By Eric Herbst (courtesy of University of Wisconsin Platteville)
When Sorayda Santos decided to pursue a project management certificate, she had little idea of the domino effect of accomplishments that would ensue. Santos lives in San Diego, California, and earned her project management certificate at UC San Diego Extension. She then transferred her credits to the University of Wisconsin- Platteville. The credit transfer is the result of an innovative agreement between the two schools that allows 12 units from UCSD Extension's Project Management certificate program to transfer to UW-Platteville's M.S. in Project Management.
While in the M.S. in Project Management program, Santos met the late Dr. Ginger Levin, former instructor of the project management capstone course, who quickly went on to become a close friend and mentor. "Dr. Levin challenged me, made sure my work was superior," Santos said. "She provided great guidance and made sure I applied what I was learning to all aspects of my life."
Under Levin's guiding hand, Santos created an afterschool program for high-schoolers in National City, California, called Garden 2 Kitchen (G2K). The program shows students how to grow organic vegetables, and then make easy recipes from the harvested ingredients. The project flourished and has become an internship program that has graduated three generations of students. As a result of COVID-19, the internship format changed and went online, enabling students to learn about gardening and food while at home.
"Toward the end of the first year of the program, we tried adapting more to what the students wanted and helped them learn to cook the dishes they craved," Santos said.
Santos was able to pursue her degree through a scholarship from the NSF STEM Scholar Master's program—a scholarship program designed to help students pursuing STEM majors, provided through a grant from the National Science Foundation. The scholarship program also provided Santos with a peer mentor and career champion.
"I had a great relationship with my peer mentor and champion and still talk to them," Santos said. "They encouraged me to keep pushing, to not hold anything back. They helped me realize that too often we decide to settle, and we really shouldn't."
Santos later became a peer mentor to two other scholarship recipients, offering her advice and encouragement. "Most recipients don't realize the NSF scholarship program offers so much," she said. "That it's more than just a scholarship program. I'd encourage everyone currently enrolled to take advantage of all the aspects available."
This advice encapsulates Santos' journey—by working with the people, opportunities and resources available to her, she achieved professional and educational success.
After receiving her master's degree, Santos received two promotions in her position at fast-food chain Jack-in-the-Box. As of April 2020, she's moved into a new position with North Island Credit Union, a division of California Credit Union, as a Project Manager. She continues to mentor locally and has helped one of her mentees with admission to UC Merced.
Learn more about our Project Management certificate as well as the transfer agreement with UW-Platteville on our website.
Note: This blog has been updated and edited for clarity.