Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

November 1, 2017

OMA&D Scholarship Support, Instructional Center Open Doors for Cabantan

by Jenelle Birnbaum, UW Undergraduate Academic Affairs (originally published as the 2017 Academic & Student Affairs Combined Endowed Fund Report)

Cabantan Commencement Dorothy Cabantan’s journey to the University of Washington began before she was born. Eager to pursue the American dream, her mom filed an immigration petition to leave the Philippines. By the time the request was approved 20 years later, Cabantan was 17, about to graduate from high school and poised to enter a medical-track university program in her home country.

Even so, Cabantan quickly decided she was meant to be a Husky — especially after learning about the incredible opportunities for undergraduate research and the scope of majors available at the UW. “I’ve always been fascinated by biological systems, especially the brain,” she says. “As a leader in health care and research, the UW looked like an exceptional place for me to study.”

So Cabantan came to Seattle, acceptance letter in hand. But the transition wasn’t easy for her family — immigrating to the United States meant that her parents had to sacrifice financial security and career stability. “I am immensely grateful for all the support I received, including the OMA&D’s Gerberding Merit Scholarship,” says Cabantan. “Not only did I use it for school expenses like textbooks, but it also meant my parents could use money for household bills that would have otherwise gone toward school.”

“Without the IC, I wouldn’t have gained the confidence to pursue my major in neurobiology.” – Dorothy Cabantan

Cabantan knew she needed to catch up on her STEM prerequisite classes. Determined to succeed but unsure of the expectations for students here, she found support through the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity Instructional Center (IC), where she attended study sessions, lab writing workshops and built a network of peers. “I owe much of my success to this community,” Cabantan says.

“Without the IC, I wouldn’t have gained the confidence to pursue my major in neurobiology.”

She also learned from those around her at every opportunity. Her graduate student TAs played a key role in teaching her to think more critically when probing into scientific questions. As a science tutor for K-8 students through Undergraduate Academic Affairs’ Pipeline Project, Cabantan based her teaching philosophy on that of her role models, gently walking students through questions to solve problems.“Without the IC, I wouldn’t have gained the confidence to pursue my major in neurobiology.”

Motivated to learn more about the concepts she was studying in class, Cabantan dove into research alongside her faculty mentors. “The challenges posed by research pushed me to question existing beliefs and generate alternative solutions,” she says. And presenting her findings at the Undergraduate Research Symposium “allowed me to communicate my scientific work to people of diverse academic backgrounds.”

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Cabantan took advantage of many opportunities to enhance her undergraduate experience.

Early on, Cabantan also realized that being a student meant more than just acing her classes. With the goal of fostering connections with fellow Huskies, she joined the Associated Students of the University of Washington. She went on to serve as a Dawg Daze team captain, an undergraduate research leader, a Pipeline Project tutor, a mentor for OMA&D’s Mentor Power for Success Program, vice president for advertising for the UW TriBeta Biological Honor Society and a volunteer at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

With the help of scholarship support, Cabantan was able to focus her energy on her education both in and out of the classroom. Her exceptional academic success and service to the UW community even earned her a spot in the Husky 100 and as one of six student banner carriers for the 2017 commencement ceremony.

Equipped with a world-class education, Cabantan plans to continue serving others by becoming a physician. “My passion for equitable, patient-centered care is a direct result of growing up in a third-world nation where basic health care is deemed a privilege by many, instead of a right,” she says. “One day, I hope to translate my undergraduate studies and medical training in the U.S. into providing health care for underserved communities here and in the rural Philippines.”