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June 25, 2024

Picking Her Place

Dayana Villagran: A Spartan of New Directions

Picking apples seven days a week shaped Dayana Villagran, the daughter of Mexican-born migrant workers. She and her family spent winters, springs and early summers in Florida picking oranges, tomatoes, watermelon, eggplant and other produce before following seasonal crops northward and landing in Michigan each fall.  

The sixth of nine children, Villagran understood the practical purpose of the work, but envisioned a different long-term reality for herself and her family.  

“I just knew I had to go to college,” Villagran said. “I was always told education is power and you can make a difference and be heard when you’re educated.”

Dayana Villigran
Dayana Villagran

Villagran arrived at Michigan State in 2017 as an MSU College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Scholar, a longstanding residential program designed to help migrant and seasonal farmworker students transition to college life. CAMP provided Villagran with an immediate support system and community as she adjusted to unfamiliar terrain.  

Beyond CAMP, Villagran found additional support and mentorship through the Cornerstone Engineering and Residential Experience (CoRe), Supporting Excellent Engineers and Women in Engineering. Those thoughtful initiatives combined with Villagran’s determined and diligent spirit propelled her to a degree in mechanical engineering, a major she chose because of the discipline’s problem-solving energy and its professional prospects.  

“Every time I wanted to give up, I’d recall moments in the burning heat of Florida or numbing cold in Michigan and reminded myself failure wasn’t an option,” Villagran said.

Read more in an alumni feature in Spartan Magazine: Picking Her Place.