First-Generation Student Thrives in Environmental Studies Major: Rebecca Soto, '21

Dec. 13, 2021
Becca Soto

Becca Soto is part of the University of Arizona Pride of Arizona band. Photo by Rebecca Sasnett.

Rebecca “Becca” Soto, who is graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Music, is the recipient of the fall 2021 SBS Student Success Award, which is given to a graduating senior who is a first-generation college student.

Becca, who is a member of the Yaqui Tribe, is interested in the environment, social justice, and music.

“In Geography 357, Becca was prepared for class consistently and showed an eagerness to learn,” wrote Lise Nelson, associate professor in the School of Geography, Development & Environment. “Becca is willing to take risks and challenge herself in the classroom and has an open and inquiring spirit.”

Creatively combining her interests, Becca developed a class project that assessed the impacts of a UArizona program that brings musical instrument instruction to low-income community schools.

“Becca positively bubbled over when talking about the importance of marginalized communities having access to music education,” Nelson recalled.

Becca currently does digital archiving at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. She had an internship at Saguaro National Park, using her Geographic Information Systems skills to convert collected data into usable maps. To explore her love of music, she joined the Pride of Arizona band three years ago, playing the cymbals. Becca is also a pianist for Tempest Wind, a music group that performs to support those in need throughout the community.

“Becca has faced the challenges that so many first-generation students confront, and has successfully done so with intelligence, curiosity, and a passion for nature and for supporting the most marginalized members of the community,” Nelson wrote. “She is an exemplary student, highly deserving of the Student Success Award.”

“I've thoroughly enjoyed both the UA and SBS experience and my classes and instructors,” Becca said. “They gave me insight into the troubles we and the environment are facing that I never would have thought of otherwise, and possibilities on how to tackle them.”

After graduation, Becca plans to take on a temporary job with the Western Archeological and Conservation Center to “gain more experience, and hopefully make connections that may help me in my journey,” Becca said.  She also plans to get a master’s in Geographic Information Systems within the next few years.