Photo by WSU Photo Services
Viviana Murillo Rangel grasped how powerful financial knowledge can be when she was a teenager helping her mother file her federal income taxes.
“I realized that managing and planning finances was something I enjoyed very much,” says Rangel, who grew up in a family of farmworkers in Sunnyside, Washington. “But I didn’t have the privilege of being financially literate from a young age, and neither did my mom. We lived paycheck-to-paycheck.”
The drive for knowledge brought Rangel to WSU’s Carson College of Business, where she’s a senior majoring in finance and accounting. After she graduates, Rangel plans to pursue a career that will allow her to help others achieve financial literacy and stability, including low-income families.
“I would like to give back to communities like my own, whose residents are immigrants and farmworkers,” she says.
Rangel transferred to WSU Pullman after taking community college classes in high school through Washington’s Running Start program. Scholarships made her four-year degree possible. While she was proud to be a first-generation college student, Rangel also felt tremendous pressure to succeed and sometimes doubted her abilities. In the unfamiliar higher education environment, the Carson College’s supportive community helped her overcome obstacles and gain self-assurance.
When Rangel’s laptop and phone crashed during her first year at WSU, she had $60 in savings. She used the Terrell Library’s computers to keep up with her studies, but when the campus shut down early in the pandemic, she was in a lurch.
“I was embarrassed to tell anyone and feeling somewhat hopeless,” she says. “Most of my money had gone to pay for school, and I was scared to take on any debt.”
Rangel’s peer mentor through the college’s EDGE program—which is designed to help first-generation students transition to WSU—lent her a laptop, and Rangel later received a Carson College hardship grant to purchase a new one.
“Being a Carson Coug means you always have a family to turn to,” she says. “Business students at WSU especially understand the importance of having a strong network.”
Rangel also credits Professor David Whidbee, chair of the Department of Finance and Management Science, for helping build her confidence in the classroom.
“He was very open to questions,” Rangel says. “He never made me feel belittled, and that gave me the confidence to ask for help in my other classes.”
Challenging the odds
Rangel says her experience illustrates both the struggles and resilience of first-generation students. “We may not ace all of our classes on the first try, but we persevere and don’t let failures stop us.”
Besides the scholarships that made a WSU education possible, Rangel says she’s grateful to the Carson College alumni who volunteered their time to help her with career networking and professional development.
“You help so many of us achieve dreams we thought weren’t possible,” she says. “You ultimately make a huge impact on our communities, helping us challenge the odds and stereotypes in real time.”