Martha Sonato ’15 jump-starts her career through the PPIA program

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After spending a year studying in Mexico and Spain, Martha Sonato ’15 is embarking on yet another adventure this summer through the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program.

Part of the Ford School at the University of Michigan, this rigorous and highly selective program will challenge Sonato with courses in microeconomics, statistics and policy analysis.

“I decided to participate because of the enormous professional and personal opportunities this program will bring forth,” says Sonato, who’s majoring in politics. “I look forward to the academic challenge — which will prepare me for graduate school — the support from a network of about 4,000 professional leaders, and the personal growth I will obtain.”

Benefiting from Experience

Through the program, Sonato will become part of a network of scholars and policymakers dedicated to serving underrepresented communities. Should she decide to apply to a graduate school that works with the PPIA program — such as Harvard’s Kennedy School and UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy — scholarship opportunities will be made available to her.

“She will have a gold star by her name,” politics professor Megan Ybarrasays. “Organizations will look favorably on her because they know she knows what she’s getting into with public policy.”

Originally from Hood River, Ore. and a member of the Latino community, Sonato has immersed herself in many opportunities while at Willamette — such as interning for Causa, interpreting for Willamette Academy, and volunteering for the Mosaic Peer Mentoring program.

As a freshman, she earned a College Colloquium Student Research Grant to study the connections between the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the Latino community in Mount Hood. Her work earned her a place on the Friends of the Columbia Gorge board as a sophomore.

She is also a Gates Millennium Scholar, a distinction that grants her a full-ride scholarship to the school of her choice, along with academic support and access to personal and professional development programs.

Ybarra says Sonato has used her experiences and background well as she progresses toward her goal of working in environmental justice.

“She is able to draw on her culture and love for the environment in a way that reaches out to communities and challenges them to do better,” Ybarra says. “She’s always asking deeper questions and bringing things together for the community.”

Changing the World

Sonato plans to earn her master’s degree after graduating from Willamette, which will enable her to work with social and environmental organizations, experts and communities. She hopes to one day create legislation that advocates for poor and underrepresented people.

She says her experience in the PPIA program will get her one step closer to accomplishing this goal.

“I am a firm believer that exposing yourself to new environments and diverse opportunities is life-changing, because you are constantly encountering new knowledge for your betterment as an individual and for society,” Sonato says. 

For more information on fellowships, grants and other opportunities available to Willamette University students, contact Student Academic Grant and Awards.

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