Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Justin Hoffmann
Justin Hoffmann UC Berkeley, Political Economy

From real estate to business to recreation administration and finally to political economy: that’s the journey that CSM student Justin Hoffmann has followed in his pursuit of a major. While at CSM, he was exposed to experiences and opportunities that inspired him to choose a major which would prepare him to help people in some of the most underdeveloped areas of the world.

When he graduated from San Mateo High School in 2008, Justin received the “Most Changed Senior Award,” which he admits aptly described his high school experience. “I didn’t do well my first few years of high school because I lacked perspective about the future, but in my senior year, I turned it around.” He was also the recipient of a CSM scholarship which provided an incentive to attend the college. As a first generation college student, he didn’t know what to expect when he arrived on campus, but he recognized that he was given an exceptional opportunity.

Justin found his instructors and the staff to be “wonderful resources” that were eager to see students grow. “I had incredible professors, especially Professor of Philosophy Dave Danielson – he challenged me, exposed me to new ideas and outlooks, and most importantly, introduced me to the beauty of philosophy.” As he began to consider universities, Justin became acquainted with CSM’s Transfer Services and its coordinator Mike Mitchell. “Mike Mitchell is everything you could want in a transfer specialist.” Initially, he planned on transferring to a CSU campus; however, after being encouraged by his counselor, Joseph Tobener, Justin set his sights on attending UC Berkeley.

As he adjusted to college life and learned what CSM had to offer, Justin joined the college's honor societies: Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Gamma Sigma, and he became involved in student government as a student senator. He also served as a student ambassador in CSM’s outreach program and working as a liaison between the college and his alma mater, San Mateo High.

Justin participated in two internships that proved pivotal in his ultimate career choice. Through connections made in his marketing class, Justin took part in a local internship with, "Shopping for a Change,” a non-profit that partners with small organizations from underdeveloped nations, empowering local women artisans to move from poverty to self-sufficiency through an international market and fair trade practices. His next internship, with the world renowned, Nobel Peace Prize awarded Grameen Bank, took him around the world to Dhaka, Bangladesh. As an intern for Grameen, he visited rural villages, inspected micro-enterprises initiated by female microloan recipients and learned of the impact made by Grameen’s sister companies.

To share the fruits of his community college journey, Justin is writing a book for transfer-bound students that focuses on “becoming holistically successful and transferring to top universities.” Reflecting on his CSM experience he offers the following advice: "Develop proper habits, along with your critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills; be proactive about understanding and meeting every single university requirement; undertake interesting endeavors related to your major; and most importantly, meticulously understand why your educational goals are of utmost importance at this point in your life."

During his two years at CSM, Justin made the dean’s list every semester and was awarded several scholarships that helped to pay for the next step: UC Berkeley, where he transferred to in fall 2011 as a political economy major. His career goal is to work for an international development agency and direct the flow of development aid to maximize its social and economic impact within developing countries. Not bad for a student who had a rocky start in high school!

“I would not have been successful if I didn’t attend CSM. Every experience attained here allowed me to learn, wonder and challenge not only myself, but the status quo. From a global point of view, CSM has given me the comparatively rare opportunity of having a chance to transfer to one of the best universities in America. From the beginning, I understood how lucky I was to have such an opportunity, and ensured that I would take full advantage of it.""