Model student

Irvin Susano knows firsthand the value of role models. So he became one for other students.

By Janalee Card Chmel

Publish Date: February 18, 2015

Video produced and edited by: Brett McPherson

Irvin Susano admits that he has faced many challenges, both personal and academic, as he pursues his degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Events at MSU Denver.

“I almost dropped out three times,” he said. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t making good grades. I just felt discouraged. As I progress in college, I see fewer people who look like me.”

Fortunately, Susano has a knack for finding a mentor when he needs one the most. That is, when he’s not too busy mentoring others.

“Irvin picks up stuff like a sponge because he is eager to learn. He doesn’t have many role models who have done what he’s doing, so he’s surrounding himself with people at MSU Denver who can be role models for him. He’s also becoming quite a leader,” said Dwight T. Gentry, coordinator of the University’s Brother 2 Brother program, which works to retain and graduate young men of color. Susano serves as a peer leader in the program, helping to identify and recruit students, and offering them academic and social support among other responsibilities. 

“I work with the students to help them to graduate,” said Susano. “Male students of color have lower graduation rates across the country than their peers. I know what they’re facing and I want to help.”

Susano is familiar with adversity. Throughout his life, he has watched his father work multiple jobs so that Irvin and his three siblings could have a better life.

“Dad worked in the fields for 25 years and never complained,” said Susano. “Now he works at an insulation company and gets paid better, but it’s a tough job. He leaves around 5:45 in the morning and comes home around 7 p.m. He also picks up night jobs when he can.”

With his dad’s work ethic as a model, Susano is hoping to be the first person in his immediate family to graduate from college.

“Dad always tells me to be something he couldn’t be,” said Susano. “He wants me to work hard mentally.”

At MSU Denver, he’s doing just that. Susano has a concentration in Restaurant Management, and expects to graduate in fall 2016. His dream: to one day open his own restaurant.

In addition to working with Brother 2 Brother, Susano serves as a leader in MSU Denver’s Supplemental and Academic Instruction program, designed to increase student performance and retention. Susano facilitates out-of-class sessions for freshmen that help them process material assigned by their professors.

Despite the leadership he offers others, Susano confesses that he too needs help on occasion to stay on track. 

“The staff at MSU Denver has taught me to not give up,” he said. “I’ve made connections with lots of great people who are watching every step I take. That keeps me motivated to not fail them or myself.”