Name: Valerie Najera

Graduated high school from: West Seattle High School in West Seattle

School and area of study: UW, Human Central Design and Engineering (HCDE)

Why choose this major?

I knew I wanted to do something with engineering when I came to college. When I learned about HCDE I liked that they combine those two aspects and that they focused on the people using the technology. I want to create technology that has a positive impact. Technology is created for people and not the other way around.

What would be my advice to new scholars?

Never give up. I had to apply to my department three times, and on the third try I got in. It was challenging but along the way I could have a great community support from WSOS and mentors. I fought my way into my department. It’s been the best 2-3 years of my life. I’m happy. I believe people should not give up. Find resources and ask for help. I did that a lot and that’s what’s gotten me here. Make sure not to give up and ask for help, those are the best two tools to hold onto.

What would be my advice to a new scholar at my school?

For UW, the places I spent the most time at the instructional center. Everybody must take pre-requisites like math, science and programming. The instructional center was the best resource that I had. Also, join clubs. I could find my mentors through the Society of Hispanic professional engineers. Also, if you talk to older students that will help. Sometimes they’ll have study guides for class, advise on which classes to take etc.

What should people know about the Washington Opportunity Scholarship?

It is such a great scholarship and it is such a great program. Everybody who I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with has been supportive, welcoming. I know Theresa is supportive and she makes sure that she gives you the resources that you’re looking for. I graduate in a month and a half and she’s helping me find resources and what my next steps are after graduation, what kind of job opportunities I should seek out.  They teach life skills and networking skills.

Why did you choose to spend spring break in Neah Bay?

During my spring break, I, along with 5 other HCDE students and 2 HCDE faculty traveled to the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, Washington to participate in the UW Pipeline Project’s Alternative Spring Break. The UW Pipeline program does K-12 outreach through teaching. We taught a weeklong design thinking workshop to 86 middle school students.  At the end of the week, the students had a clickable prototype that they had created themselves.

I wanted to show them that this is a career option. I wanted to help be part of a movement that could show students that If they could successfully accomplish the design thinking workshop in middle school, they could also do it in college. I also wanted to encourage students, who might believe that they can’t go to college because of circumstances, that they can go to college. In overall, this was one of the best experiences of my college life. At the end of our stay in Neah Bay, I heard a couple students say that they were excited to go to college and that was a very joyful moment.

How are you going to celebrate graduation?

My friend and I are going to Ireland, Spain and London. We’ll backpack through Ireland and I love how green Ireland is. My friend and I are both Pride and Prejudice fans. And, I speak Spanish so I wanted to visit Spain.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am currently in the search for job opportunities after graduation. I would like to work in the VR field because I see the potential that it must create empathy through technology. However, I am also excited to find other opportunities with great projects and teams that focus around making great things for people. Up until this point, there was always a path, now it will just be me figuring it out. I am excited for what’s to come.