Rosa López Moritz
When BCC student Rosa López Moritz sets her mind to something, she's unstoppable. Case in point: Rosa once had a debilitating fear of math, enough to make her push aside her interest in engineering and instead earn a degree in nutrition in her home country of Mexico. Now, she's an engineering major conquering Calculus III at BCC, a scenario she could never have envisioned just a few short years ago.
Hailing from a tiny town south of Chihuahua, Mexico called San Francisco de Oro — she likes to joke with her American friends that she grew up in San Francisco — Rosa came to the United States 10 years ago to be an au pair, bringing her experience as a volunteer for a Down Syndrome institute in Mexico. Her initial assignment in Virginia was not a good fit, but, undeterred, she was matched with another family in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
"I was very fortunate to have that opportunity," says Rosa, who fell in love with the Berkshires during the two-year au pair program. But it wasn't without challenges.
"I wanted to come to a place where no one speaks Spanish. I studied English for nine years in Mexico, and I still couldn't say a word. I had a mental block," says Rosa, who recalls with a laugh, "I told my mom, 'I have to go to a place where I will either speak English or starve to death.'"
Part of the au pair program required enrolling in classes, so Rosa signed up for an English course at BCC's south campus location. The combination of living with an English-speaking family and taking the classes helped her achieve her goal of becoming fluent in English, and she planned to go back to Mexico to study engineering. But that all changed when she met her husband J.P. at Butternut, where he was working at the time.
"They had this exchange program with Central America and South America, so I met people from Brazil, Argentina and Chile," Rosa says. "I just wanted to speak Spanish with them, but I got stuck with a guy that didn't speak a word of Spanish. That was J.P.!"
After returning to Mexico for two years upon finishing the au pair program, Rosa decided to move to America permanently. She was looking for a career change when a good friend who attended BCC stepped in and urged her to apply.
"She gave me that last push I needed and helped me register, and that's how I ended up at BCC to study engineering," Rosa said. "I always had engineering in the back of my mind, but I originally didn't want a career that involved math because I was extremely bad at it."
With her usual resolve, Rosa decided it was finally time to tackle her fear and chase her dream of finding a job that has "anything to do with fixing machines. I love to know how everything works. When I was little, I used to take apart my toys to see how they worked inside," she said. She began with a basic algebra class at BCC, taught by Donna Kalinowsky, a professor who proved to be highly influential in Rosa's success.
I was very aware of math being necessary for an engineering degree, so I decided to put the work into it, to learn it and actually try to understand it. I had always been told by teachers in Mexico that math was very difficult, but Donna told me the opposite. She would show me how to solve things and said it could be easy. She is the one who helped me get to where I am now.
For Rosa, understanding the world of math wasn't something that suddenly clicked — it was the product of hard work and a new mental attitude. "Society keeps telling us how difficult math is, that if you don't get it the first time, you'll never get it," she says. "But you have to tell yourself there's a second time. That mindset has changed my life, little by little."
Rosa is currently enrolled in Calculus III, a class required for her major and taught by Chantal Rhind. "I'm actually enjoying the class, and I never in my life thought I'd say that," she says. "I still make mistakes, but now I like figuring out where I was wrong and how I can fix it. I would never do that before — it's like I was defeated before I even started."
Recalling that girls were not generally encouraged to follow careers in math where she grew up in Mexico, Rosa says her experience at BCC has completely changed her outlook. "It's a positive mindset at BCC. All my math teachers are women — no one is going to tell me I can't do it. They want me to be successful. They encourage other women. I love that about BCC."
Now about a year and a half away from earning an associate degree, Rosa says she can finally envision herself as a successful engineer. "I feel like my brain is sharpening to math. If I don't know it, I can figure it out," she says. "I now see everything in terms of math!"
When she isn't busy figuring out a complicated math problem, Rosa is always up for a new adventure. "If it's something I've never done, I'm there," she says, adding she likes "extreme stuff" like skydiving. She spends her spare time conquering escape rooms, solving puzzles and puzzle games, and playing video games, including her favorite virtual reality game called Beat Saber. She also likes to dance, listen to music and hang out with rescue dog Gus and a 13-year-old cat named Buttons.