2023 Great Grads: Rocio Caricia Alcantar | College of Science
December 11, 2023

2023 Great Grads: Rocio Caricia Alcantar

To Rocio Caricia Alcantar, finding a supportive community was just what she needed to succeed at UNT.

"I've had a really good experience at UNT, and I really like the community here. It's so welcoming, and there are so many places for people to find their niche and create their own smaller community," Caricia says.

Before she transferred to UNT, Caricia attended community college but felt isolated. Her parents encouraged her to further her education, but as a first-generation student, the path didn't seem clear to her and she was only mildly interested in her studies at the two-year school.

That was when tragedy struck. Caricia was in traumatic accident that degloved her right hand. It was during rehabilitation and while dealing with other personal issues that she hit a low point and stopped going to class. It would take her a long while to get back on her feet.

"I joined a church, and I was able to find love for community and myself again. I went back to class, joined a club for sustainable efforts and eventually got a transfer scholarship for UNT because I wanted that biology degree."

She admits it was scary when she first got to UNT.

"I felt isolated again, but I did something different this time. I asked for help. Not only did I find support, I found my community."

Caricia joined the first-generation success organization and found people and resources to help her navigate her college journey. She also joined the American Fisheries Society, which promotes the conservation, development and best practices for fisheries, and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Sciences (SACNAS), serving as its historian.

Caricia enrolled in the Biology program with a focus on Epidemiology but then became more interested in Aquatic Ecology.

She first began to volunteer with doctoral student Michael Curtis' research project, helping him to research endangered fish species in Texas.

"The first time Caricia helped us in the field we were sampling rivers during a cold snap, and she was wearing lab waders that were too big, making her stumble and get stuck in the mud easier. I honestly didn't think she would want to come out to the field again, but she was adamant about participating in future trips. I was surprised by her dedication, and came to realize that's just who she is. She commits to whatever cause she is passionate about," Curtis says.

Caricia credits Curtis in particular for helping her find her path.

"I cannot express how great Michael is. I always felt like I had to justify my place, but he made me feel like I really belonged in STEM, like I had something really valuable to contribute."

Caricia plans to contribute to more research projects and is planning to pursue graduate school. She hopes to focus on sustainability while bringing diversity to science.

"There's always that feeling of imposter syndrome. It's hard when you look at the leaders in your field and realize you're not represented. But I remind myself that science thrives on creativity and different perspectives. I, along with other diverse students, can offer that," Caricia says.

"It's nice to be able to help students who are in similar situations I was. It really feels like I'm passing the torch."

The College of Science's commencement ceremony will be taking place in the UNT Coliseum at 8 a.m. on Saturday, December 16, 2023.

For more information about UNT Commencement, please visit https://www.unt.edu/commencement/

Learn more about UNT's Great Grads