Where did you live before coming to UW and/or where are you from originally?

My family immigrated to the United States from Baja California, in Mexico, during the early 2000s. My parents searched for the best fit for quite some time before settling in Washington; we spent some time in California, Arizona, and Utah before they ultimately decided to settle down in Washington state. The small town where I grew up was located on Whidbey Island, just two hours outside of Seattle. My high school graduating class was about 50 people, and our local community college had about 4,000 students — coming to UW was certainly an adjustment to the small-town life that I had become accustomed to.

What is your background in public health/global health?

I am a social worker by training and much of my experience has been tied to health outcomes of undocumented populations. I’ve also been involved in research within the School of Social Work at UW that is focused on LGBTQ+ health, often connecting the two to try and address health outcomes within undocumented LGBTQ+ populations. My efforts were made in collaboration with organizations like Entre Hermanos, Gay City, and Harborview's Madison Clinic. Through my work, I’ve attempted to connect my queer identity with my undocumented status to better serve my communities.

Furthermore, I was a also member of the Seattle Mayor's Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault's human trafficking division as well as a volunteer for the King County Public Health Department's needle exchange program.

Why did you choose to get your MPH in global health at the UW?

I attended UW for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work. Navigating higher education is difficult, but as a DACA beneficiary it can be even more challenging because of your tenuous legal status. As a first-generation student in graduate school, UW provided me with a wealth of resources and connections to help me navigate this landscape. In addition to the prestige of the institution, the global health program at UW is well connected to public health organizations in the region, which makes you a more competitive candidate for public health jobs upon graduation. My mentors and other professionals I look up to have also obtained their degrees in Public Health at UW, and that certainly influenced my decision to enroll in the program as well.

What has the cohort experience been like for you (so far)?

Building relationships with other students who share similar interests but have diverse educational and professional backgrounds has been incredibly rewarding. Since the program encourages collaboration, I've made use of the bonds I've already built to ask for help or advice from others and I've also made myself available to assist cohort mates to the best of my ability. Our success so far has come from playing to each other's strengths and working together, and I'm extremely grateful for the connections I've made thus far and those I’ll build as the program continues on. The diversity of the program also allows me to gain a unique perspective on a variety of cultures around the world through the eyes of my fellow cohort mates.

What do you enjoy most about Seattle?

Apart from living near a lot of great shopping and dining, another benefit of living in Seattle is the proximity to nature. Within an hour's drive you can enjoy some of the most gorgeous scenery in the entire Pacific Northwest. Seattle holds a special place in my heart as it's been home to me for the last couple of years. I've made so many friends and memories here. I will always have a connection to the Pacific Northwest but more specifically Seattle since it played a vital role in my transition into adulthood. The city within which a school is located must also be considered when choosing a program that you’ll spend two years in, and I don't think you can do any better than Seattle.

What advice do you have for students interested in applying to the program?

Don't let the imposter syndrome hold you back. Be confident in your accomplishments thus far and know what you offer. You are not obligated to follow the same academic or professional path as those already enrolled, so there is no need to feel pressured to follow any particular path. All of us come from different academic and professional backgrounds, and as a result, we have unique perspectives to offer during the application process while also ensuring a richer learning environment once admittance is gained. Let your experience speak for itself and don’t compare your journey to that of someone else. The global health field is open for all of us, and we will need every bit of support we can get as we continue on in this pandemic.