Lawson Hardrick III became a super motivated graduate of SDSU Imperial Valley. Now he’s doing a Masters in Educational Leadership to Inspire Others.
“I love to juggle.”
Keep these words from Lawson Hardrick III while reading about his time at San Diego State University Imperial Valley, how he got involved in his community and how he received the CSU Trustee Award for Excellence in 2021 to continue his studies.
Student government, LGBTQIA + mental health, broadband access for underserved communities, disaster relief, volunteering for the disadvantaged: Hardrick delved into all of this while pursuing a dual major and minor.
Now he’s doing a Masters in Post-Secondary Education Leadership at the College of Education in San Diego with the goal of “helping people find fellowship” or building it where it doesn’t already exist.
Influenced by personal experience moving from community college to university, Hardrick wants to land in Student Affairs, “where I can influence students,” possibly back in Imperial Valley, where “resources for students (are) just so scarce.”
“There’s just a lot of inflation going on in terms of tuition and fees,” Hardrick said. “It’s a huge hurdle for people to even think about a college education, especially at a four-year university.” And it makes community college even more important as the first step in removing those barriers, he said.
“Getting that bachelor’s degree, and maybe even getting further, would be the ultimate goal that I always try to motivate students for,” he said.
The award winners, announced on Monday, were honored Tuesday during an online session of the California State University Board of Trustees Committee on Institutional Funding. The scholarships are awarded each September to California State University students, one from each campus that has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, personal achievement, and community service.
Hardrick’s award comes with a $ 8,000 scholarship supported by a foundation from the late Trustee Emeritus Murray L. Galinson and the Jewish Community Foundation. The graduate student said it not only offers welcome financial security when moving to San Diego’s high rent, but also unexpected social benefits through networking with the other award winners.
During his first few weeks at SDSU, Hardrick worked with Assistant Professor Marissa Vasquez’s SEMILLAS research team, helping analyze data on the experiences of transfer students enrolled in a research fellowship program. Vasquez named him editor-in-chief of a magazine for community college scholars, citing his “incredible work ethic and attention to detail.”
“Lawson’s natural, welcoming attitude allows him to connect with others easily, while his own path in life allows him to show genuine compassion,” wrote Vasquez in a letter of recommendation.
Hardrick grew up in Calexico, Imperial County. With a black father, a Latinx mother, and an identification as queer, he felt like an outsider who was often bullied and excluded from group activities. But the negative experiences have had a positive effect. Without them, he said, “I probably would not have understood why inclusion is so important and why it is so important for people to feel part of something.”
Hardrick entered Imperial Valley College after high school with no initial career path in mind. The decision to take the plunge and move on to Southwestern College in Chula Vista sparked interest in getting involved in student administration. Then he returned home to the Imperial Valley and took college more seriously with extra work outside of the classroom.
After completing his associate degree at Community College, he moved to SDSU Imperial Valley, where he majored in Psychology and Public Administration with a minor in Linguistics – while continuing to take additional compulsory courses at Community College and immersed in an ambitious extracurricular life.
As President of Associated Students in 2020-21, he urged Imperial County students to vote on the University Senate, the SDSU’s assembly of delegates that sets educational policy and advises the president. He also founded a student organization to support family housing and other nonprofit organizations that serve disadvantaged people.
He represented the American Red Cross at disaster sites, provided instant debit cards to families in need, and became a board member of the county’s LGBT resource center to work on mental health issues. He joined the Young Leaders Advisory Council of California Forward, a business advocacy group, and helped create the 2020 Call to Action: An Intergenerational Approach to a Sustainable Future.
In San Diego, he served as vice president of social change for the Associated Students’ Graduate Student Association, which also earned him a seat on the Senate Committee on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. He has two and probably three jobs.
“Taking one hat off and putting the other on and then walking back and forth was interesting because I love juggling,” said Hardrick. “So far it has been a very good learning experience.”