My Winthrop Experience

Name: Ximena Perez-Velazco
Residence: Cheraw, South Carolina; formerly Miami, Florida
Major: Human nutrition

Ximena Perez-Velazco will always remember acing her presentation in front of peers and faculty at the 100th anniversary celebration of Winthrop University's human nutrition program.

"I've gone bungee-jumping and cliff-diving, but that's the experience I'll remember most," she said.

The human nutrition major shared her findings from a process evaluation of nutritionists in a pediatric clinic, an internship she completed through the McNair program, which gives underrepresented undergraduates opportunities for research and financial support.

Perez-Velazco lives by her motto: "Make every place you go better for having been there and allow it to make you better in exchange." Her Winthrop career certainly reflects that, with a practically mile-long list of activities and accomplishments.

But her route to Winthrop began with a little hesitation. Perez-Velazco's family moved to Cheraw, South Carolina, from Miami, Florida, when she was a teenager to be closer to her grandparents. With a father in law enforcement, campus safety was a top priority for her parents when Perez-Velazco began looking into and applying for colleges. Winthrop fit the bill.

"My dad was set on Winthrop," she said. "He told me this is the only school I should consider."

Her Orientation experience, and subsequently signing up for the Emerging Leaders program, added to that feeling.

"Somewhere along the way, I fell so madly in love with the school and the people here," Perez-Velazco said. "I wouldn't change my experience for anything. The people here genuinely want you to succeed. I came in with a group of friends and also an amazing mentor, Patricia Riley." (Riley is the assistant director of student activities in Student Affairs.)

Perez-Velazco's Winthrop activities included involvement with the Council of Student Leaders (CSL), the Orientation office, Winthrop's chapter of the NAACP, Alpha Delta Pi, Order of Omega, the Student Dietetic Association and various campus boards.

She realized she wanted to run for CSL chair after taking a brief break from the student government organization.

"I so quickly learned that all my success and growth as a leader meant nothing because I couldn't share it with these people who taught me that leadership," she said. "CSL is my home, and it's been very impactful on my life. I only want to give back what it's given to me."

Ultimately, Perez-Velazco plans to pursue a master's and a doctorate in human nutrition, hopefully doing research in refugee and third-world countries. She said she loves research, so becoming a professor would be the perfect job for her.

"I love the college environment, I love the field of nutrition and I love to do research," she said.