Name: Karina Herrera
Host Site: Fresno State College of Science and Math
Alma Mater: Harvard University
Major: Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Background: My four years at Harvard were formative, immersive, and most importantly, fun. I was given the freedom and opportunity to explore my academic passions and to discover new drives. As can be assumed, much of my time was spent huddled over problem sets, reading and discussing all the –isms and –ologies over dinners, and chugging water to keep sleep at bay. However, academic life aside, a great portion of my undergraduate career was devoted to my interest in sustainable development through my involvement with Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Through EWB, I was able to apply my knowledge of environmental engineering to real world situations, experience how community partnerships are developed, and learn about the double-edged sword that is humanitarianism.
Additionally, moving from an ethnically diverse California to a predominately Anglo-Saxon New England created a strong interest for me to remain connected to my cultural roots. Throughout college, I was heavily involved with Harvard’s pan-Latino organization Fuerza Latina, performed with Ballet Folklorico de Aztlan around the Harvard and great Boston communities, and extensively volunteered in East Boston and Jamaica Plain’s culturally diverse communities.
Why I serve: I’ve always enjoyed public service, so when post-graduation uncertainty set in, I turned toward AmeriCorps. I applied, and ultimately joined, the CSU STEM VISTA program because of its goal to increase student success in the STEM fields. I see the need and importance of having more students passionate about studying the sciences and succeeding in them. By being a part of the CSU STEM VISTA program, I have been participated in helping increase the number of future scientists in my home state.
Ah-ha moment: CSU STEM VISTA has been my introduction to the workforce. It has been my first full-time job extending past the length of a summer. Forty hour workweeks, year-round. What I have realized is that those forty hours take up a huge chunk of my week. As great as evenings with friends, daytrips out of town, and mornings reading in bed are, I want to be as happy with how those forty hours a week are being spent. My position at Fresno State has kept me intellectually engaged through literature on high impact practices and STEM initiatives. It has also allowed me to form strong collaborative relationships with coworkers and students. However, I’ve craved more creative freedom and my year has been much more sedentary than desired. So, my ah-ha moment is more of a slow clarification on career satisfaction that continues to refine itself as the year progresses and I continue to add onto my experiences.
Future Goals/Plans: I have decided to spend another year with AmeriCorps as I simultaneously prepare for the GRE and apply to graduate programs in the environmental sciences. My next year of service will be with HandsOn Central California as a VISTA Leader. I will help HandsOn’s VISTAs navigate through the VISTA experience as they develop third grade literacy programs at different elementary schools. I plan to continue expanding my job skills including program development, volunteer management, and research throughout my second year with VISTA while helping create a positive impact in the Central California educational system.