The more history Marlon Urquico creates in Las Vegas, the more he loves his city and hometown university. That enthusiasm comes across as soon as students sit down with the Honors College’s new assistant director of advising, retention, progression and completion management & initiatives.
A first-generation college graduate, Urquico earned both his B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from UNLV. Now he helps students chart their own paths by offering recommendations on everything from courses to extracurriculars to the best restaurants in Las Vegas.
What initially drew you to UNLV as an undergraduate?
As a Las Vegas native who genuinely loves this city, I never dreamed of attending any college other than UNLV. Because no one in my family had attended college before me, navigating the complexities of higher education was daunting. I only figured it out with the help of friends, supportive professors, and academic advisors. (Shout out to Derek Sommer and Tracy Johnson who are still at UNLV!)
Why study history?
I have been fascinated by our country’s socio-political past since I was a kid. I remember being captivated by the photos in my seventh grade U.S. history textbook. In college, I gravitated toward studying periods of upheaval in American history, particularly the Civil War and the social unrest of the 1960s. In those periods, we get to see real people confronting hugely contentious situations, where they asked themselves, “How are we going to handle this?” Understanding their responses to tumultuous times can help us as we ask the same questions today.
What led you to academic advising?
In grad school, I had an opportunity to work as an academic coach in the Academic Success Center. The experience helped me realize that I wanted to devote my career to being a resource that students could turn to for help, particularly first-generation students like myself. Academic Advising was the natural path to take. Now, after spending seven years as an academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts, I’m excited to work with students from a wider variety of majors in the Honors College.
Biggest misconception about academic advising?
Many people assume that we just talk through degree requirements. But advisors do so much more than that. As an advisor, I want to listen to understand each student’s unique challenges and help them overcome obstacles by offering guidance and resources. I’m their cheerleader, their supporter, and, sometimes, their only confidant. I love being in the trenches with all of my students and seeing them overcome obstacles.
Place on campus you feel most relaxed?
The book stacks of Lied Library. I’ve always loved this building since the days that I was a student. I love being surrounded by books and the quietness is peaceful.
Most significant object in your office?
I have a framed book jacket of Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations 1789-1973 by Dr. Andy Fry of the UNLV history department. Dr. Fry served as my committee chairman in graduate school and was a true mentor for me. He’s the type of instructor I aspire to be to my students every time I walk into the classroom to teach.
Best day on campus?
Without a doubt, it was the day I learned that I passed all of my comprehensive exams for my master’s degree in April 2013. In graduate school, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed and doubting my ability to succeed. But thanks to the encouragement of people who believed in me, I pushed through it.
Tell us about a time in your life you were daring.
On our last day at the 2019 NACADA conference in Hawaii, I went skydiving with my former-advisor-turned-colleague Tracy. It was exhilarating. But, while I was happy to check it off on my bucket list, I will never skydive again. Motion sickness hit me hard, which made for a miserable five-hour flight back to Vegas!
Silver lining from the pandemic?
The threat of COVID-19 actually motivated me to finally take better care of my health. I became more conscious of what I ate and started going to the gym regularly. As difficult as the pandemic has been, I’m grateful that it helped me prioritize getting healthy.