Alumni Programs

Alumna Finds Her Passion

Creating Opportunities for Students

Maria Elena “Mia” Ibarra ’06 recently made her first visit back to Evergreen since graduation as a representative of the Udall Foundation. She spoke to undergraduates and Tribal MPA graduate students about two exciting opportunities: Udall Scholarships and the Udall Congressional Internship Program. She also took some time to re-engage with the campus she fell in love with at first sight. 

Mia Ibarra with Charles WilkinsonMia, a life-long Arizonan, came to Evergreen right out of high school. With relatives in Seattle, she had spent many summers in the Northwest and was on a family track to be a fourth-generation Western Washington University student. A senior-year tour of colleges changed the family tradition. Mia recalled sitting in on a program called Media Rhetoric:

“It was something that I wouldn’t have sought out on my own. I was engaged for the whole three hours. It was so completely different than classes I’d sat in on at other institutions. I remember being immediately impressed and engaged with the interdisciplinary style and the collaborative teaching.”

Graduating in three years, Mia says her only regret is that she didn’t stay for the additional year. She focused on Political Economy, working closely with Jeannie Hahn. She also lists Steve Niva, Tony Zaragoza and Peter Boehmer as key influences.

Mia supplemented her schedule with studies in occupational law and Spanish, completed an individual contract on credit access for low income communities and interned with the Tulip Cooperative Credit Union.

“My Evergreen experience was fantastic,” Mia said. “I always tell people that Evergreen is the perfect environment for students who are self-driven but also value being part of a collaborative learning community.”

After graduating from Evergreen, Mia returned to Arizona to work for a non-profit organization. She focused on voter education and political research and worked with the student internship program, helping students with professional development. It was this last experience that became a passion for Mia. From there, the transition to the Udall Foundation was a natural move.

“The Udall Scholarship Program, with its focus on community building on a large scale, fit right in to that passion,” she said. “I can’t imagine anything more fun than going out and meeting all these amazing students and then giving them money.”

The Udall Foundation is a federal agency created by Congress to honor the late Rep. Morris Udall and former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. The Udall Scholarships Program offers $5,000 awards for undergraduates pursuing careers in the environment, or Native American students working toward careers in travel, public policy or Native health care. The Udall Congressional Internship Program provides internship experiences in Washington, DC for Native American graduate and law students, undergraduates in their junior and senior years, and recent graduates from four-year institutions or tribal colleges.

Mia finds encouragement, even at a time when the national and international news can be so disturbing, in working with smart, talented young people from all over the country who have a positive, solutions-driven outlook.

“You see that all of these problems, as huge as they are, are fixable. I think these kids are going to save us.”

Coming to Evergreen on this recruiting trip was a priority for Mia: “I think we should see more Evergreen students benefiting from our programs because the emphasis on sustainability and the environment makes it a natural partner. The perspective Evergreen Students can bring to the Udall community would be valuable.”