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First-generation student, Claudia Achilles, honors farmworker parents

Claudia Achilles is a first-generation Boise State student — the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and pursue a graduate degree.

Currently, at Boise State, she is enrolled in the online Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning. As an underwriter at SIF, Idaho Workers’ Compensation and pursuing a new learning and development role, she knew this program would be immediately applicable.

“My degree has already helped me, and I’ve only been here three semesters,” Achilles said.

Without her parents’ determination to pursue a better life for Achilles and her siblings, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to achieve her ambitions.

Échale Ganas — Education is Worth It

Achilles’ parents felt their children would have more possibilities in the United States and decided to move from Mexico to Oregon.

“Both my parents had a third-grade education. My mother grew up homeless in rural parts of Michoacán. For her and her family, education came last to finding food and shelter. For my father, education was too expensive for his family to afford,” she explained.

“Growing up, I constantly heard my parents tell us that education would open doors and not to give up. ‘Échale ganas’ is what they would say when we felt down or overwhelmed by it all.”

Eventually, their family settled in Salem, OR. With Achilles being the eldest of five children, her parents worked hard to provide for them. “I grew up low income. My parents worked in canneries and in the fields on the weekends to make ends meet,” she recalled.

“I remember getting up before dawn loading up in the car with my siblings and spending the day in an orchard or a field as our parents worked.”

 Claudia Achilles presents and points at a screen.
First-generation student Claudia Achilles is enrolled in the Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning. Photo by Joseph Rodman, Boise State Extended Studies.

Becoming a First-Generation College Student

As Achilles finished up high school, her father left the family. She pressed on with her goals. “Though times were hard, I decided to pursue higher education,” she said.

“My mom helped me take out loans and supported me in the best ways she knew how. I was so lost navigating higher education but kept persevering because I couldn’t give up on our dream, my family’s dream — more options and a better life.”

Achilles attended Portland State and Eastern Oregon University in pursuit of higher education. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on anthropology and psychology — a major feat for every student and especially for first-generation students, given that they don’t have the advantage of having a knowledgeable support system to help them navigate college.

Afterward, she pursued a life of stability and fulfillment. Achilles moved to Idaho to start a business with her husband, and then later decided to pursue her own professional goals. After joining the SIF, Idaho Workers’ Compensation team, she decided to enroll in Boise State Online’s organizational performance and workplace learning master’s program to prepare for the future.

Pursuing a Master’s Degree

For students pursuing a master’s degree at a reasonable cost, Boise State’s online offerings are accredited and flexible.

The organizational performance and workplace learning program’s mission is to prepare professionals to engineer inclusive learning experiences and performance solutions informed by evidence so organizations can best address individual, team and organizational challenges.

Fully online coursework, application-based learning and caring, passionate faculty and staff exemplify this program’s dedication to helping students succeed and pursue meaningful careers.

“I talked to Jo Ann [program manager and advisor] and she mentioned my bachelor’s degree and how it contributes to organizational performance,” Achilles recalled. “I was sold.”

A Degree and Work Experience

The classroom is not the only place where students gain professional knowledge and skills in the organizational performance and workplace learning program. The program’s unique research and development labs allow students to work on research or client-based projects one-on-one with faculty or in a small team, often giving them an opportunity to share research at conferences or in journals. This work is frequently carried out in collaboration with real organizations and businesses.

Claudia Achilles greatly appreciates the opportunity to gain real-life experience. “I signed up for the [learning strategy] lab with Dr. Martinez. We got to work with Humentum, a global nonprofit, and evaluate courses,” she said.

“You conduct research, assess and discuss scholarly articles and then present your findings. And for me, that’s a perfect way to apply your learning outside the classroom.”

Claudia Achilles sitting at a desk with a laptop.
Claudia Achilles benefitted from the organizational performance and workplace learning program’s hands-on learning opportunities. Photo by Cassidy Myers, Boise State Extended Studies.

Looking To The Future

What’s next for Claudia Achilles? More classes, finishing up her master’s degree, caring for her son and family and much more.

“In the future, I want to help my community by creating inclusive instruction,” Achilles reflected. “English was my second language, and I want to pursue instructional design and help organizations recognize that we all learn differently.”

She’s ready for whatever is next. “When I started this program, I wondered if I could do it because no one in my family has done this before. I know I’m trailblazing and it’s really exciting, but it’s terrifying at the same time,” she said.

“I hope somebody somewhere else recognizes that there’s a place for them and that they belong here.”

Learn More About Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning

The online Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning is for professionals from various backgrounds pursuing careers in instructional design, learning/training and development, human resource development, e-learning or performance improvement.

Graduate certificates in workplace e-learning design and development, workplace instructional design and workplace performance improvement are designed for individuals who have experience in the learning and development field and want to expand their skill set in specialized areas.

Ready to learn more?

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