Just a few years ago, Ketty Munyenyembe ’20 was well on her way to a career in international studies. But after transferring to Smith, she discovered a passion for scientific research. Now she’s heading to a Ph.D. program at Yale, where she’ll investigate the evolution of microbial pathogens—including COVID-19.
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Yansi Murga ’20: Learning to Be a Leader
In her time at Smith, Yansi Murga ’20 says she has discovered her own path to becoming a leader.
She joined the Latin American Students’ Organization (LASO) during her first semester on campus and has stayed active in the group ever since, including as a board member and, this year, as co-chair.
LASO has been not only “a place to make great friends,” Murga says, but also a space to explore “what it means to be Latina—and an organization for Latin American students.”
As the group’s co-community service representative, Murga helped set up workshops with partnering community organizations. She also helped promote discussions about the role that students play in making Smith a more inclusive campus.
“Those are always difficult discussions,” she notes. “But we did try to have them.”
Murga, who’s majoring in English language and literature, grew up in Los Angeles in a Salvadoran family. She was drawn to Smith for the personal growth she hoped living in a different part of the country would bring.
During her time on campus, she has sought out opportunities to serve as well as to study. In her first year at Smith, she began tutoring elementary school children at Homework House in Holyoke. After completing a class in child development in her sophomore year, she became a fellow with Smith’s Urban Education Initiative, learning about best practices for teaching students from underserved communities.
Murga’s explorations have taken her well beyond western Massachusetts. As a rising sophomore, she completed a course in Korean and gender relations at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul. She spent her junior year in Copenhagen, studying environmental issues and family dynamics in an increasingly globalized world. And last summer, she returned to California for a Praxis Program internship at Kaya Press, a nonprofit press housed at the University of California that focuses on the literature of the Asian and Pacific Island diasporas.
After she graduates, Murga hopes to pursue training in social work. “I know I want to do something working directly with people,” she says. “And social work includes not just clinical practice, but also research and policy. It’s a kind of training that allows you to do all of those things.”
She has been accepted to two graduate social work programs, but given the uncertainties created by the coronavirus pandemic, has decided to take some additional time to think about her future. “Right now, I’m just enjoying being at home with my family—which I haven’t done for four years,” Murga says.
Reflecting on her time at Smith, Murga says she has learned how to recognize the systemic causes of inequality and “how I personally want to work toward serving those most affected.”
“The way that I think and the things that are important to me are things I’ve always valued,” she adds. “But now I can articulate them clearly.”