2017 Graduate Marielena Vega
by Sandra Reineke, Director, University Honors Program
While taking a short break from classes and sitting outside on campus this spring, I find Marielena Vega envisioning her next steps after graduation this May. Marielena, an Honors student from Wilder, Idaho, appears confident about her future. While she is still weighing options between internships and other professional opportunities, Marielena knows that she wants to apply to the University of Idaho Law School sooner than later. This is because she wants, in her words, "to pay it forward." Marielena wants to give back to others what she received in terms of mentorship and leadership opportunities, and which, in large part, contributed to her academic and professional successes.
Academically, Marielena's strong interest in human rights is mirrored in her choice of majors: political science, international studies, and Spanish. While a native speaker of Spanish, Marielena said that she benefitted greatly from studying Spanish in College. In combination with political science and international studies, Marielena's geographical area of emphasis is Latin America, but for her study abroad experience in the spring semester of 2016 she went to the University of Puerto Rico to study comparative politics. There, all of her classes were held in Spanish, which was a new challenge for Marielena but one in which she excelled.
Looking back on her first semesters at the University of Idaho, Marielena realizes that her decision to join the Honors Program was based on that desire of hers to excel academically and professionally. For Marielena, the Honors Program provided her with academic opportunities and rewards that she cherishes and on which she will be able to build in the future. "My Honors classes," she tells me, "were the ones where I got to know the professors most and developed opportunities for research." Currently, Marielena is part of an upper-division, interdisciplinary International Studies Honors seminar that examines the global politics of the international organization UNESCO that is part of the United Nations.
Gazing into the horizon beyond the campus where we sit outside,Marielena recalls the moment in her life that sparked her interest in the "global perspective," in addition to being Latina. Recalling her trip to China when she was fifteen years old,Marielena describes how seeing China with her own eyes made her want to study governments in a global, comparative perspective.
Just a short time away from graduating from the University of Idaho with Honors,Marielena feels that she has made good use of her time here thanks to the academic opportunities as well as the extra-curricular activities that she participated in as part of the Honors Program community. Marielena fondly remembers going to symphony concerts and the Career Services' Etiquette Dinner thanks to Honors sponsorship. The Honors community,Marielena explains, is a very unique and supportive group. It allowed her to thrive and excel in her studies--as well as to pay it forwards while still a student through being an Honors peer mentor.