Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

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2019 Graduate Spotlights

There are some exceptional students graduating this year, so we had to spotlight them! Check out their U experiences/accomplishments and what words of advice they give to current and future students.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion  •  April 29, 2019

Estefanie Aguilar Padilla

She, Her, Hers

Bachelor of Science, Economics & Ethnic Studies

Estefanie Aguilar Padilla (she/her/hers) is graduating with two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Bachelor of Science in Ethnic Studies. While at the U, Estefanie was involved with several organizations, such as Diversity Scholars, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA), SOMOS Dreamers, Beacon Scholars, McNair Scholars, the University of Utah Prison Education Project (UPEP), and Sorenson Impact. She attributes both Diversity Scholars and MEChA to creating a second home and community on campus, “my involvement with MEChA really opened up opportunities for me and that’s how I was able to get involved in other amazing opportunities on campus throughout my undergraduate career. I gained amazing mentors who have vouched for me and given me extremely valuable support/insight and friends who became my support system”. Starting in the Fall, Estefanie will begin graduate school through the U’s Master of Statistics in Econometrics Program. Additionally, she will be working with the Research Collaborative on Higher Education in Prison, which she is planning to continue studying in a future Ph.D. program. Estefanie’s advice to incoming and current students:

“Don’t ever let anyone downplay what you’re going through or make you feel like your struggles aren’t valid or real. Don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. Figure out what’s right for you in order to be successful and just know there’s plenty of people on this campus who you can turn to if you ever need it. Don’t ever feel like you have to go through things alone.”

Iasia Beh

She, Her, Hers

Bachelor of Science, Communication

Iasia Beh (she/her/hers) is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. During her undergrad, Iasia was involved in the Black Student Union and worked as a peer mentor for the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA). She will be continuing her education at Pepperdine Law! Iasia’s advice to incoming and current students:

“Learn to be alone. College is a very lonely place compared to high school because you might not see everybody every day, so you have to be comfortable without them. Also, make sure the few people that you do have in your life are actually worth it. Since there is not a lot of time to spend hanging out, the friends you make need to be worth it.”

Sam Hawkins

He, Him, His

Doctorate of Medicine

Sam Hawkins (he/him/his) is graduating with a Doctorate of Medicine. During his academic career, Sam was involved as a mentor for the Native American Research Internship (NARI), member of the Association of American Indian Graduate Students and Association of Native American Medical Students (ANAMS), and participated in Soup & Tutor Nights at the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC). Sam matched into emergency medicine for graduate medical education/residency training at Penn State! He is interested in rural emergency medical services, medical education, global health and disaster preparation/response and plans to pursue fellowship following residency training. Some of his career goals include rural emergency medicine, community outreach and mentoring. Sam’s advice to incoming and current students:

“It is beneficial to occasionally introspect where you came from, where you are and where you are trying to go. As I have done so, I have been pleasantly surprised with recent accomplishments, inspired to rededicate my efforts and most importantly reminded of the many people who have provided support along the journey and the need to support those following in your footsteps.”

Alexandria Lake

She, Her, Hers

Bachelor of Science, Ethnic Studies

Alexandria Lake (she/her/hers) is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Ethnic Studies. Alexandria has been involved with many organizations, including the Office of Orientation (Orientation Leader and Program Coordinator), Housing and Residential Education (Resident Advisor), Union Programming Council (Community Service Assistant Director), Greek Life (Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity), ASUU (Freshman Council and Community Service Board), Center for Ethnic Student Affairs’ Pacific Islander Student Association (PISA) and Asian American Student Association (AASA), Bennion Center’s Alternative Spring Breaks and Lowell Projects, and UPEP Internship. Her immediate goal after graduation is to get out and join the work field. She is specifically excited to use her degree – and field of study – to grow in a classroom that doesn’t require books or 20-page papers. Alexandria’s advice to incoming and current students:

“Picking a major takes time. Gaining an understanding of what is being taught takes time. College success takes time. Throughout your undergrad career, you are likely to encounter failure, however, the biggest takeaway is to remember that what is important is your direction, not your speed.”

Linda Liu

She, Her, Hers

Bachelor of Science, Health, Society and Policy; Business Minor; & Chinese Minor

Linda Liu (she/her/hers) is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Health, Society and Policy and minors in Business and Chinese. Linda has been involved with the Asian American Student Association (AASA) and Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). As a SHAC member, she helped to promote and provide student wellness resources on campus. Linda attributes AASA with a huge impact on her college experience, “it has been my community for the past 4 years, and has helped me to develop a stronger sense of identity.” Linda is planning to pursue a Master of Healthcare Administration program in 2 years. Her career goal is to work in health care project management, and she wants to use her education to improve the current health care system and make care more equitable and accessible to all communities. Linda’s advice to incoming and current students:

“Remember to make time for your wellbeing. College gets busy so it’s easy to forget yourself, but your happiness is important too. A bit of self-care and attention can make things a lot better, and it benefits your self and your commitments when you dedicate time to refocus on the things that are most meaningful to you.”

Ariel Flores Mena

He, Him, His

Bachelor of Science, Business Management & Ethnic Studies Minor

Ariel Flores Mena (he/him/his) is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Minor in Ethnic Studies. Ariel has been involved with many student organizations, most notably he has been Co-chair and Treasurer for M.E.Ch.A (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan), Chief Supreme Court Justice of ASUU, a member of the university’s Anti-Racism Task Force, Somos Dreamers, and the Black Student Union. Ariel has been part of programs such as Diversity Scholars, Opportunity Scholars, and the Hinckley Institute. Ariel accredits M.E.Ch.A for his social consciousness and inclination for political involvement. Ariel will be enrolling into Law School in the fall of 2019. After graduating from Law School, Ariel hopes to have a career in public service to keep bettering his community, and one-day impact policy-making decisions directly as an elected official. Ariel’s advice to incoming and current students:

“Stay focused on your goals but also your wellbeing. Find something that you are passionate about and get involved. College is not going to be easy but it will be much more manageable once you find that community. Challenge what you know and always push yourself to learn more. School is going to be hard but nothing ever worth having comes easy.”


She, Her, Hers

Bachelor of Science, Athletic Training

Emily Plumage (she/her/hers) is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training. Emily has been involved with the Inter-Tribal Student Association (ITSA) during all four years of her undergraduate program at the University of Utah. She discovered this student group after joining the Diversity Scholars Program for first-year students, and accredits ITSA with allowing her to embrace the diversity that makes her who she is today. After graduation, Emily hopes to work as a Certified Athletic Trainer at a local high school. During which, she will be preparing her application to medical school with the intent on becoming a pediatric orthopedic doctor. Emily’s advice to incoming and current students:

“School, extracurriculars, and work are extremely important – but so are you! Don’t forget to take time for yourself every day. Whether its an hour at the gym, a 30-minute walk or 5 minutes of phone time, you need to remember to take time for yourself. YOU are the most important thing.”


They, Them, She, Her

Masters of Education, Educational Leadership and Policy & Emphasis in Student Affairs

Beth Runsten (they/them/she/her) is graduating with a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy with an Emphasis in Student Affairs. Although not directly involved with any student organizations, Beth worked as the LGBT Resource Center’s Graduate Assistant, helped with the Emerging Student Leadership Program, and participated in various committees and events throughout her graduate career. After graduating, Beth will be starting as Cornell University’s Residence Hall Director for the Holland International Living Center. In the future – after a well-deserved break – they hope to get a doctoral degree in Education. Beth’s advice to incoming and current students:

“I absolutely believe in the power of networks and your voice as a student. Unfortunately, so many students are not made aware of the wonderful resources they can utilize at the U, or how much power they have to enact change if they advocate in community. As a student, you can achieve so much!”


She, Her, Hers

Bachelor of Social Work

Reyna Escalera Villegas (she/her/hers) is graduating with a Bachelor of Social Work and Advanced Substance Use Disorder Training Certification. Reyna is a transfer student from Salt Lake Community College and has been involved with many organizations across campus and outside in the community, such as: The Crimson Mentor, SLCC and Pre-BSW Major Liaison Officer (BSWSA), Voices of Diversity, Latinos in Action, AHEC Scholars, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Comunidades Unidas (Communities United), SLCC Amigos Mentores Peer Mentor and Liaison. Furthermore, Reyna is currently serving as the Vice President of the Crimson Transfer Honor Society; while doing her internship at Recover at the U. Reyna has enjoyed being part of many organizations/student groups because she has had the opportunity to learn and grow. Reyna has been accepted to the Advanced Standing Master of Social Work Program here at the University of Utah and will start in the summer of 2019. Reyna’s advice to incoming and current students:

“PRACTICE SELF-CARE. Your wellbeing is really important. There’s research that supports that self-care is really vital to your mental, emotional and physical health. Self-care could be as simple as a 3-minute meditation. Fun fact: How you choose to take care of yourself is largely up to you!”


He, Him, His

Bachelor of Science, Ethnic Studies

Colton West (he/him/his) is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Ethnic Studies and will be this year’s student speaker for the School of Cultural and Social Transformation convocation! Throughout his undergraduate career, Colton has been involved with Trio, Diversity Scholars, and Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) where he is conducting research on the Latina health care experience in Utah. According to Colton, Diversity Scholars was not only the most impactful organization, but it also led him to declare Ethnic Studies as his major. “The Diversity scholars not only helped me navigate the U, but also provided opportunities to meet peers, engage in a community, and allowed me to explore new paths and really challenge myself.” Colton will be attending Westminster Nursing School to complete his nursing degree. After which, he is planning to apply to medical school with the goal of becoming an E.R. surgeon to provide equitable and holistic treatment. Colton’s advice to incoming and current students:

“Explore new paths, get out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself! You never know what opportunities may arise. The only thing you will regret is not trying.”

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