reason, I have done my best to work towards the things I want and open up doors for myself.”
While Fausto was accepted to universities closer to home, she liked UC Merced. Visiting on Bobcat Day, she said, her parents appreciated the small size and newness of the campus. For the self-described bookworm, the clincher was the library.
Fausto, who has a passion for writing, is in her second year as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper after first joining the staff as a freshman.
Kristine Van Bebber, the faculty adviser to The Prodigy and a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program, praised Fausto’s dedication, reliability and writing.
Fausto’s lighter side extends to playing oldies to open meetings and teasing one of the paper’s most reliable staff members. Sometimes, Van Bebber said, Fausto jokingly shouts “Demoted!” at him when something goes haywire in the print cycle.
“She knows when to have fun and when to be professional,” Van Bebber said.
Fausto said many of her fondest times at UC Merced involve the newspaper. That includes an assignment covering former president Jimmy Carter, who spoke at the university in 2010.
“One of my best memories is talking to Jimmy Carter about politics and journalism,” she said.
Fausto is proud of finishing her undergraduate degree in four years. She said UC Merced has helped prepare her for the next step in her career and life.
“I know the value of building really strong relationships,” she said.