Jeff Gates

“To understand Guam, you have to understand our Chamorro culture. It’s really all based on friendships and close family ties.”

When Jeff Gates packed his bags and left his native island of Guam—a US territory—there was one piece of ‘baggage’ that didn’t make the trip with him. A whole lot of university credits. “Most colleges would have accepted my credits from the University of Guam. But since SMC transfers so many students to prestigious universities like UCLA,” explains Jeff, “they have a lot more rigorous standards. So now I’m pretty much studying a lot of the fundamentals all over again.” But Jeff has discovered that one class he’s immersed in is way beyond the basics.

“I’m studying Physical Anthropology with Jan Austin, and it’s the most difficult class I’ve ever had—by far. It’s very tough because it prepares people for the biological sciences, and deals a lot with molecular and other sorts of biology in general. I think it’s much tougher than a similar course you could find at any university. And Jan is one of the pioneers in this field,” says Jeff. “She’s been teaching this for 30 years, and her knowledge is spectacular.” Jeff says that science has always been his bailiwick. “In fact, one of my absolute heroes is Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway. But he’s also done notable pioneering work in biomedical devices; notably, the automatic drug infusion pump. And it’s that interface between mechanical engineering and the natural sciences that I find so very fascinating.”

Jeff hopes to get his ‘credits rating’ back up, and then transfer to UCLA. “This is just my first semester here, but I’ve already found SMC to be an amazing place. Sure, I chose to come here because of the transfer rate,” he says. “But I’m actually stunned by the academic standards of this college, and the overall quality of its teachers.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.​