Daisy Linsangan spent four years scraping by in community college as a part-time student. Academically challenged in high school, she struggled to decide what she wanted to study while also trying to work enough hours to afford tuition—holding jobs from cosmetic inspector to tutor to retail clerk.

After years of floundering, a class in anthropology, witchcraft, and religion lit a fire inside her.

“I absolutely fell in love with it—the idea of learning about different cultures, wanting to explore meaning behind culture, and doing research to that end,” said Linsangan, who is graduating this week with a degree in anthropology and certificate in forensic identification. “I saw that truth is relative based on what culture you are from and how you are raised. When I learned about that, I saw the world through a different lens.”

She began to research four-year universities, and Chico State became her top choice because of its renowned anthropology program. Linsangan cried tears of joy when she was accepted and, though a bit nervous, moved nine hours away from her hometown of Baldwin Park in fall 2019 to navigate the college experience as a first-generation student.

When anthropology professor Brian Brazeal met Linsangan in an upper-division “Linguistic Anthropology” course that first semester, “I couldn’t really have missed her,” he said, noting, “She sat front and center with long, bright green hair and impeccable punk-rock style.”

As the weeks went on, it was clear Linsangan stood out for more than her appearance. While the theory in the class can often be obscure, she was driven to learn and performed exceptionally—as would be the case in every class she took.

“Students like Daisy make me really proud to teach at Chico State. She overcame so much to make it here. Then when she arrived she found the opportunities that she needed to thrive as a person and as a young scholar,” Brazeal said. “She is absolutely determined to squeeze every last drop of knowledge that she can from our department … and can be an inspiration to future cohorts of students.”

Daisy Linsangan writes on a clipboard near a table with model human remains.
Daisy Linsangan encourages other students to pursue their dreams—no matter what they are, “You will point yourself in the direction that you want to go. The opportunities are really limitless as long as you plan it out, do your research, and set time for your future.”

Before the pandemic struck and moved classes online, Linsangan cultivated a friendship with fellow anthropology major Magaly Quinteros. Together, they undertook an independent ethnographic research project related to COVID-19 on a topic to which they felt a personal connection—the social and political forces behind COVID-19 infections and deaths among the Latinx population working in the meat-packing industry in the Central Valley.

With support from the Adelante Summer Program and anthropology professor Will Nitzky as their research mentor, Linsangan and Quinteros began their project despite tight restrictions on field research. The duo contacted and interviewed workers, examined scholarly literature, and pored through social media to analyze posts and discussions.

Throughout the project, Nitzky said he was impressed by Linsangan’s dedication, acute attention to detail, and effort to dig deeper to multiple perspectives. She and Magaly uncovered hazardous working conditions in meat-packing plants, implications of a federal executive order to keep meat-packing plants open, the consequences of hierarchies that exist among workers and aspects of labor exploitation, and the psychological and economic impact of COVID-19 on Latinx workers and their families. 

“For anthropology, being culturally sensitive and observant is crucial. Daisy has stood out as a listener and critical thinker, always conscientious and sensitive to the voice of others, and thoughtful to give others space to express themselves,” Nitzky said. “I always honor my students’ opinions and thoughts, and I have been impressed by the fact that Daisy, while being mindful and respectful, has even pushed back when she felt something should be done differently or explored further.” 

He is exploring opportunities for the student researchers to publish their work, and they have been invited by a professor from the University of Iowa to collaborate on a grant with the Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Linsangan’s passion to expose injustices and improve the well-being of others came through in the project, Nitzky said, but it has also been evident in her work in Student Services, where she worked as a peer advisor to support fellow students in challenges both academic and personal.

“Daisy is a bright, passionate, outgoing, thoughtful, and courageous person,” Nitzky said. “It will certainly contribute to her pursuit of higher education in applied anthropology and social work, as she continues to fight for social justice.”

After completing her undergraduate degree this month, Linsangan plans to take a year off so that she can raise enough money for her first year of tuition in graduate school. This summer, she’s headed to St. Croix in the Caribbean through a project with Texas State University. Working with a bioarcheologist, she will research a leper hospital from the early 20th century and examine how globalization affected the area.

Her mom, who fled to the United States as refugees from Central America, and her dad, who is from the Philippines, only speak a little English and they don’t have a firm understanding of what she wants to do in the future, “but I know they are really proud of me,” she said.

Now, with her sights set on a master’s degree, and maybe even a PhD, Linsangan is trying to explain to them that her education is not yet over.

“There is a common discourse with immigrant parents and their first-gen children that you go on to work, which is what I have already done, but I still want to be a student,” she said. “It’s what I dream to pursue. I don’t see myself as a person who is going to stop learning because I think people should learn something every day.”