Featured Geek: Vanessa Monterosa. She's Geeky About Gaming.

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Our Featured Geek for this week was raised in Norwalk, CA and is currently working on her PhD at The University of Southern California. I can hear the fight on chant as I type this.

This geeky chica has a love for gaming. She started playing games, such as King’s Quest, Prince of Persia and other 8-bit Sierra games back in the day. Do you remember those? I sure do!

Read about Vanessa’s love for her family, education and gaming.

What is your full name and tell us about where you are from.

monterosa-latinageeksMy name is Vanessa Monterosa, and I am a first-generation college and graduate student. I received my bachelor’s degree from Biola University and my master’s degree from Harvard. I am currently working on my PhD at the University of Southern California. As you can see, I really love school, but I wasn’t motivated all by myself–my parents always advocated for higher education.

My parents immigrated to the US in the 70s from El Salvador. I have an older sister, but it’s just us two, so I am the baby of the family. I was raised in Norwalk, CA and am a product of the neighboring elementary, middle, and high school here. During my college years, I spent time studying abroad in Japan. Once I graduated, I would spend my summers traveling around the country, working for different college counseling camps. When I decided to pursue my master’s degree, I moved 3,000 miles east to study. Despite all my travels though, I love my community (which comprises of Norwalk, Whittier, and Santa Fe Springs) very much, and I look forward to working here once I finish my graduate studies.

Tell us about your Latina background and your family. What does your family think about your geeky passions?

My parents grew up and met in El Salvador. They grew up in very traditional households, and once they immigrated to the US, they brought their traditional customs too. My older sister, who paved the way for me to have a bit more freedom with things like staying up late, going to dances, and other benefits of having an older sibling vouch for you. I am indebted to my sister for always advocating for a looser parental grip. It was easier for my parents to trust me since I was always very involved and in love with school from an early age.

I grew up surrounded by technology due to my father’s job with IBM during its hayday in the 80s. As I got older, I realized what a unique upbringing I had in being able to develop my digital literacy at such an early age. For example, I knew how to type by the time I was four years old, and I was on the internet as early as 1990 using Prodigy. Anyone remember that?! Since he had access to the latest technology at work, my father would always bring home all sorts of gadgets that I would get to play with. I definitely followed in my father’s footsteps in pursuing and cultivating a love and appreciation for technology. My mother and sister still have a hard time navigating most technology, so I am always their go-to tech person. Although my father is a network engineer, I’ve realized I even know a little bit more than him! It’s fun to try and outdo one another sometimes. Among family and friends, I am definitely the go-to person whenever there is a computer p roblem, a software glitch, or if they want a recommendation on the latest hardware (which I then sometimes defer to my partner who has also taught me a lot as well!). Overall, my family admires my dedication to technology because they see it as other-worldly, and I think my father is just happy that he has someone else he can talk gadgets with and go on shopping trips to Fry’s .

Tell us about your geeky passion. What are your interested in and why?

My favorite geeky passion is gaming. I have been playing PC games as early as four years old since my father would bring home classics like King’s Quest, Police Quest, Prince of Persia, and other 8-bit Sierra games. However, it wasn’t until I got a Sega Genesis that I fell in love. I still reminisce about my days playing The Lion King, OutRun, Moonwalker, etc.

After my Sega Genesis, I became a loyal PlayStation fan, playing classics like Sonic the Hedgehog, Ridge Racer, Grand Theft Auto, and more. I had a huge crate of nearly 130 games across my PS1 and PS2 consoles. My all-time favorite PS game has to be Kingdom Hearts, and I can’t wait to buy a PS4–just so I can play Kingdom Hearts 3. However, I then moved from console gaming to arcades. My game of choice? Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). I had become a fan of rhythm games like Pop N’ Music and Para Para Paradise, religiously playing DDR for about 5 years. I eventually met my partner at a local arcade who was also a DDR player, with whom I have been with for 10 years this coming January! Who said people can’t find love via video games?

As the arcade scene was coming to an end, I took up PC gaming again. My partner and I started building our own gaming rigs, always looking out for the best deals on video cards, big monitors, and heavy duty computer cases. Through PC gaming, I’ve had the pleasure of playing World of Warcraft (Lvl 80 Gnome Warlock). I dedicated about 8 years to WoW, p joining raiding guilds and having a set schedule of gameplay to engage higher level game content. Aside from WoW, I also played games like Counter Strike, Left 4 Dead, and Team Fortress, etc. I love Valve games since they are easy to download, and I don’t have to camp out in the middle of the night for a game release (i.e. all WoW expansions). Although I retired my WoW account not long ago, a game I highly recommend is Tell Tale’s The Walking Dead. Check that game out!

Ultimately, I adopted video games as my geeky passion because my father introduced me to them at an early age. However, I have stuck with it because I love video game culture, and I also just love the immersive nature of games.

Are you bilingual? If so, how does it help you in your career?

Yes, I am bilingual, although I feel that I understand Spanish better than I speak it. At one point, I considered myself trilingual because I spoke basic Japanese. While studying abroad in Tokyo, I took Japanese writing and language courses, which were incredibly helpful. The pronunciation of Japanese words is extremely similar to Spanish pronunciation. So, if you have ever wanted to learn another language and are a Spanish speaker, I highly recommend Japanese.

In my career as a researcher and college counselor, being bilingual has helped me a lot. For example, as a college counselor, I was able to help many first-generation families navigate the college and financial aid maze since many of them did not speak English nor understood the materials they would receive. Learning the college admissions process language in English is hard enough, but I learned it in Spanish as well so I could best explain and help my students and families.

Tell us about the gadgets you have in your purse right now. What top 3 gadgets do you need to have in your purse to help with your day-to-day tasks?

As a Ph.D. student, I rarely carry a purse—I lug around a backpack all the time, so I will share my top 3 gadgets that I cannot live without: my laptop, my iPad, and my Droid. I would say those are pretty standard gadgets for anyone, but they are my life line to my research, my work, and my friends/family. I am rarely ever home since I am either studying at a coffee shop, working in my office on campus, or writing from a library somewhere in Southern California. I use my laptop for writing papers and browsing the internet. I have a gaming laptop also, but that one stays at home. Otherwise, I would never get any work done! I use my iPad to read and annotate all of my articles. Before I got an iPad, I had stacks upon stacks of 30+ paged articles all around my room. Now that I purchased an iPad, it is a miracle how I ever did any research without it. I primarily use the iAnnotate app which is incredibly handy for highlighting and writing notes in the margins of your PDFs, etc.–just like you would on a printed paper. Once I am done reading my articles, I sync them to Dropbox and can freely browse my files between all my devices. Lastly, I use my Droid for checking emails when I am in between meetings or if I am cozy in bed and too lazy to set myself up at my desk in that moment.

What is your website and/or blog? What does it focus on?

I have a personal website which I use as hub for digital presence across multiple sites, which is www.vanessamonterosa.com. I have a digital presence on LinkedIn, Academia.edu (which is like a LinkedIn for academics), Twitter, and HASTAC (which is an organization dedicated to collaborations across disciplines with a focus on technology. I have recently started blogging, since it is a requirement for my HASTAC fellowship which I was awarded this year, which you can find via my HASTAC profile link on my website. A site which I frequent often is Twitter, where I will share resources regarding graduate school, education research, or useful articles on digital literacy and technology.

Where can we find you online? Please share your social links with us!

You can find me across multiple digital spaces, all of which are also linked on my personal website. I maintain a very active presence across these spaces since I am always open to exploring different ways of curating and cultivating my own digital identity.

Website – www.vanessamonterosa.com
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/vmonterosa/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/EdTech_FTW
Academia.edu – https://usc.academia.edu/VanessaMonterosa
HASTAC – http://www.hastac.org/users/gradmau5

What else would you like to share with us?

Aside from my geeky gaming passion, I am also passionate about social justice issues, especially issues of college access and success for students from underrepresented backgrounds. During my spare time when I am not gaming, I am most likely volunteering my time with a local organization providing seminars and workshops and putting my research into practice.

I am definitely thankful for the opportunity to be featured on #LatinaGeek, because it is spaces like these that help make the statement about our diverse interests, backgrounds, and goals.