Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

Over the last 50 years, programs within the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity have transformed the lives of thousands of students. We’ve put a call out for alumni, students and staff who have been impacted by OMA&D to share their stories with us. Read their first-person accounts by clicking on their names…(and be sure to check back frequently. This page is being updated as submissions come in). We’d love for you to join us! Share your story here to be included or tell us via social media using the hastag #uwomad50.

Amaris Penaloza-Rayo

Amaris Penaloza-Rayo, ’18

Orientation Leader for UW First-Year Programs

B.A., American Ethnic Studies; Spanish

My Story: When thinking back about my time at UW, I can’t help but to think about the OMA&D programs that were there for me. During my freshman year, if it wasn’t for CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program), I would’ve felt out of place in this large institution and not have had a support system that helped me navigate how to make the most of my time at UW. Also, if weren’t for places like the Instructional Center and the Ethnic Cultural Center, I wouldn’t have found my now closest friends and have places that I can identify as my home-away-from-home. However, I would be most ever grateful for all the scholarship support OMA&D has given me because not only did I feel financially secure as a student who had no parental financial support, but also gave me the courage to do other great things, like study abroad three times, be an Orientation Leader, be an officer for an RSO and so much more!

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… explore the different communities UW offers and get out my comfort zone.

OMA&D in one word…Knowledge

Alina & Rachel

Alina Aleaga and Rachel Aleaga-Tofa

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Alina Aleaga, ’15, ’18

B.A., Anthropology & American Ethnic Studies

M.A., Leadership in Higher Education

Rachel Aleaga-Tofa, ’12, ’14

B.A., Medical Anthropology & Global Health

M.A., Leadership & Policy Studies

Currently: Alina is a graduate staff assistant for the Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program (GO-MAP) and Rachel is an academic advisor-lead for OMA&D’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)

Our Story: We utilized EOP Advising very frequently. Without the support of our academic advisers and the EOP team we wouldn’t have made it to where we are today. They were key to our success at the university. We also utilized the Instructional Center, Early Identification Program and the Ethnic Cultural Center which was our second home.

Without the support of OMA&D, we would not be able to… be the first person in my family and extended family to graduate with my Bachelors and my Master’s Degree!

OMA&D in one word… Aiga (Samoan for Family)

Phounsouk Sivilay

Phounsouk Sivilay, ’14 (Stanford)

Director of Product Management – Comcast (Philadelphia, Pa.)

B.S., Engineering – Product Design (Stanford, ’14)

My Story: Growing up in an intercity-urban school with low graduation rates, it was near impossible to completely understand the college application process. From SAT prep, to the common app, to supplements, to interviews, to personal statements, to letters of recommendations, to scholarship apps, all with different deadlines, any 17-year old would have a difficult time navigating all these requirements. Luckily, I had UW’s Upward Bound program to guide me through this intricate process. Weekly check-ins with mentors ensured I was staying on track for deadlines, reviewing my application/essays with mentors helped me improve how I communicated my unique story. Even something as simple as covering application fees was instrumental during that time of my life. Upward
Bound was a community of mentors and students who supported each other for a goal; getting into college. Upward Bound helped me get into my dream school – Stanford University. I now work as a Director of Product Management for Xfinity Mobile in Philadelphia, Pa.

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… achieve my dreams of attending Stanford University on a full-ride through the Bill & Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship!

OMA&D in one word…Supportive


Antoinette Pratt

Antoinette Pratt, ’87

Construction-Senior Planner, City of Bellevue

B.S., Political Science (UW)

Master of Regional Planning (Cornell University, ’89)

My Story: I worked in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) advising office with Mae Scott and Emile Pitre my freshman year. I also entered UW via EOP. It was wonderful being both a student and employee in the office because it helped me meet students like myself. It made the university more comfortable because I graduated from high school in Kansas and did not have any social ties with the institution. By the end of my freshman year, I felt comfortable being at UW. It helped me be able to focus and succeed in obtaining my degree.

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… feel comfortable at such a large institution. The students that I met in the EOP office became lifelong friends. It also provided wonderful counseling and direction in navigating course requirements for graduation.

OMA&D in one word…Supportive

Dr. Donna Bolima

Dr. Donna Bolima, ’88, ’04, ’12

Instructor and Staff, UW Upward Bound Program

B.A., English/Gender Studies

M.Ed., Multicultural Education

Ed.D., Curriculum Specialist

My Story: As a UW undergraduate, I was an EOP student recently moved from Southeast Alaska and met an Alaska Native student in a class who suggested I check out tutoring where he worked. Thus began my work in the EOP Writing Center. In the next few years, I cemented relationships and a raison d’etre towards a career in teaching-a passion ignited in Alaska and furthered through mentors such as Gail Okawa in the Writing Center.

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… develop and explore the dimensions involved in education, equity pedagogy and student empowerment. I now had a supportive and informative community in the EOP Instructional Center which included Dr. Deirdre Raynor –also working there. I received a Tutor Recognition and EOP Award in 1988 and as graduation neared, Dr. Raynor referred me to the Upward Bound Director Karen Morell who hired me as a Tech Lab instructor that summer. Hence began a grand 30-year journey of work with the UW Upward Bound Program, students, and OMA&D.

OMA&D in one word…Empowerment

Natalia Esquival Silva

Natalia Esquival Silva, ’18, ’19

Graduate student in the Leadership in Higher Ed Program

B.A., Education, Communities and Organizations

M.A., Leadership in Higher Education

My Story: Upward Bound and GEAR UP helped me reach college, but the Instructional Center, Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center and EOP Advising helped me continue college through all of the unknowns and all the “firsts.” The EOP Advising team has been vital to me accessing resources, learning about professional opportunities and believing in my capability to accomplish my goals.

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… understand how to navigate the high demands of university life.

OMA&D in one word…Family


Dr. Gabriel Gallardo

Dr. Gabriel Gallardo, ’89, ’93, ’00

Associate Vice President, Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Geography

My Story: I am a proud EOP alum. I received support from the EOP program and participated in many activities at the Ethnic Cultural Center. I also used the Instructional Center in my first couple of years when I was a pre-engineering major. These programs provided a sense of community and meaningful connection when I felt isolated on this large campus. My affiliation with OMA&D programs also enabled me to meet my future spouse, Veronica Gallardo (also an EOP student), who I met while hanging out with OMA&D peers at the HUB. My life and academic career would not be the same without these important resources on our campus while I was an undergraduate student.

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… have completed my undergraduate education, met the love of my life and have the great fortune of working professionally for the organization that provided the foundation for my future. I am forever grateful for the people and resources that OMA&D provided me when I was a student. I now have the opportunity to give back to the students who are coming through the pipeline.

OMA&D in one word…Family, excellence and a jewel on our campus.

Kaya Warrior

Kaya Warrior, ’18

Student Assistant at the Kelly ECC and a MOR Student Ambassador

B.A., Sociology & Spanish

My Story: When I first entered the UW, I felt so lost and uncomfortable with college as a whole. Everything was very impersonal and I felt like just a number, until the last quarter of my freshman year when I got hired by the Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, Multicultural Outreach & Recruitment and began to utilize the Instructional Center. I finally began to understand myself, my place and my right at the UW. It made our big university feel smaller, where I could connect with multiple groups and feel a sense of community. Without OMA&D, I would’ve risked dropping out of college because I didn’t understand my worth or my purpose as a student of color on campus.

Now, I am happy to report that I am giving back to underrepresented communities in Washington by recruiting students of color through the MOR program, just as I was recruited back in high school. I also have a home away from home in the ECC. I use my experiences through OMA&D to demonstrate to minority students that “Hey, we can do this!”

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to…understand my importance and my value as a multi-ethnic student on a predominantly White campus.

OMA&D in one word…Empowering

Lorna Hamill

Lorna Hamill, ’12

Academic Counselor with the UW Department of American Ethnic Studies

B.A., American Ethnic Studies

My Story: After a 30-year gap from school, I made my way back to the University of Washington determined to graduate. I recall the day I went to EOP Advising and met with my adviser, Linda Ando. Her kindness and sincere consideration and respect were pure. She was non-judgmental and assured me I could return to school and that I would be successful. I was ashamed of my past failures and I doubted myself for being the “old” person surrounded by young adults. Linda coaxed me away from my doubts. She convinced me that my age didn’t matter. She focused my attention on my determination and that it was what mattered most. I loved her confidence and the calming of her voice. Like a hypnotist, she helped me through the complexities of getting reinstated and counseled me to leave my emotional pain in the past. I can’t thank her enough for her guidance in helping me find my degree program. By 2012, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in American Ethnic Studies. Five years later, I am now the academic adviser for AES working collaboratively with EOP Advising. Linda inspired me to do the work I do today and I credit her for guiding me to AES and for showing me the confidence I had possessed but doubted. I am a proud Husky alumna and academic adviser at the UW living out my dream job. Thank you OMA&D for the gift of Linda and EOP Advising!

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… return to the UW and graduate. After the 30-year gap and changes in registration, I’d be challenged to find the confidence and emotional strength to make it through reinstatement. EOP Advising helped me maneuver the system to a successful return and graduation.

OMA&D in one word…CRUCIAL


Jennifer Morales Mata

Jennifer Morales Mata, ’17, ’18

MSW Practicum Student at El Centro De La Raza for a Youth Job Training Readiness Program

B.A., M.S.W., Social Work

My Story: My first year at UW, I took on challenging courses that required a lot of my time in the Instructional Center. It was a welcoming and very busy space, but regardless of the tight space, there were always tutors ready to support me and help me understand concepts. After realizing STEM was not the career I wanted to pursue (not because of the challenging classes), I branched more into the social service profession and realized serving underrepresented youth and populations was where my heart was. Around that time, I became more involved on campus and started participating in OMA&D programs such as cultural events at the Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center and EOP advising, as well as CAMP. Soon after, I became a MOR ambassador which shaped my college experience. I met lifelong friends through my co-workers, employers and mentors. I am so grateful that OMA&D has amazing programs such as MOR and CAMP that not only provide an amazing experience for UW students, but reaches underrepresented students to help them strive through higher education. They provided a safe, supportive, and diverse space where I got to call a second home, which is crucial in such a large institution.

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… leave my college setting and know exactly who I want to serve and advocate for in my future work in the social work profession.

OMA&D in one word…Voice

Jerrilyn Hamley

Jerrilyn Hamley, ’77, ’78

Retired Certified School Counselor

B.A., Communications

M.A., Educational Psychology and Human Services

My Story: I had a wonderful experience at UW. I went to college and worked at Northwest Indian News at the same time. It was the work study program through the Financial Aid/scholarship program that made that happen for me. Imagine actually working in the career I was actually being trained in! EOP advisers always checked in with me to see how I was doing and if I needed anything. I always felt like they were there for ME, as a Native American student.

Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… navigate the big system alone as an undergraduate student. I would not have had the rich academic and practical work study experience in the Native American community that I did.

OMA&D in one word…Support

Abigail Sevilla

Abigail Sevilla, ’18

Student studying early childhood education and nutritional science

B.A., Early Childhood & Family Studies

My Story: Growing up as a child of a Honduran immigrant and being the oldest of seven, I developed a resilient mindset. At UW, my life was changed the moment I got here. By having support from the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, advisors, peers and professionals, I became empowered to learn and dream big. With the help of resources like EOP Advising, the Instructional Center, the Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, the College of Education, studying abroad and scholarships, my student experience at the University of Washington has influenced me to perform at my fullest potential. CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) especially, thank you for helping me find my light, be my voice, and choosing me despite wanting to quit and put my education on hold. Looking back, I would have never thought school would mean so much to me so thank you for caring so much. Without the support of OMA&D, I would not have had the success that I have. Through the many different experiences offered, I have learned to pursue knowledge and stay positive in the midst of adversity. One day, I hope to apply my learned skills to international settings. As a student studying Early Childhood Education and Nutritional Science, I aspire to improve the health of children of the world’s most vulnerable populations. SO grateful.

OMA&D in one word…Supportive