By Emily Hamilton | AC JosepH Media
GALLOWAY — Stockton University’s director of admissions Heather Medina has been serving as a role model to students across and outside of campus by driving initiatives to make higher-level education available to a broader spectrum of students.
Medina’s experiences with growing up in Camden City, as well as in almost all 50 U.S. states, have shaped her understanding of the importance of creating inclusive environments for aspiring students.
For most of Medina’s life, she moved around and across the country due to her father’s military service. Moving to different states allowed Medina to experience various school demographics that would later translate into her drive to create more opportunities for minority students.
Medina’s last two years of high school were spent in Camden City at Woodrow Wilson High School, now called Eastside High School.
After graduating high school, Medina looked for opportunities outside her hometown and chose to complete her undergraduate degree at Stockton University.
“From there I knew I wanted to continue my education but didn’t really know where, how–how could I afford those kinds of things were always lingering in the background,” Medina said.
Medina knew that she could be more valuable to her community and give back more by leaving her home city. For generations, Medina’s family members have made Camden city their home, but Medina saw the flaws in her city whether it was the violence or other crime that still plague the city today.
“Leaving Camden was probably the best decision I could have made because I could have remained there and went to Rutgers-Camden, maybe even Rowan which was Glassboro State at the time. But I knew that I needed to be a little bit further away from home,” Medina said.
During Medina’s time at Stockton University, she was an active member of Student Senate and Los Latino Unidos which helped develop her skills to be able to effectively work with young adults.
There has always been diversity across campus whether from students and staff to the support of the university for student needs, wants, and initiatives. For Medina, Stockton’s diversity and willingness to support students attracted her to the educational and career opportunities the university provides.
“As a student, Stockton never made me feel different, but coming from Camden City which is highly minority students, and then coming to a university that is PWI was something I was kind of used to anyway because I moved around so many times on army bases,” said Medina.
From student to director of admissions, Medina has dedicated her work and time to finding ways to make education more accessible and affordable for marginalized families. Medina understands that students want to see faculty, staff, and other students they can relate to in a broader spectrum of ways that aren’t just academic but extend to different cultures as well.
Medina also understands the financial hurdles that come with wanting to continue in higher education after high school, and she has implemented programs to help low-income students achieve this.
In her three years as director of admissions, Medina has implemented the Stockton Promise program that allows students under certain criteria to have their educational costs supported through the university.
“That’s why it’s so special to me in the role that I’m at now because I’m able to implement even larger changes that can really affect the whole landscape of the university,” Medina said.
Throughout her 26-year career at Stockton University, Medina has been able to support student’s needs to help further their educational growth.
By tearing down barriers and creating solutions to many of the obstacles students face in the wake of continuing education like rising costs, Medina has been the biggest supporter of solutions to make sure students are heard.
Medina serves as a role model to current and prospective Stockton students. Medina takes pride in the work she has done and continues to look for new ways to further implement and support DEI initiatives across campus.
“I say it’s an honor and privilege to be able to do both what I love at the university I love,” Medina said.
Medina continues to work with students, faculty, and staff to understand the continuously changing needs of the university to make sure every prospective student feels they’re seen and heard.
The programs implemented under Medina’s time as director of admissions demonstrate her ability and commitment to education as she draws from her own experiences in school settings such as Temple University and in her old high school in Camden City
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