Barry McNamara  |  Published February 13, 2024

Senior Profile: Fatima Gutierrez

From New Jersey, to Monmouth, to Penn State for highly involved student.

FATIMA GUTIERREZ: The senior from New Jersey will head back east for her post-graduate studies at Penn State University. &l... FATIMA GUTIERREZ: The senior from New Jersey will head back east for her post-graduate studies at Penn State University. MONMOUTH, Ill. – For someone who’s been told she “plays it too safe sometimes,” Fatima Gutierrez ’24 has made several ventures far away from her comfort zone – like 14-hours-from-home far.

That’s what she did when she came to Monmouth College four years ago as a freshman from Trenton, New Jersey (and no, it wasn’t by mistake – she didn’t confuse the College for her home state’s Monmouth University), and it will continue beyond graduation when she enrolls in a graduate program at Penn State University.

Along the way, Gutierrez has tried several new things, including joining Pi Beta Phi sorority and even experimenting with dance. Gutierrez is also a Scot Ambassador, a mental health peer educator, a four-year member of Concert Choir and a member of the College chaplain’s spiritual life team.

“This is when you have the opportunity to put yourself out there and try different things,” she said of the freeing power of college. “Change your hairstyle, change the way you dress. This is your time. Open yourself to all the possibilities.”

“This is when you have the opportunity to put yourself out there and try different things. Change your hairstyle, change the way you dress. This is your time. Open yourself to all the possibilities.” – Fatima Gutierrez

That’s advice she follows herself, and also what she tells prospective students while she leads campus tours. She also tells those high school students that it’s OK not to have everything in their lives figured out yet.

“College can be a lot. I didn’t do well at first,” said Gutierrez, who is majoring in sociology and anthropology with a concentration in human services. “The best thing you can do is try. At the end of the day, even if you fail, it makes you grow as a person. Don’t expect to pass everything on the first try or know everything right off the bat.”

It’s that type of “been there, done that” perspective that helps Gutierrez relate to the students she listens to in her mental health role, and it’s the kind of compassion she plans to bring to her post-graduate work.


Project BRITE

Penn State’s Project BRITE (Bringing Research and Intervention to Trauma-Informed Education) is a federally funded program that offers interdisciplinary coursework and supervised experiences to provide special education teachers with expertise in trauma-informed services for students with disabilities.

Gutierrez was encouraged to apply for the selective program by one of her Monmouth professors, Tiffany Springer.

“I took a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) course with Professor Springer, and she sparked the flame that used to be there for me about helping those who are disadvantaged,” said Gutierrez. “I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not suited for it?’ But she thought it would be a great fit for me. She was the motivation I needed to take the leap.”

It’s a leap that will eventually lead her to work with “vulnerable” elementary and middle school students.

“College can be a lot. I didn’t do well at first. The best thing you can do is try. At the end of the day, even if you fail, it makes you grow as a person. Don’t expect to pass everything on the first try or know everything right off the bat.” – Fatima Gutierrez


“These kids are already at a disadvantage,” said Gutierrez. “They might have autism, and they feel like ‘Now everything’s about my diagnosis.’ But they aren’t their diagnosis, and they deserve a chance to better themselves.”


Choosing Monmouth

When Gutierrez first showed interest in Monmouth, an admission representative checked back with her, just to make sure she had the right Monmouth. But she knew what she was doing, as her high school teacher had told his class: “You can make an impact wherever you go. Don’t restrict yourselves to New Jersey schools.”

Her application was strong enough to earn an invitation to compete with other prospective students on the College’s Scholarship Day.

“On my visit, I not only fell in love with the school, but I fell in love with the sociology and anthropology program,” said Gutierrez. “I could see myself here. It just clicked with me. Yeah, it’s 14 hours away, but I decided I could use a break from the house.”


Her Monmouth experience

In that house, Gutierrez grew up with four brothers. When she came to Monmouth, seeking out sisterhood wasn’t at the top of her list, but her time with Pi Phi is another example of the benefits of opening herself up to possibilities.

“I gained 70 new sisters,” she said.

“My time at Monmouth has grown me as a person. I got to learn a lot about myself. You can get so lost in the city, trying to follow what someone else is doing. I decided that this kind of chance doesn’t come around often, so I took advantage of it while I could.” – Fatima Gutierrez


She’s also benefited from her work with the Rev. Dr. John Huxtable, Monmouth’s chaplain.

“I’m in the background, and he does the heavy lifting,” said Gutierrez, who’s helped start the weekly Chaplain Chat, which provides a regularly scheduled time for students to meet with Huxtable in Hewes Library. “I just want to help get him out there for the students.”

Putting herself out there has been the key to her successful time at the College.

“My time at Monmouth has grown me as a person,” she said. “I got to learn a lot about myself. You can get so lost in the city, trying to follow what someone else is doing. I decided that this kind of chance doesn’t come around often, so I took advantage of it while I could.”

Listen Up …

Fatima Gutierrez discusses her Monmouth experience on “Monmouth College Conversations” podcast.

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