Peace by philanthropy

Roxana Sierra

By Yinon Raviv

Roxana Sierra, ’16, loves conflict. She doesn’t love engaging in it, but rather, she loves studying it. The fourth year international relations major from Los Angeles is fascinated in learning about why wars begin, the effects wars have on individuals and communities, and the ways in which large-scale conflict can be prevented.

Learning about the genocide, civil war and human rights abuses were driving influences in piquing her interest. The summer before her junior year, Sierra was awarded the Ann E. Pitzer Scholarship to study abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, and learn about global inequality. She had the opportunity to visit the United Nations, seeing the important policy work implemented to advance humanitarian causes. She then went from the office to the field, taking another UC Davis Study Abroad trip the following summer to Ecuador. There she saw firsthand how the programs developed in the office impacted the communities they’re targeting.

Independent of this international experience, Sierra’s upbringing and journey to UC Davis is one of perseverance and overcoming obstacle. A former foster youth, Sierra is a also a first-generation Mexican-American college student.

 “My parents worked hard all their lives and did their best to make sure my siblings and I had what we needed, but we were not always financially stable,” Sierra recounts, noting  that her financial aid package came two weeks before school started (“a huge sigh of relief!”).   She also had support from the Guardian Scholars Program and the Special Transitional Enrichment Program. The Guardian Scholars Program is a support program for students with experience in the foster care system and it’s one of many invaluable resources to Sierra’s college experience.

She credits all these resources for setting her up for success at UC Davis, and said it’s a great example of why at the end of the day, UC Davis is just a great fit for her. “I didn’t like how competitive and cutthroat it felt at other schools,” she said. “At UC Davis, when someone crashes on their bike, people rush to help them back up. Here, when someone’s struggling in a class, people go out of their way to study with them and make sure they’re doing well. Far less people fall at UC Davis without having a hand helping them back up.”

Now with her college career coming to a close, she’s excited to get out to the field to start her humanitarian career. She wants to spend a few years on the ground, similar to her experience in Ecuador, and at some point down the road transition into the policy work she got a taste of while studying in Geneva. She said without her scholarships, professors and other student resources, she would have never reaffirmed her passion for peace, envisioned her future career, nor had the same life-changing journey.

“I am not the same freshman that first arrived on campus,” she said, “Coming to UC Davis has truly changed my life and set me on a course where I know I’m going to do my part to make the world a better place.”