The Power of a Dream

The parents of Ricardo Ramos GS’21 had a dream—that their son would be the first in their family to finish high school and go to college. But Ramos dreamed bigger, earning a college degree and a master’s degree, and is nearing completion of a doctor of education degree in Bethel’s graduate school. Now he’s prepared to help others in marginalized communities do what his parents did for him: harness the power of a dream and pursue an education that changes everything.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

September 13, 2021 | 1 p.m.

Ricardo Ramos

Ricardo Ramos GS’21 is a faculty member at San Diego Christian College, serves in youth ministry, and is a graduate student in Bethel’s Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership program.

If there’s a theme to the life of Ricardo Ramos GS’21, it would be the power of a dream—specifically, the power of a dream of education. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school and the first to graduate from college. But he was just getting started. Ramos went on to earn a master’s degree, work in higher education, and is now pursuing a doctor of education degree in Bethel’s graduate school. “I have seen firsthand the power of education—it is transformative,” he says. “And I want to be transformative.”

Ramos’ educational path had its roots in the dreams of his parents, who immigrated from Mexico to California before he was born to seek better educational opportunities for their children. There were challenges: His parents spoke only Spanish, and the family experienced poverty despite his father’s job as a farm worker. Ramos didn’t speak English when he started school, and was subjected to bullying and misunderstanding as he tried to learn a new language and fit into an unfamiliar environment.

But his parents were steadfast. They firmly believed that education was the key to success, and they made sure Ramos got the support he needed. In high school, he switched school districts, and in his new surroundings he began to thrive—playing football and lacrosse, and studying unique and diverse offerings like graphic design, culinary arts, and guitar building. In his sophomore year—despite his family’s agnosticism at the time—he began following Christ, found a faith community, and met a youth pastor who encouraged his spiritual walk. 

Upon graduation, Ramos chose a Christian college in California to continue his education and spiritual development. He pursued a degree in nursing, working fulltime in healthcare to finance his education and serving in youth ministry at his church. But in his junior year, his busy life and educational path faced an unexpected detour. Ramos became very ill, was hospitalized for two months, then experienced an inexplicable healing—miraculous enough to convince his mother to accept Christ. In the aftermath, he changed his career path, graduating with a degree in nutrition and health education. That college degree, he says, he pursued “at all costs,” and it led him toward education as a possible career path.

Ramos wasn’t finished with his own educational pursuits. He got married and began a master’s degree in criminology, then worked in sexual violence and human trafficking prevention, which led him to research in Title IX protections for gender equity. He discovered a passion for research, and pursued it through a path that led to work in higher education. He served in admissions at Bethel Seminary San Diego for a time, then at San Diego Christian College in various roles—as adjunct faculty, director of student life, dean of students, and a fulltime faculty member. That work, in turn, led him to pursue a degree that would more fully support his goals and passions in higher education—Bethel’s Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership. “I’ve come full circle in my journey,” says Ramos, “and education has been the consistent component in everything I’ve done.”

“Bethel has modeled transparency in their communication and intentionality in their work in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Bethel is doing it right, and I want to finish my Ed.D. and work in higher education leadership so I can do it right too.”

— Ricardo Ramos GS’21

Ramos’s graduate research is a reflection of his personal experiences and passion. His dissertation work focuses on the Kumeyaay Indian Nation, a native people of San Diego County in Southern California. A number of Kumeyaay students attend San Diego Christian College, and Ramos was curious about the factors that help them persist to graduation. Like all of his educational pursuits, he has invested himself deeply, learning the Kumeyaay language and becoming involved in their community and cultural activities. He sees something of himself in them. “These students remind me of myself,” he says. “Growing up in a marginalized community, I shared their experiences. They’re characterized as defeatist, when they’re actually overcomers. I want to contribute to making changes in education for students like this—to open doors to higher education and equip leaders who are prepared to give back to their community. I want to pave the way for other communities the way my parents paved the way for me.”

He’s attending Bethel so he’s equipped to do just that, and he describes the experience as life transforming. “The coursework is so rich and application-based,” he says. “Every course has taught me applicable skills that have opened doors to my next career steps.” More important to Ramos, he has felt accepted and loved by the Bethel community—including everyone from high-level administrators to facilities staff he’s met on campus. “That’s what keeps me connected to Bethel,” he explains. “There is a consistent experience of servant leadership and love no matter who you are. There are no microaggressions. I just feel like a Bethel student. I’m just a Royal.”

That supportive community—plus his own relentless passion for the power of education—provides the motivation he needs to pursue the challenges of Ed.D. work. “There have been times when I feel ready to quit,” he says. “But Bethel has modeled two things that keep me going. One is transparency—in speaking out on difficult issues around race and in sharing the challenges the university faces institutionally. Bethel is doing it right, and I want to get this Ed.D. and work in higher education leadership so I can do it right too. The second is Bethel’s work in diversity, equity, and inclusion. They’re intentional about having hard conversations. I want to finish my Ed.D. so I can do this too.”

Pursue your passion. Refine your purpose.

At Bethel, we care about you and about who you want to become. That’s why we’re committed to providing transformative graduate education through a variety of master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and specialized certificates and licenses. Here, you’ll find yourself in true community—one that encourages holistic growth and equips you to step confidently into what’s next. 

Learn more