Putting People First

Carla Valdez ’21 takes a human-centered approach to economics and advocacy for first-gens in STEM

Carla Valdez ’21 wrote her economics senior seminar paper about the effect of remittances—the money immigrants send back to their home country—on inflation in Guatemala, where her parents emigrated from before she was born.

Her adviser and senior seminar professor, Associate Professor of Economics Menna Bizuneh, asked her how she came up with the idea for the paper—it was a very macro concept, Bizuneh recalled, and Valdez hadn’t been in her macroeconomics class. Valdez responded that the premise struck her after observing cycles of poverty when she visited Guatemala.

That mix of macro and micro is “very Carla,” Bizuneh said.

“She approaches the application of economics on a very personal level,” Bizuneh said. “Carla’s way of thinking is always human-driven, human-focused—her solutions, her propositions, her inquisitions are always, ‘How does this affect the people? What about them?’”

Valdez, who graduated on May 15 with a degree in mathematical economics, is the first in her family to go to college. After her parents immigrated to the US from Guatemala, they worked tirelessly to ensure Valdez could pursue her undergraduate degree.

“My mother sacrificed all she had to let me attend college, which has truly been a dream for everyone in my family,” she said.

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