(This article was written by Gator Correspondent Evelyn Garcia.)
After four years at UHD, Katy De La O will be graduating this month with a major in political science and four minors—communications, history, public policy administration and international relations. As part of the University Honors Program, Katy has been heavily involved in many student organizations, including UHD’s United Nation’s Association Chapter, and works as a Supplemental Instructor in UHD’s Learning Connections. She also recently interned with the Houston Hispanic Forum doing outreach for students from low-economic situations, connecting them to schools and potential future careers.
As an involved Gator working through challenges to reach her goals, she has definitely left her mark at UHD and serves as a role model for many students. UHD News sat down with Katy to talk about her motivations, future goals, and how she found her vocation within the UHD community.
UHD News: Why did you choose UHD?
Katy De La O: Originally, I was not going to come to UHD. I was at a moment in my life where I didn’t know what I was going to do. I applied because their application deadline was still open, and I had the intention of transferring. But when I joined the Honors Program, I found my home, and staying has been the best decision I’ve made. I have learned so much. I think all my professors have been valuable, including some of my Honors professors, Dr. Christina Hughes, Dr. Tammis Thomas and Dr. Mari Nicholson-Preuss, the director of the Honors Program. Dr. Nicholson-Preuss is tough, but she’s one of those professors that I’ve formed a close relationship with. I have met such amazing people and everything I learn from my professors is so amazing.
UHD News: What encouraged you to choose political science as your major?
De La O: Originally I came in as a communications major, but then I joined Model U.N. and Model Arab League and I realized that politics was really important to me. Model U.N. is honestly something that has changed my life. It involves doing your research for yourself, and then you represent a country. You have to be confident in your research skills so that you know enough about the country and provide solutions to the issues that they present. So, if you’re going to solve a big problem you have to know what you can offer, how you can cooperate with other countries to at least fix the problem slightly. And you have to be strong, because people are going to tell you you’re wrong, and you just have to know the facts. So, I changed my major because I love doing research and learning about what is going on in my community. It’s something that really connected with me, and I found my calling within this major. I want to do this for the rest of my life.
UHD News: What are your plans after graduation?
De La O: I’m going to apply to grad school, but first, I’ll take a year off because I want to work. I’m going to apply to jobs that are research based. I want to collect data that can help formulate solutions to problems and help people. In Houston and in other cities, we can see what can be done to improve conditions, whether it’s the education system, how we can get more Hispanic students into higher education, or reducing the high dropout rates for Hispanic students. So that’s what I eventually want to do … conduct research about people.
UHD News: What motivates you to pursue these goals?
De La O: Most of where my motivation comes from is my parents. I can see how their lack of education has caused them to struggle. My parents have definitely been my main role models. My mom’s war spirit, her strength, shows me that regardless of what is thrown at you, you’re going to keep on fighting. And if you’re willing, if you have the strength, and you have the education, you can help others and empower others. You can make things easier for others, because you don’t want people to struggle as much as you did.
UHD News: How has choosing UHD impacted you?
De La O: UHD has helped me succeed in many ways. Through my experience at UHD I have learned to speak in public. Also, coming out of high school I would not be involved, now I’m more awake, like the term “woke.” I have a lot of knowledge about my Latin American History and Latin American Politics, and also European and Arab countries. I think my confidence has grown because once you have education, you feel more empowered to do different things. Also, UHD professors try to refine you and mold you as a student. That’s something that I carry with me in everything. It helps me become better academically but also as a person. I’ve changed so much since coming to UHD. I’m definitely not the same person I was freshman year.