College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters Class of Fall 2021 graduate Beatriz Bruza has lived in three different countries during the past decade — Brazil, Mexico and the U.S. With each move, she’d celebrate milestone achievements and the idea of new possibilities in a variety of ways.
In Brazil, she’d jump the ocean waves with her family to usher in a new year. In Mexico, she’d meet with friends outdoors to share homemade food and festive music to mark accomplishments.
In the U.S., due to cold Michigan weather and the pandemic, Bruza said she keeps celebrations indoors and a bit quieter. But, surrounded by her family, her heart and mind are just as full as she approaches her maize and blue December graduation.
“When my father’s job relocated our family, he said I could stay or come with them. But I kept moving because I wanted us — my dad, mom and younger brother — to all stay together. I also wanted to see more of the world,” said Bruza, a Biological Sciences major whose father earned a certification from U-M in lean manufacturing. “He would have been proud of me no matter where I went to school — here, Brazil or Mexico. But I know he likes saying that we are both Michigan Wolverines.”
Bruza studied nanobiology in Mexico prior to transferring to UM-Dearborn. She said a close family member’s Type I diabetes diagnosis inspired her to explore biology and genetics, but the science interconnectedness that biology has continued to grow her interest.
“I liked learning about math, chemistry, physics and biology. It came easily to me. Maybe it’s because I found it so interesting because I realized how they could help us understand complex systems,” she said. “Out of these, biology is the area that has it all mixed in. That’s why I like it. To understand biology, you also have to know chemistry, math and physics.”
Bruza was accepted to several Michigan colleges, but chose UM-Dearborn to stay close to family and because of the University of Michigan’s reputation for high standards. She was also attracted to the campus because of its cultural diversity. She knew that she’d be in good company with other academically talented professors and students who knew what it was like to think in one language before needing to explain things in another.
“Adjusting to different cultures, different languages and different education systems was difficult, but it gave me the confidence to know that I can succeed and be a leader even in very challenging circumstances,” she said. “I also was able to meet so many people from different cultural backgrounds, which has been an incredible opportunity in allowing my mind to be open to new experiences and reminding myself to respect the differences of those around me.”
In addition to learning about others, she’s also learned about herself. Bruza said her courses opened the door to new interests. Science is Bruza’s favorite subject. But UM-Dearborn introduced her to another passion: teaching.
She hadn’t considered a teaching profession prior to her on-campus tutoring and Supplemental Instruction work for a biology course. But she had a hidden talent and people took notice. Biology Lecturer Katherine LaCommare said Bruza is “incredibly dedicated, outgoing and supportive of her fellow students” and among the best SI students she’s ever had. Bruza enjoyed those teaching roles so much that she, after gaining more professional experience, wants to teach in a research or academic setting. She credits the admiration for her professors and their work as a driving force in wanting to teach.
“Looking back, it is difficult to imagine selecting a school that would open as many doors and introduce me to the welcoming community that UM-Dearborn has granted me,” she said. “I have taken many classes that have pushed me to perform consistently to the best of my abilities.”
Bruza's educational journey has prepared her for life’s next chapter. As she heads into graduation, her focus is on working in an environment where she can gain laboratory research experiences before heading to graduate school. Eventually, she’d like to teach at a university.
Until then, Bruza and her family are focused on recognizing her latest accomplishment: her UM-Dearborn diploma. There won’t be ocean waves or sitting around an outdoor table to celebrate the new possibilities this brings. But there will be parents and a little brother cheering on her determination, resilience and success — and who are proud to add another Michigan Wolverine to the family.