At a time when Americans are politically polarized, UNT Dallas graduate Cristian Medina is undeterred. Medina’s goal is to serve his community by seeking elective office. It is a logical move from his position as the most recent president of the UNT Dallas Student Government Association (SGA).
Medina is passionate about “not just myself, but seeing the success of others,” he said. After recently walking the commencement stage and receiving his bachelor of arts in general business degree, Medina’s next steps are earning an MBA at the UNT Dallas Graduate School and finding a job in government.
He already has a foot in the door, having just been accepted as an intern in the congressional district office of Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33) in Dallas, where he will learn first-hand about the workings of government, accountability to constituents, and serving the citizens of North Texas. Running for office and being truly successful as an elected official requires “high integrity and high ability,” Medina said. And he is confident he has both of those qualities. “I fear nothing and have nothing to hide.”
From humble beginnings growing up in the Pleasant Grove area of East Dallas, Medina took an early interest in computers. He learned about the parts, the software and the operating systems, often “playing around” to test them. The curiosity of his youth is paying dividends as an adult. “I’ve always been interested in combining technology with business,” he said.
Medina is driven by the motto, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” But he makes a point to distinguish between “self-interest and selfish,” he noted. As SGA president, he gained leadership experience and became an active mentor for other students, many of whom sought him out for guidance.
Even though it wasn’t his area of study, Medina joined the Biology Club as a consultant when they turned to him for help with the management, structure and organization of the group. It’s that spirit of collaboration and cooperation on which Medina thrives. “You can be a leader, but managing people is different,” he said.
As a first-generation college student who achieved a 4.0 GPA at UNT Dallas, Medina believes his greatest strength is resiliency. Coming from a family that was financially challenged, he is especially focused on socioeconomic mobility, an important part of UNT Dallas’ mission. “I’ve been economically disadvantaged. My parents would say, ‘It’s better to put food on the table for you than us’,” Medina recalls his parents telling him and his two siblings. “That carried me like an engine,” Medina said, motivating him to work hard, get a great education and help others along the way.
He is guided in all he does by wisdom from his parents. “The most important thing is not money, it is time,” Medina said, remembering the advice he received from his mother and father throughout his childhood.
Medina chose UNT Dallas after briefly attending another local college. “This is where I fit,” he said. He is especially thankful for the guidance he received from Student Affairs and Career Services. And he is equally split when asked about the best part of UNT Dallas. “It’s half students, half the staff. The people.”
One of those people is Medina’s mentor, Dr. Shikhar Acharya, assistant professor of business analytics. Together, they are researching a topic that hits close to home: the socioeconomic factors that affect how students choose colleges. In fact, UNT Dallas is home to the Center for Socioeconomic Mobility Through Education (CMSE), which works to accelerate socioeconomic mobility of individuals and communities and believes everyone should have the opportunity to achieve a living wage and thrive in vibrant neighborhoods.
The research will provide a perfect bridge for Medina from undergraduate to graduate-level studies. It also serves as inspiration for his future beyond UNT Dallas. “Diamonds are made under pressure,” Medina said, using the metaphor to describe his life, hopes and dreams, which are certain to shine brightly.