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My OMA&D Story

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 the plus sign in each profile (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 hashtag #uwomad50.

Teresa Smith
Teresa Smith, ’87

B.S., Mathematics

My Story: I was one of the few females in any of my upper level math classes for my junior and senior years. I struggled with some of the theoretical math courses and I especially had trouble with understanding and breaking down ‘story’ type problems. I did not feel comfortable asking fellow students for assistance because I was worried that they might feel I did not belong in this program if I needed so much help. I do not remember how I came to seek help from the Instructional Center but it changed my perception of how to approach math problems and was able to get through the tougher courses with a much better grasp of what I was doing and why. In turn, I later began to work at the Instructional Center as a tutor for lower level math courses and was able to give back to those who struggled as I did a few years earlier. I am forever grateful for having access to the Center and all that they do to help students succeed. I have had a successful 25-year career as a software developer and I owe it all to what I learned at the UW!
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… stop struggling to keep up with the rest of my classmates academically.
OMA&D in one word…Accessible

Fabio Pena
Fabio Pena, ’16

B.A., Social & Cultural Communications

My Story: My first year at UW was the most challenging for me because of adapting to life in the big city, experiencing culture shock, and learning to study at the university level. Due to a lack of financial resources, I was not able to afford on-campus housing, and thanks to the CAMP program, an adviser helped me find an affordable apartment that was a 30-minute bus ride (at peak times) north of campus. My first day of school felt overwhelming because I had never used public transportation before and I remember I had to leave my home more than an hour before class started to make sure I arrived on time. This was discouraging because other students simply had a 10-minute walk from their dorms to class.
However, I was determined to succeed and my first quarter consisted of visiting the Ethnic Cultural Center, Instructional Center, and EOP Advising on a regular basis. At the ECC, I met other students like me who felt lost and I was able to create a circle of friends I related to. I also became involved in organizations that exposed me to different cultures that made me realize how richly diverse the UW really was. Even though I met other Latinos who were from Eastern, Wash., like me, I realized we all grew up and were raised differently, which gave me a culture shock. I was excited that I was living a new world with a different perspective.
Most evenings were spent preparing for exams at the Instructional Center or visiting EOP advising to get help planning my classes for the remainder of the year, as well as the next three years. All the tutors and staff were very friendly and welcoming which made me feel not alone. I knew I had someone to go to.
Without the support of OMA&D, we would not be able to… have made it this far in my career in terms of the network I’ve built or academic support I needed to graduate.
OMA&D in one word… Family

Lauren Huynh
Lauren Huynh, ’18

B.A., Medical Anthropology and Global Health

My Story: After hearing about the IC my sophomore year. I studied there religiously for all biology and organic chemistry classes. This is where I met many friends and made a lot of study groups with other students who had the same goal I did. I also met with instructors like Ray Malfavon-Borja and Scott Fung. These two instructors went above and beyond in insuring I was successful not just in school, but my life as well. They not only will always be my mentors, but they will always be my lifelong friends as well. With their guidance I am pleased to announce that I have been accepted to Washington State University Pharmacy school where I will be attending this fall. Thanks for everything!
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… be successful
OMA&D in one word…Attentive


Eric Garcia

Eric Garcia, ’17, '20

B.A., Geography (Globalization, Health and Development)

M.A., Health Administration

My Story: I used a variety of resources throughout the duration of my undergraduate, but what made the most impact in my life were the people. From the staff at the Instructional Center to the College Assistance Migrant Program team. They all provided a safe space for students of color to come together and learn the roles that we would be taking in changing the world around us. Through the support of the OMA&D programs and our community, I have earned the opportunity to pursue my master’s degree at the University of Washington in health administration. In my journey at UW, I do not see how I would have made it through if I did have this support and I am forever grateful. Thank you.
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… pursue my dreams.
OMA&D in one word…Strength

Kenyacktie Hartshorn
Kenyacktie Hartshorn, ’04, '10

B.A., Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

Psy.D., Clinical Psychology

My Story: In 1993-1994, I accessed the Instructional Center on a near daily basis during the school week. The IC and their dedicated staff were stabilizing forces to help me build my academic skills and develop confidence. The IC gave me a sense of belonging and helped me to excel. After taking a break and fulfilling family commitments I transferred to UWT to finish. Eventually, I went on to earn a masters and doctorate in clinical psychology. Without the foundation of the IC I would not have progressed.
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… develop academic persistence in the face of stereotype threat and my own real and perceived academic weaknesses. As the first college graduate in my family of origin, I had many questions and challenges. It was at the IC that I had a safe way to ask questions and thrive under the expertise of staff who were as enthused about tutoring as I was about learning. In the process my skill set grew. To this day I still advise potential UW students to consider what the IC has to offer and share my experience.
OMA&D in one word…Interconnectedness

Stanislau Kabacheuski
Stanislau Kabacheuski, '15

B.A., Busness (Accounting, Finance)

My Story: The Instructional Center was the main reason I could keep up with other students in my classes. I had applied and been rejected two times before getting into my major. And I truly believe that it was the IC that made the difference the third time. With the help of Writing Center, I was able to improve my essay skills. Moreover, it was their help with my scholarship application after I got into my major that made a huge difference, as I was paying for college on my own. Now, I am a lead senior auditor at one of the Big 4 firms, but I wouldn’t be able to become who I am today without the IC’s help.
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… either get into my major or be able to afford it.
OMA&D in one word…Powerful


Arpita Campo

Arpita Campo, '92

B.A., Business Administration

My Story: The IC was life-changing for me. I was struggling to understand my statistics class, and wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I came to the IC and met warm, caring tutors who thought of me as a unique individual, and gave me the self-confidence to do well. I will always be grateful for the IC.
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… achieve an undergraduate degree in business administration.
OMA&D in one word… Amazing

Andre La Rosa

Andre La Rosa, ’17

B.S., Civil & Environmental Engineering

My Story: The Instructional Center helped me get through my pre-engineering classes. Anyone who has had to take the Chem 14X series or the Physics 12X series knows that a large lecture size and sporadic TA availability makes getting help difficult. The review sessions held at the IC helped me understand the topics and set me up for success. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have been as competitive a student in CoE applications as I was.
The Ethnic Cultural Center was a place for me to attend FASA meetings, meet my engineering mentor through FASA, and pass that knowledge forward to the next class.
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to…get into my engineering major.
OMA&D in one word…Essential

Mariya Sweetwyne
Mariya Sweetwyne, ’03

B.S., Zoology & Cell Biology (UW, ’03)

Ph.D., Cell & Molecular Biology (Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham, ’09)

My Story: The Instructional Center was a game changer for me. I came in as a STEM freshman and immediately felt lost. I struggled with my chemistry and physics course work and was barely scraping by. In the first quarter of my sophomore year, I dropped all my classes and left the UW, thinking that college wasn’t going to be a pathway for me. After a year away, I decided to try again. On my second try I heard about the IC and after one visit I felt a huge rush of relief. I went to the IC almost every day for two years. The tutoring center helped me to get through the courses that were very foreign to me. I started to enjoy learning about previously (to me) intimidating subjects. More importantly, they introduced me to a whole group of students who had a wide array of gifts and challenges. It no longer felt embarrassing to struggle with a particular course. The encouragement that I received from the other students, teachers and especially from Emile Pitre, changed the narrative for me. I had been told that I wasn’t ever going to be a good enough student to find a spot in graduate school, and the IC showed me that I was the only person who could decide what kind of student I would become. People who meet me now are surprised to find that I found my STEM prerequisites so challenging. I appreciate the opportunity to share this story because I wish that I had known then that a bad freshman year is something you can live down if you put in the work, and I hope it finds some student who is currently underestimating their own abilities. You don’t have to figure it out alone!
Without the support of OMA&D, I would not be able to… say that I have my dream job as a Ph.D. biomedical researcher at the University of Washington!
OMA&D in one word…Community


Amaris Penaloza-Rayo
Amaris Penaloza-Rayo, ’18

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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