Desiree Aranda Smith wants to start a revolution. Focused on the rights of minorities and women, Aranda Smith has founded the group Students for Latino/a Empowerment and helped organize a group to march for women’s reproductive rights in Washington, D.C. She has conducted research in Mexico through a National Science Foundation-funded program, and she also received a summer research fellowship from UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities for a project titled “Projecting a Positive Educational Experience for Latino/as in Georgia.” After graduation, Aranda Smith hopes to attend graduate school and obtain a master’s degree in Public Administration, Urban and Regional Planning or Non-Profit Organizations. She would like to the director of a non-profit organization so she can affect social change.
most recently, Milledgeville, Georgia
Baldwin High School
A.B. in sociology and a A.B. in women’s studies
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I co-founded Students for Latino/a Empowerment in 2004, and we have established some amazing programs. Our signature events include ¡Sígueme! Latino Shadow Day at UGA, which won the Innovation Award from the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel, and ¡Sí Se Puede! Students for Latino/a Empowerment Youth Conference., which took place on April 1, 2006. During my freshmen year, I was also involved in organizing an Athens contingent to attend the March For Women’s Lives in Washington D.C. That was my first time in Washington D.C. and the power of seeing that many people together in one place to stand up for women’s reproductive rights was amazing. I am currently the student organizer of LISTo (Latinos Investing in Students of Tomorrow), which is a peer mentor program for Latina/o first year students. We are still in the process of becoming an official organization of the University and the project is a work in progress but hopefully it will grow to be a strong program. Another highlight was receiving a summer research fellowship from the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) in 2004.
I presented my research at the CURO student symposium in 2005. For the 2005-2006 academic year, I received a scholarship from Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Last, I recently returned from a research project in Mérida, Mexico this summer. My participation was supported through a program funded by the National Science Foundation titled Globalization and Sustainable Development in Latin America.
I currently work as a server at Johnny’s New York Style Pizza. I have also worked at the UGA Institute for Women’s Studies for three years. I worked two summers with the Steps to College program and I worked last year in the Vamos a la Universidad program, two educational programs targeting bilingual and Latina/o middle and high school students. I am also an intern at the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, a non-profit organization that awards educational grants to low-income women ages 35 or older.
I chose to attend UGA because…
I moved to Georgia during my senior year of high school and after visiting UGA and Athens with my family, I knew that it was a good place to be. Not only did I like the college-town vibe of Athens, but what attracted me the most was the variety of the opportunities available to its students: the many majors, course options, student organizations, and other extra curricular opportunities. UGA is also a beautiful campus.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
I don’t spend as much time on campus as I used to since this is my last semester at UGA, but I enjoy walking through North Campus and studying at the Main Library. I also attend organizational meetings regularly.
When I have free time, I like…
…to keep in touch with my friends and family who live out west, where I used to live. I recently adopted a border collie mix named Sprite so I spend a lot of time on long walks and taking her to play at the dog park. Sprite definitely keeps me busy! I enjoy eating at Athens restaurants, especially Thai of Athens, The Grit, and Ru Sans. I am also very close to my mom and so I enjoy spending time with her.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
…move to Georgia from California without first visiting the South. It was a huge risk that my family and I took in deciding to start a new life in Georgia. I am pleased with my experience here and grateful that I am able to take part in the changing dynamics of the state and region.
My favorite place to study is…
…anywhere they sell coffee and have wireless Internet. I spend way too much money on coffee at Jittery Joe’s and Cups Café. On campus, I prefer the Main Library to the SLC because the library is much more quiet and has more character than the SLC. Plus, I have always had a fascination with old libraries!
My favorite professor is…
…Patricia Richards of Sociology and Women’s Studies. I have taken two courses with her: Global Perspectives on Gender and Research Methods in Women’s Studies and am currently taking a Women’s Studies senior seminar with her. I think she is a great professor, mentor, and is also very approachable.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
…my little sister, Jackie. She lives in Arizona, and I miss her incredibly. I am sad that I don’t get to see her grow up and that I can’t experience day-to-day things with her. She is a lot of fun, really spunky, and she is always keeping me on my toes when she asks me challenging questions!
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
…start a revolution.
After graduation, I plan to…
…attend graduate school and obtain a master’s degree in Public Administration or Non-Profit Organizations. I consider myself an activist and I would love a career in which I am able to work for social change. I would like to be the director of a non-profit organization some day in the future.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
…the day of ¡Sí Se Puede! Latino Youth Conference held in April 2006. It was so rewarding to see that a project I developed come to fruition. It was especially meaningful especially after hearing how the middle and high school students who participated were inspired to pursue their dreams, to stand up for their rights, and to realize that they have support as young people. My best friend, Beatriz Velez, and I established Students for Latino/a Empowerment during our freshmen year and to know that the organization will continue to impact lives even after I leave UGA is definitely something worth remembering.