Graduate Spotlight: Shayna Markwongnark | Covina, CA

I am a 28-year-old Trojan who never thought she would hold a master’s degree from a school as prestigious as the University of Southern California. Raised by my traditional Mexican mother and strong-spirited Thai father, my childhood was everything but dull. My youth was filled with rich cultural experiences and surrounded by love. As a first generation college student, my educational journey was new and, at times, challenging without much guidance from my family.

This is where the Trojan Family came into play. Although not physically sitting next to each other during our MAT@USC classes, the support that we all offered each other was amazing. Across states and countries, my classmates answered questions about assignments and topics. They comforted me in my struggles with being a mommy while simultaneously being a fulltime graduate student and holding a part-time teaching job. The Trojans that I developed friendships with through the MAT@USC are truly inspiring.

Ironic as it may be, the little man who inspired me to become an educator was the person whom I had to part with at times to fulfill my student duties. My son, Shaun Quincy, who was at the time four years old, is the inspiration, fire and motivation behind me becoming a teacher. Whenever I felt that I had given it my all, had nothing left and was ready to throw in the towel, Shaun was my number one fan and would push me, saying “Mommy, you can do it! I just know you can!” He sat with me countless hours at the library, reading his Magic Tree House series, while mommy studied and attended classes online.

This process not only forced me to grow as a learner and individual, but pushed my son as well. Now in first grade, he reads fifth grade books. I cannot help but give credit to USC for allowing me to set such a profound model of how extraordinary learning is! If Shaun hadn’t seen mommy dive into reading, learning and discussing the importance of education on a daily basis, I don’t know that he would now be so motivated to become a “scholar,” as he puts it.


Shayna's son and the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Phi Kappa Phi.

I was lucky to be invited to join the Phi Kappa Phi honors society and while at the initiation on campus, my son and I had the chance to meet the recipient of the lifetime achievement award. After meeting him, Shaun was asked, “Will you be a Trojan in the future, like your mommy and attend USC?” Seemingly embarrassed in a soft voice, Shaun replied, “No, sir. I am going to graduate from Harvard, sorry.”


This proved to me that MAT@USC has not only successfully instilled the love for knowledge in me, but a thirst for it in my now six-year-old son. Thank you, USC. You have changed my life forever in an extraordinary manner. Neither my family nor I will ever be the same individuals we were two years ago. I plan to inspire other children, as my son was, to encourage them to go for their dreams no matter how big and ensure them that they can achieve! Together with my fellow Trojans I will always, Fight On!

I end with a quote from the President of USC, C.L Max Nikias, that puts all of my experiences and motivations into perspective:

“We have always believed that education is the great equalizer for a society. Education lifts up the weak from despair, and it teaches humility to the mighty. Education is what teaches us to be fully human and to appreciate the full range of human experience in our own life. Education is what expands our lives to be as vast as the frontiers of the cosmos and the edges of eternity, and yet it gives us deep insight into the fleeting moments of our own inner existence.”