Priscilla, Vanessa, and Alicia Nuñez didn’t exactly plan to come to HNU together—but each sister ended up at the University for her own reasons. The three of them attended Merrill F. West High School in their hometown of Tracy, California, and, when it came time for Priscilla, the oldest, to pick a college, she decided on HNU. “My mom heard about HNU from one of her co-workers and I liked the whole environment here—it’s small and diverse,” Priscilla said. “So I came here and my sisters all started to follow.”
Priscilla, a senior criminology major (with a psychology minor), came to HNU in 2012 as a commuter student, and her younger sister Vanessa—a junior who’s majoring in business with a concentration in marketing and management—enrolled the next year and played on HNU’s women’s golf team. “I decided to come here because I like nature and I saw that the environment here was really nice,” Vanessa said. “I actually came to class with my sister when I was a senior in high school. I went to one of her lectures and her friends were really welcoming, so that was what attracted me to HNU.”
Unlike her older sister, Vanessa lived in the dorms her freshman year, and it was through this connection to campus that the two sisters really started to feel like HNU was the right place for them. Priscilla moved in with Vanessa during the second semester of the 2013–2014 academic year and became a campus resident as well.
When asked about what she remembers most about that time, Priscilla said, “I was getting in the groove of being on my own and meeting new people. It was really cool having Vanessa here, so that was the fun part. We had a good time.”
Vanessa’s recollections are similar. “When she moved into my dorm room and we roomed together, and she started meeting my friends—that was a lot of fun.”
This past year, Alicia, a freshman majoring in multimedia arts and communications, joined Priscilla and Vanessa on campus. Alicia said that she decided to come to HNU while in high school because of what she’d heard from her older sisters. “I would see them having fun on videos with their friends. I wanted to experience more and I felt like if I came here [to HNU] I would be more independent—but then I’d also be close to my sisters, so that if I needed anything, I could always turn to them.”
One of the aspects of HNU that the Nuñez sisters treasure the most is the opportunity to be active participants in a close-knit community. All three Nuñez sisters are involved in a wide range of campus activities. Although Vanessa no longer plays for the women’s golf team, she works as a student assistant at the Paul J. Cushing Library. Alicia works with HNU Athletics to help staff the University’s home games for basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Priscilla has been active in the Pacific Islanders Club—as have Vanessa and Alicia.
The feeling of community at HNU, particularly when it comes to classes and academics, is something that comes up again and again in conversation with Priscilla, Vanessa, and Alicia.
“My favorite thing about this school is the relationship that you have with the professors,” Alicia said. “Since the classes are really small, I’m coming out of my shell more and interacting in classes with the professors. It takes a big weight off your shoulders because you remind yourself you're not alone in that class. Whether it's your classmates helping you, or you’re going to the professor as a classmate, they won't push you away—they will give you their time and help you.”
“They [HNU professors] are actually trying to get to know you and help you with the obstacles that you have in life,” Priscilla said. “And they will sit down and talk to you if you need someone to talk to.”
Vanessa echoed her sisters’ sentiments when asked about how she describes HNU to people who are unfamiliar with the University. “I talk about the small classes and of course the hospitality that the professors provide to each of their students. They try their hardest and they work with you so you can keep up your grades. You have that one-on-one relationship.”
Paul and Anne Marie Nuñez—the sisters’ parents—have been continually impressed by the personalized attention and instruction their daughters receive. “We like the student-faculty ratio of 11:1. We’re confident that our daughters will not fall through the cracks,” Anne Marie said. “The professors will know if and when a student misses class. They’re also willing to make suggestions to the student if they may be struggling in class and they provide them with guidance about how to stay on track.”
Priscilla graduates in May 2016 and both Vanessa and Alicia are due to graduate from HNU within four years of their enrollment. In terms of plans for the future, Priscilla is considering working for a year before applying to graduate programs in counseling. Vanessa is slated to graduate from HNU in December 2016 and wants to find a job in her field; in the future, she would like to pursue a veterinary degree. Alicia explained that she is looking forward to learning more about graphic design in her classes.
Anyone who has siblings knows that family dynamics aren’t always easy and carefree, and when the sisters were asked about what it’s been like to go to college together, they offered an honest assessment. “There’s a lot of ups-and-downs,” they explained.
“We’re all together all the time, so we argue,” Alicia said.
“But it’s easy for us to walk out into a courtyard here and be by ourselves and then come back and say, ‘Okay,’” Vanessa said.
“We tell our parents when we’re fighting and they say, ‘Oh, really?’ and just laugh,” Priscilla said.
“But at the end of the day we’re still together,” Alicia said.
“I feel like it’s brought us closer together,” Vanessa said, summing up their experience. “Our relationship is tighter than it was before.”