by Ashley Stephenson
As tassels fly and “Pomp and Circumstance” sounds on May 13 in Strahan Coliseum, Diana Molina will receive a special award with her diploma.
Molina will receive the Lyndon Baines Johnson Outstanding Senior Award, one of the most exclusive awards given at a Texas State University graduation ceremony.
“I feel very honored and so shocked,” said Molina.
Only one recipient is chosen every year by the Texas State Alumni Association for demonstrating and practicing the highest standards of integrity, academic and extracurricular achievements and leadership and involvement at Texas State.
Molina, a double major in International Relations and French, is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and started elementary school in Wichita, Kansas without knowing a word of English.
Growing up, Molina's parents, a mechanic and a homemaker, always put an emphasis on education. Molina said her parents would always find time to sit around the table and help her and her two brothers with their homework. Even after 14-hour work days, they would practice math flash cards, she said.
“They understood very well the importance of education,” she said.
After high school, Molina wanted to study French, but she wasn't interested in any foreign exchange programs that American universities had to offer. Instead, she found a program in Switzerland that spoke only French.
“I wanted to be in the middle of nowhere, immersed in the culture,” said Molina.
Molina's parents couldn't afford to send her to Switzerland for the entrance exam, so her father drove her to Houston, the nearest Swiss consulate, to get an exception.
After being accepted to the school, she went there and was once again confronted with a language barrier.
“I didn't even know how to say pencil,” said Molina. “But I said, I've done it before, I can do it again.”
During her one year stay Molina worked as an au pair, or nanny, for her host family, and worked at their family restaurant to help pay school tuition bills.
“It was a very risky move, but it turned out amazing,” said Molina.
When she returned to the states, Molina began her Texas State education.
She continued to study French, received a modern languages scholarship and became a teacher's assistant, which led to teaching a French class unassisted, something undergraduates rarely do.
“It was a very amazing experience being in the shoes of a professor,” said Molina.
She expanded her language and culture interests to the Japanese culture. After taking one Japanese course, Molina was published by the Japan Studies Association Program among experts in the field.
Molina was also the vice president of the Mitte Honors Program, where she made it her goal to include more international students. She created a mentoring program between American and foreign, specifically Japanese, honors students so they could learn more about American culture.
“That was the most satisfying aspect,” said Molina. “I very much relate to being in a place where you can't speak the language.”
Also, during the Mitte Honors Program's recent move, Molina was put in charge of choosing everything from wall color to electrical outlet covers in their new lobby. Instead of using the budget for new furniture, she asked fellow students to chip in on the work.
“I didn't want to just buy everything,” said Molina. “I wanted this to be a student influenced indicative, so we can say wow, we did something for the program.”
Molina now calls the Mitte Honors Program home and spends most of her free time in the coffee shop themed lobby.
“I feel so nurtured in this program,” said Molina. “I don't think I'd be half the student I am if it weren't for the Mitte Honors Program.”
Diann McCabe, Molina's mentor and Texas State professor, and two other professors nominated Molina for the LBJ award.
“I think she really understands how to learn and takes responsibility for her own learning,” said McCabe. “She gives me hope that there are really students out there like her that are going to be running our world.”
Molina's advice to future Texas State students is to maintain close relationships with family and to limit yourself to get involved with only what you're truly passionate about.
Upon graduation, Molina is accepted to an internship program in Philadelphia with the National Women's League for Peace and Freedom, and has interests in studying law at the University of Texas.