Food Truck Frenzy fires up Elon students

Multimedia Reporting by Ginna Royalty

Dana Carnes, director of the CFL, and Olivia Hobbs, junior enjoy the different food trucks. Photo by Ginna Royalty

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff could be found in the Koury parking lot on Wednesday for the Student Union Board’s annual Food Truck Frenzy event. SUB paired with Elon Dining and brought 12 food trucks to campus for the event this year.

“Food Truck Frenzy is a great event for Elon because it allows our community to try different foods in the area that maybe they can’t travel to,” Dana Carnes, Interim Director of the Center for Leadership said. “It’s also nice community fellowship to see everyone and check in on this gorgeous day as the semester is wrapping up.”

The event lasted from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and there was a special musical performance from The Tripps, a band made up of Elon students. Students could pay with cash, credit, Phoenix cash, food dollars and even meal dollars, making this event more accessible to all members of the Elon community.

Students stand in line for the Chirba Chirba dumpling truck, a favorite among students. Photo by Ginna Royalty

“Food Truck Frenzy gives students a nice variety of choices that they wouldn’t usually get in a dining hall and it also allows upperclassman who might not have a meal plan to also experience that as well as supporting local food trucks and businesses,” Helen Thompson, Elon junior said.

SUB is always looking for ways to expand and improve this event, with possibilities of moving to a bigger parking lot or making it a multiple-day event, according to an ELN Morning broadcast show. 


SURF Day celebrates students’ successes

Multimedia Reporting by Ginna Royalty

Clare Shaffer presents her undergraduate research during the poster session in the Great Hall. Photo by Royalty

Some students spend days off of school sleeping in, watching Netflix or catching up on work. But over 250 students spent Tuesday presenting their research for the Spring Undergraduate Research Forum. SURF Day is an annual forum to showcase student and faculty’s hard work and research and has been a tradition for 24 years.

“There’s great value in being part of an intellectual community,” said Paul Miller, assistant provost for communications and operations and is also closing out his tenure as director of undergraduate research at Elon. “It gives us an opportunity to display the expanse of things that are happening on campus. I think it cements the value of the mentor experience.”

Students from all majors presented researched throughout the day with poster presentations in the Great Hall and oral presentations in Moseley and the Center for the Arts. Some students gave 20-minute oral presentations with time at the end for questions from students, faculty or staff.

“SURF day is beneficial for both presenters and students,” said Clare Shaffer, junior. “Presenters are able to receive affirmation from their peers and faculty that those long days in the lab were worth it, and students at Elon are able to learn things from their peers and perhaps become inspired themselves to pursue research in their own area of interest.”

Each year, about 150 faculty members review abstracts submitted for SURF day. The student presenters choose three reviewers who read each abstract and then they provide feedback for the SURF chair, advisory committee and the director of undergraduate research to aid their decisions in which abstracts will be accepted for presentation.

Bridget Smith presents her research after two and half years of work. Photo submitted by Smith

“The opportunity to do undergraduate research through the Fellows program was actually the main reason I came to Elon,” said Bridget Smith, senior. “I believe that research is super important for Elon students because it allows you to learn so much more than you can in any given class. It’s also the perfect opportunity to really apply what you’ve learned and allows you to build strong relationships with faculty members, which is incredible.”

“I believe that research is super important for Elon students because it allows you to learn so much more than you can in any given class. It’s also the perfect opportunity to really apply what you’ve learned and allows you to build strong relationships with faculty members, which is incredible.”

Shaffer started to do research because she wanted to start being able to answer some of the “big” questions that she would find herself thinking about during her classes. “Research at Elon gave me the autonomy to be creative in my design and craft an experiment that aimed to try to start to examine those big questions.”

Elon Relay for Life raises over $110,000 for American Cancer Society

By Ginna Royalty

The Colleges Against Cancer executive team holds up this year’s total. Photo submitted by Nina Stevens

More than 40 teams came together to raise money for the American Cancer Society on Friday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for Colleges Against Cancer’s fifth annual Relay for Life. The event was hosted in the PARC in Danieley Center where the participants would “take a walk in the PARC” to remember loved ones and celebrated cancer survivors.

CAC had a goal of raising $100,000 and were able to raise $110,652.45 for the American Cancer Society, surpassing their total from last year by about $20,000. Elon was able to represent themselves well, becoming the largest collegiate Relay for Life in North Carolina.

“Relay gives people a chance to see those that are impacted by cancer and those people that their fundraising is helping,” said Ali Leroy, junior.”

“I love Relay because it reminds me of why I celebrate, remember and fight back every day. It’s not just for me and the individuals that I relay for, but for everyone affected by cancer.”

Rebecca Venetianer, the executive director, speaks to the crowd during the event. Photo submitted by Nina Stevens.

Many of the student organizations were represented with teams, including a team called “Kickin it with Colie,” which consisted of friends and teammates of Nicole “Colie” Dennion, who passed away from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare childhood bone cancer.

During the 12-hour event, representatives from each team took turns walking around the gym to represent how cancer never sleeps. There were plenty of activities to keep them occupied, including sunrise yoga, a capella groups and food trucks.

“The executive board was so dedicated and passionate this year and that really drove the committees and the participants to do the best they could and have the best time, the img_6312.pngenergy was there all night which was great,” said Nina Stevens, senior.

There was also an opportunity for students to cut their hair to be made into wigs for cancer patients.

“I decided to cut my hair because it broke my heart seeing my best friend Catherine lose her hair,” said Carly Blau. “She didn’t feel like herself and didn’t truly feel beautiful again until she got her first wig.”

“I hope that by cutting my hair I will be giving another cancer patient the same happiness and hope that Catherine felt when she got her wig.”

The money from the event goes towards cancer research as well as helping provide people with tools for cancer prevention, 24/7 psychological services and more access to treatments centers with transportation and lodging.

To find a Relay for Life event near you, check out this link:;jsessionid=00000000.app365a?NONCE_TOKEN=A591037D5A1B29CCC24FC40DD25EBEA7&pagename=relay

Truitt Center helps educate Elon students by putting on Holi Festival

Multimedia Reporting by Ginna Royalty

Elon students throw up colorful powder during the 2017 Holi Festival at Elon

The Elon community came together on Friday, April 7th to celebrate Holi, a well-known Hindu festival which celebrates the beginning of spring and the triumph of good over evil. People come together and celebrate by having a paint or colored powder fight.

Abhinav Nitesh, an intern at the Truitt Center for Religous Life & Spiritual Life, planned Elon’s 2017 Holi Festival. As reported in The Pendulum, Nitesh moved to the United States last year from India to get a better education. He picked Elon for the small class sizes and proximity to his uncle who lives in Cary, North Carolina. Nitesh found Elon to be very hospitable and wanted to help educate the Elon community about a different religion, one that is not too common at Elon.

“The is one of those festivals I really love the most back home, all of our friends would gather around and just enjoy ourselves while worshiping in our faith,” Nitesh said.

“This job opportunity at the Truitt Center provides me with a platform to make people aware about a different religion. It gave me a podium to inform people about the faith that I hold near and dear to my heart.”

“While the aesthetics of Holi may supersede its true meaning to some, it is a powerful tool to promote Hindu life at Elon,” Unversity Chaplain Jan Fuller said to The Pendulum.

Photo by Stephanie Hays, Elon News Network

“I loved learning about Holi and being able to celebrate it with fellow Elon students!” said Marta Djalleta, sophomore. “There’s always such positive energy there and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it!”

While Holi is one of the Truitt Center’s most popular events, it may be for the wrong reasons. According to The Pendulum, Carrie Seigler, the multifaith intern coordinator at the Truitt Center said that some students may attend only for the “Instagramable” aspect.

Meredith Piatt(right) celebrates the Holi Festival. Photo submitted by Piatt.

“I went to Holi because I went to India on a study abroad trip over winter term this past year and I learned about the culture and religion and I felt like I could intellectually and educationally participate this year which is why this is my first time participating,” said Meredith Piatt, junior.

Piatt thinks Elon does a great way of pairing fun events like Holi with educational aspects, such as the skit they did explaining the roots of the festival before the event started.

“Elon is trying its best. I think it’s the students that need to be involved in it now,” Nitesh said. “Elon can only do so much.”

New York Times photojournalist Al Drago speaks with Elon journalism class

By Ginna Royalty

Al Drago’s Twitter profile picture

Al Drago started taking pictures when he was 16. He continued to dive into the world of photography and journalism in high school, and when he came to Elon University in 2011, he even photographed his own move-in day.

While at Elon, he worked with both The Pendulum and Elon Local News and was a photojournalist intern with the Durham Herald-Sun, the Burlington Times-News, the Raleigh News & Observer and the Baltimore Sun.

Drago spoke to Professor Janna Anderson’s Reporting for the Public Good class today and gave the students an inside look at life as a photojournalist.

“Every holiday you’re going to be working, you’re going to be embracing it, you’re going to be loving it,” Drago said.

He spoke of his time at Elon, what it took to get where he is today and advice for aspiring journalists. He connected with the students, showing them his first “selfie” from 2005 and made jokes about the “Elon bubble” and being an overworked student.

During his college years, Drago told his professors that work came first for him, and luckily most of them were understanding.

Drago tells a story of one assignment that changed his life. “It was a Tuesday, I was in my house and there was an ELN assignment I wasn’t attending and I got a call from the News Observer and they said ‘We have a triple murder in Chapel Hill, how soon can you get there?'”

Drago’s first picture in The New York Times

He was in the middle of shaving and said “10-15 minutes” even though the drive to Chapel Hill was actually around 40 minutes. He threw the shaving cream off his face and sped over to Chapel Hill.

The picture he took ended up being the one every outlet wanted.

“I woke up to my phone blowing up, I had hundreds of tweets and messages from newspapers,” Drago said.

It was the first time his photo was in The New York Times, but it definitely wouldn’t be the last.

After Drago graduated in 2015 he worked as a photographer for Roll Call in Washington D.C. and then moved on to working for The New York Times, where he covers the White House, Congress and national politics.

Drago explains the differences between Snapchat and Instagram

Drago is one of three photographers for the Times who follows the president everywhere he goes, whether it’s in the motorcade for a speech or traveling on Air Force One to accompany the president on a weekend trip.

He gave students great tips for getting the job or internship you want: network with anyone possible, cold-email editors asking for advice and work ferociously. He worked nonstop.

At one point he had an unpaid internship with the Raleigh News and Observer from 2-10 pm, covered Durham Bulls games from 10-11:30 and then went over to a distribution plant and worked from midnight to 5 am.

Drago also talked about the hardships that came along with working so hard during college. Whether it was keeping up with school work or missing social functions and spring breaks, it wasn’t easy to get to where he is now.

“For all the photos, I could also you show you all the things I missed,” Drago said.

Drago is a big fan of using Snapchat and Instagram to share pictures. He said the main difference between the two is that “Snapchat prioritized content creation over consumption. Instagram flips that formula.”

Drago ended his presentation giving advice to the students: “You have to have “me” time or you’ll totally explode.”

LIVE BLOG: Daniel Gilbert, popular TED Talk lecturer, headlines Elon Spring Convocation

Multimedia reporting by Ginna Royalty

Daniel Gilbert speaks in a TED Talk.

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and professor, will be discussing how beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong, among other topics, at Elon University’s Spring Convocation.


The idea comes from his best-selling book, “Stumbling on Happiness” which was on The New York Times bestseller list for six months and has been translated into over 30 languages.

His TED Talk “The Science of Happiness” is one of the 15 most popular talks of all time and more than 20 million people have seen Gilbert’s TED talks.

“He’s a great example of Elon’s priority on bringing world leaders and scholars to campus, giving students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn from and interact with people who have challenging and inspiring ideas,” said Dan Anderson, vice president for university communications.


The procession begins with faculty, staff and students entering the gym.


“It seems like we have forgotten how to talk to one another.” – Joel Harter


“We invite you to contemplate the lessons of springtime…and to recommit ourselves to live lives of purpose and meaning.” -Joel Harter


President Leo Lambert welcomes the crowd and talks about the purpose of Spring Convocation.

“Education, specifically higher education, has long been viewed as a gateway to opportunity”    -President Lambert


Lambert speaks of the benefits of higher education including higher wages and happier lives as well as the endless opportunities.

“Higher education lights a path for the future…It helps us create a more engaged and democratic society.”


“I ask each of you to dive into our national dialogue about education. I ask you to be vocal champions of higher education.”


Lambert thanks the Elon community for helping make the world a better place and welcomes India Johnson to welcome Dr. Gilbert to the stage.


Associate professor of psychology India Johnson takes the stage and talks about how Dr. Gilbert has inspired her to follow the academia route.

His not-so-traditional beginnings helped her find her way.


The audience members listen to Daniel Gilbert

Dr. Daniel Gilbert takes the stage.

“I want to hear that one more time and then we should all go get drinks. That was the nicest introduction I’ve had” -Dr. Gilbert


Gilbert jokes about how the audience won’t ask him what will be on the test and goes into what is the secret of happiness.


Happiness is what you would experience if you got to have everything you needed and wanted according to our ancestors.


“In places where people have the lights on at night, people basically have everything they need.”

“We are aiming for things that will bring us happiness but when we get them they are just not true….People often want the wrong thing.”


“Cigarettes, coke, and tv were happiness for my mother.”

“Where most of us turn for happiness is our culture. Every taxi driver and bartender have a theory about what you need to do if you want to be happy. But guess what, none of their theories are based on evidence.”


“To do science it really only requires one thing, you must be able to measure it. If you can’t measure things, you can’t do science. Then you need to write poems about it or something.”


“Some of you are skeptical, I’m not sure you can do science by asking people questions about what science means to them.” Gilbert provides an example of going to the eye doctor and answering questions about which lens is better.


Gilbert’s mom said if you want to have a happy life you need three things: marriage, make money and children. This is advice mothers all over the world give. “Find someone, do well, and have babies.”


Gilbert asks, “How many people here think marriage causes happiness?” The audience laughs as none of the young people raise their hand and an older woman raises her husband’s hand.


Gilbert discusses the differences in happiness between married and single people. Young people and older people are in the happiest days of their lives.


“Isn’t it possible that happier people are more likely to get married? Yes, it’s possible and even makes sense.” Happier people do better on the marriage market.

“We still see that marriage is a cause of happiness”


As people are moving toward marriage they are getting happier and happier. And then after the wedding, the line [of happiness] goes down”


Gilbert talks about how happiness rebounds after divorce.


“Does money make you happy?” People always will say no, but money will make people happy. People don’t become sadder when you increase their income.


How much money do you need to actually be happy? It’s about $65,00 a year, you have gotten 90% of happiness out of money that you can possibly get.


“The way people spend money is incorrect, often it’s not the kinds of things that will make you happy.”


“An occupied mind is a happy mind.”


Gilbert discusses how you should spend your money. “Spend more money on experiences and less on stuff.”

“Experiences are usually done with other people. Human beings get great amounts of happiness from their human relationships.”


Gilbert talks about how you can’t compare experiences with other people as you can with ‘stuff.’

“Doing good things for other people makes you happy.”


“Children are the thing we name after happiness. ‘How’s the new bundle of joy?'”

“People with children are less happy than those without them and people with children are the least happy when they live with them.”


“For women, being with their children is like scrubbing a toilet.”


“My perception as a living breathing human with a child is that they’re crazy.”


“There is a “parenthood penalty.” Across the world, children mainly lower the happiness of women and barely lower the happiness of men.”

Women are doing all the work, which is why their happiness is going down.

“Children actually increase happiness if you’re a widow. If you’re 18-25 children will not make you happy. But if you’re in your 50’s you’ll get a benefit out of children.”


“Children seem to bring happiness to older, single men and take happiness from younger, single women.”

Gilbert goes back to the things that his mother said would make him happy.


“Happiness is what matters. It’s our project…It’s the thing that we’re on earth to do. But we look to the wrong places for where it can be found.”

“The more we learn about the true causes of happiness, the more we can get for us and those in our communities.” Dr. Gilbert thanks the audience for their time and exits the stage.


President Lambert comes back to the stage and recognize’s students on the President and Dean’s List. He also recognizes members of different honor societies and the class of 2017.

Daniel Gilbert discusses the differences women have in terms of happiness

Keren Rivas, a resilient Peruvian hoping to empower women around the world

Multimedia Reporting by Ginna Royalty

Keren Rivas is the youngest of five girls. Photo by Ginna Royalty

The youngest of five, Keren Rivas was accustomed to being in school with one of her siblings and spending a lot of time with her family. “We are very close-knit, that’s very normal in Latin America,” Rivas said. “We’re used to always being together.” But now Rivas hasn’t seen one of her sisters or been home in 11 years. The family hasn’t been together for Christmas since 1997.

Born and raised in Peru, Rivas was a teenager when her father, a Protestant minister, felt his ministry was needed somewhere else. He had opportunities in Brazil, Chile and the United States. When a door opened in Miami, they applied for visas, received their green cards and were on their way to their new home within a year.

The two youngest of the five sisters were able to travel with their parents to the United States, as they were under 21, but the older ones could not. So in 1997, the family split apart.

Rivas attended Elon, worked hard as a student and teacher’s assistant and eventually found her way back to her alma mater for a full-time job. She now works in the Elon University Office of Communications as the assistant director for alumni communications.

Miami heat to Burlington bliss

For Rivas, life in the United States was very different than in Peru. But moving to Miami made it a little easier. Around 65 percent of Miami’s population is Hispanic, so Rivas was able to continue speaking Spanish, eat typical Peruvian meals and transition to life in the United States.

“It was still foreign, but there were some traits of home.”

-Keren Rivas speaking about moving to Miami

Rivas’ family spent two years in Miami but soon realized that there was not much need for new Spanish-speaking churches in Miami. Her father started looking for an area with a higher need for Latino ministers. Around the same time, there was a significant increase in the Hispanic population in North Carolina. Between 1990 and 2000, North Carolina’s Hispanic population grew by 302,237 people, a growth rate of nearly 400 percent.

After visiting friends in the state, her parents settled into Burlington in June of 1999 and started a church while Rivas stayed in Florida for another year finishing up her job as a secretary at a nonprofit. She wanted to go to school and study, and Burlington was the perfect setting to slow down, work and go to school. It also didn’t hurt that the Rivas family had fallen in in love with the changing leaves in North Carolina.

“It reminded my mother of her years growing up in Chile,” Rivas said. “It made North Carolina feel more like home.”

Life at Elon

Despite the familiarity of the landscape, Burlington wasn’t as easy to adjust to as Miami. “At first I couldn’t understand people because the accent is so thick,” Rivas said. “It’s a very different English, it took me a while to adjust.”

Rivas looked at then Elon College and Alamance Community College (ACC) as possible places to go to school. Coming from Peru, she wasn’t ‘prepared’ for college in the same ways others were; she hadn’t saved up money for college and she had never taken the SAT.

Although she never heard back from ACC, Elon was very receptive and worked with her as an international student. She started taking two classes in the spring of 2000 and charged them to a credit card.

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Keren Rivas speaks to a journalism class about Elon Day. Photo by Diego Pineda

“Elon really took a chance on me,” Rivas said. “But I told them I can do this.” She worked with her English and psychology professors, sat in the front row and told them to be critical of her work.

Not only was she taking classes, she also worked every year during her college career. She worked as an English as a Second Language teacher’s assistant for the Alamance-Burlington School System during her four years at Elon.

“The school system was desperate,” Rivas said. “The demographics were changing and they didn’t know how to adjust.” She took all of her classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that she could work full time at Andrews Elementary School in North Burlington on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

During her time at Elon, Rivas also spent a lot of time with other international students at El Centro. “El Centro wasn’t so much a place for me to continue learning English but rather to help me acclimate culturally,” Rivas said. While she learned English in high school, it was still hard being completely immersed in college life in a different culture, and El Centro provided a sort of home for her.

In Rivas’ senior year at Elon, she worked as an intern for Norma Thompson, a school counselor at Graham Middle School. They worked on the CARE Project, which aimed to bring diversity training for the growing Hispanic community in the Alamance County schools. Rivas helped Thompson create a training video for all personnel in the school system.

Thompson is also an immigrant, born and raised in Mexico, and the two formed an immediate friendship. “We both experienced a lot of ignorance,” Thompson said. “People didn’t understand that being Hispanic isn’t a race, it’s an ethnic group.”

Rivas set the bar very high for all future interns. She was professional, reliable and committed. “I was always expecting other interns to be like Keren, and I was always disappointed,” Thompson said. “They didn’t have the same commitment, the same ‘Yes, I can do it’ attitude.”

Working and being Hispanic in the United States

04_21_16 don quixote reading 001 edit
Rivas participated in the marathon reader for Don Quixote last year. Photo submitted by Rivas.

Rivas graduated from Elon College in December 2003 and continued working full time for the school system until June 2010. She was referred to a job at the Burlington Times-News by one of her professors. She told them that although she was interested, she couldn’t start until school got out. They agreed to keep the job open for two months until she could start that summer.

“The only thing I regret is that I did not take enough time off in between jobs,” Rivas said. “I only took three days off.”

At first, Rivas worked in general government reporting, covering general interest stories and getting to know the people in Gibsonville and Elon. After a year or two, she was assigned the court beat, which she did until 2010. During this time Rivas spent a lot of time in the courthouse checking files and lawsuits, asking questions and befriending the clerks.

She spent most of her time in superior court covering civil and criminal trials. “It was a good way to learn the system here, an interesting look into the judicial system in America,” Rivas said. “It was very fascinating to me.”

However, her experiences with law enforcement were not always positive. Rivas always remembers one night when she was leaving her boyfriend’s house in Gibsonville and a cop car stopped her. “He was clearly stopping me because of who I am,” Rivas said.

The officer was parked on the street outside her boyfriend’s house. Rivas could feel him watching her as she got in her car and drove away. She called her boyfriend and said, “I’m going to get pulled over in a couple of minutes.”

Sure enough, the cop was still following her and not five minutes later he pulled her over. She asked him why he was stopping her and he mumbled something about an issue with the license of the person listed on the tags. The car was in her dad’s name and his driver’s license was in order. So was hers. Eventually, he let her go.

The following day, she called the Gibsonville police chief and asked him, “What is the reason for somebody to be stopped if there is no apparent reason for it? Because if you’re not profiling then what is it?”

She also called around to other departments asking about their motivations for deciding who to stop. It all came down to what an officer considers to be a reasonable suspicion. Rivas was infuriated in that moment; she knew she had been profiled.

But Rivas has gained resilience from her hardships.

“I think that being a minority Keren was very aware of how misinformed people are about Hispanics,” Thompson, her internship mentor, said.

Returning to Elon

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Keren Rivas works in her office. Photo by Ginna Royalty

In 2010, Rivas started working in the Elon University Office of Communications as the assistant director for academic communications. She transitioned to her current role in fall 2012. Her job ranges from coordinating print and digital communications for alumni events, to populating the homecoming website, to serving as editor for the quarterly Magazine of Elon, which has an average circulation of over 30,000.

“The magazine illustrates the importance of giving back to the school,” Rivas said. “It’s a way to show the impact giving has and a way to listen to the stories of students and alumni and what Elon means to them.”

Rivas also supports the work of Elon’s Office of Advancement, meaning she plays a big role in planning Elon Day. They start preparing months in advance, as early as November or even October.

Katie DeGraff, director of editorial services, has known Rivas since she started at Elon. She makes sure that Elon’s brand is communicated accurately and that the message is consistent. DeGraff and Rivas collaborate on different projects and utilize each other as resources.

“Keren has one of the best work ethics of anyone I’ve ever met,” DeGraff said. “She’s determined and not one to complain.”

The politics of immigration and her family

Immigration policies have been especially apparent since the recent presidential election. “To me, it wasn’t a surprise that Trump won,” Rivas said. “It showed what was always there, but what people chose not to look at.”

Rivas is not an American citizen and is going back to Peru this summer for the first time in over a decade. People have asked her if the U.S. will let her back in, and her honest answer is, “I don’t know. It depends.”

For Rivas, this past election and the executive order on immigration showed that “We are not as free and open and accepting as we wanted to think we are,” she said. “It’s sad what this country has become.”


Keren family 2015
Rivas with some of her family for when they visted for Christmas in 2014. Photo submitted by Rivas

She has felt the pain of immigration rules first hand. There are many complications that come with trying to get a visa to come to the United States. Rivas hasn’t seen one of her sisters, Rebeca, in 11 years because of the difficulty of the process. For a woman in Peru, for instance, it is much easier to get a visa if your husband has one; in that case you can be added on his visa, Rivas said.


When Rebeca applied for a visa for the first time, she was single and was rejected. “They basically told her that since we were here, they thought she was going to come and stay here illegally,” Rivas said.

Her sister has applied multiple times and now has a husband and family. Because she was initially rejected she has never been approved. She has since stopped trying because of the fees associated with the application.

After their parents became citizens, they filed a petition in 2007 for Rebeca to come as a permanent resident with a green card. The case is still pending. They are still waiting to find out when they’re going to get to her application—it takes at least 10 years for the government to process it.

“This should put the whole immigration debate in perspective and perhaps help you see why so many people make the painful decision to come to this country illegally,” Rivas said. “Reform is needed.”

While her other sisters have been able to visit her in the United State, “we’ve not been able to all be together as a family in 20 years,” Rivas said. “It’s been too long, but we hope to one day soon be able to spend a proper Christmas together once again.”

Persist and inspire

Rivas has persevered through the hardships that immigrants face in the United States. “Her experiences give her a better sense of the things that actually matter; she doesn’t sweat the small stuff,” Katie DeGraff, her communications colleague, said. But she has enjoyed the greater freedom she has as a woman.

“I am proud of being a Latino woman in a career that I wanted to be in,” Rivas said.

The way Rivas describes it, the working culture in Peru is much different than the United States. For women, working past 30 years old will be difficult to get or keep a job. Employers are always looking for someone younger, more driven by a “macho” culture.

Rivas is the proudest of being able to do what she wants to do, without the pressures of being a wife, having kids or being able to cook. “In Peru, women are still in the 18th century,” Rivas said. “They’re expected to stay home and cook. But I don’t cook; I often say I don’t do it as a way to rebel against the expectations of my gender.”

But Rivas does not want simply to persist or rebel, she wants to lead and inspire. If Rivas ever decides to go back home, “I will focus on empowering women in my country.”

      Rivas answers, “What is the best life advice you were ever given?”