Students who gravitate towards social welfare want to make a difference in the world. As they think about post-college careers, they wonder how they can have an impact. Recently, Berkeley Connect Social Welfare students got a chance to explore some of the options available to them as they heard about the experiences of two young, successful Social Welfare alumnae: Liliana Iglesias and Veronica Garcia.

“I didn’t come into Cal thinking I’d do Social Welfare,” said Garcia. But that’s exactly what she ended up doing. While at Cal, she worked in mentorship opportunities for students, combining her interest in Social Welfare with her interest in Education, her minor. In her first job out of college, Garcia worked as a case manager in reproductive teen health care. She worked there for five years before going to USC to get her Master’s degree. Now she’s a social worker in the San Francisco school district.

“The Social Welfare field is very versatile,” she pointed out. As the wellness coordinator in a high school wellness center, she says, “Social work skills are good for maneuvering working with people of many different personalities.”

Iglesias stressed the importance of co-curricular activities. She discovered her love for counseling during high school, when she worked as a peer college counselor. While studying at Cal, she said, “I still did a lot of outreach for high school students looking at college.” She also was a member of the Latino Business Student Association, which helped her with “interviewing, resume-building, and professional etiquette.” During her time as an undergraduate, she also interned at Alameda County Child Protective Services.

Iglesias was convinced she wanted to be a high school counselor, until she taught a high school class. “It was just not for me,” she concluded. However, this wasn’t the end of her interest in counseling. She got her Master’s in Educational Counseling at UC Santa Cruz, and now works here at UC Berkeley as the Academic Counselor for the Undocumented Student Program. She meets one-on-one with undocumented Berkeley students and talks to them about majors, classes, financial aid, and even personal issues. “This is my dream job,” she enthused. “It doesn’t feel like work.”

Iglesias discovered what she wanted to do by pursuing her desire to combine her passion for working with others and social justice. “I wanted to give back,” she explained. “It’s cool when you can put your values into your work.”

The two alumnae gave some parting words of advice to the Berkeley Connect undergraduates. “Don’t tell yourself ‘no’ before you try it,” advised Iglesias. She shared a story about getting into a graduate program even though she didn’t meet the GPA requirement, and encouraged students not to let feeling underqualified stop them. And in regards to students feeling overwhelmed by Cal, said Garcia, “Just remember –you’re qualified. You’re here for a reason.”

Posted by Madeline Wells, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant