Karen Vallejos ’17 Embraces Her Identity
After immigrating to the U.S. in 2009, Karen Vallejos ’17 strove to balance her immersion into American society with her Filipino family’s values: obedience, education, and maintaining ties to the Filipino community. When Karen stepped onto the Mount Saint Vincent campus more than three years ago, she was still learning to adapt to a radically new culture, wrestling with identity in a society that emphasized the individual over the communal constructs of her familial roots. She chose to not only challenge herself intellectually, but also develop her leadership skills, soon becoming a peer mentor for TRIO Student Support Services, orientation leader, and president of her class.
“Identity is important to me because becoming a leader was something I wanted, which could be challenging as a woman, as someone in a minority group,” she says. As a result, identity has become a core part of Karen’s studies as a sociology major. Earlier this year, she traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam through IPSL, conducting advocacy research by training local university students to become peer leaders. In the peer leadership training, Karen discussed what leadership meant to students. She also advised the students on how to build effective communication skills, develop stronger decision-making abilities, resolve conflict, and increase overall productivity.
Now Karen is the first Mount student participating in the Global Engagement Program through the State University of New York at New Paltz, an initiative that includes a combination of hands-on experience and classroom learning, providing students with a strong foundation from which to launch an internationally-oriented career. As part of the program, Karen is completing an internship with Damayan Migrant Works Association, Inc., participating in weekly seminars on international affairs, and preparing an original study related to her internship.
“I love the Mount because of what it has helped me accomplish,” Karen says. “I have become the leader I wanted to be and strive to help others aspire to leadership roles within their own communities.” As for her concept of identity, Karen says: “It gives me confidence to know who I really I am and what I want to do in my life, independent of anyone’s dictation or pressures. Yes, I am a woman and a minority in this patriarchal society, but this will never hinder me from pursuing my lifetime goals.”
About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.