June 2018 Newsletter


I'd like to introduce you to Katie Avila! And also tell you about a few other things I think you'd like to know about :)

Katie is the newest member of the optiMize staff team. She'll be working full-time all summer on our new community college Transfer Bridges initiative that I told you about in April. Katie is new to optiMize, and she's totally awesome. If you scroll down a bit, you can meet her in her own words.

I also have to apologize for my delay in writing to you. It's been a couple of months since our last newsletter, and a lot of good things have happened in my life and in optiMize more broadly. I promise to write more consistently in the coming months, but for now, I have a lot to tell you!

Here are five particularly exciting updates from the last two months of optiMizing:



1.  Katie Avila joined our team! I'll let her introduce herself.

Hi, I’m Katie! I recently joined the optiMize staff team to work on the Mellon-funded project to create Transfer Bridges from community colleges to the University of Michigan. I’m excited to be working alongside Henry Ford College, Grand Rapids Community College, and Washtenaw Community College to use optiMize programs to improve access to our university. As a former community college transfer student myself, I am so happy to be back in the community college world to support students like me.

A bit more about me: I came to Michigan a year ago to pursue a master’s degree in higher education with a concentration in public policy at UMich’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. But my story begins in Southern California. When I graduated from high school, I had little idea of what I wanted to do next. To begin to figure that out, I enrolled in Golden West College, a community college in Southern California. Golden West gave me a second chance to pursue higher education and provided me with the opportunity to realize my (and my family’s) dream of graduating college. I eventually transferred to UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) and graduated in 2013 with my bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a minor in education. After graduation, I worked at UCSB in the Dean of Students Office, where I supported community college transfer students at UCSB.  My passion for making higher education accessible and equitable for all ultimately led me to Michigan’s higher education program.

I am so excited about working with optiMize to help community college students through the transfer process, and help them thrive once they transfer to Michigan! I look forward to working with optiMize this year — thanks for welcoming me into your community!

Katie Avila


2.  We launched a new brand video called optiMize: Stop Waiting.

It's produced entirely by students from Filmic Productions and features optiMize Fellows who are continuing their work beyond graduation. And I must say, it's amazing. I find myself watching it day after day! You'll be seeing this video from our Facebook page and on the homepage of optiMizeMI.org for the next several months. Check it out here!


3.  I traveled to Peru to work with United Technologies for Kids.

UTK is a 2017 optiMize Fellowship team that's providing hands-on, project-based STEM education to high school students at 20 schools down there. During my two weeks in Peru, I visited six UTK schools, gave 11 talks for about 1300 people at schools and universities, and made a lot of media appearances — including a primetime Saturday night TV show (video above) and several newspaper features. It was a whirlwind! After that, I took a week off and traveled to both Machu Picchu and the Amazon Jungle — two lifelong dreams of mine. Altogether the trip was an intense experience that I'm still processing. What I can say with certainty is that UTK is making a BIG impact!



4.  Our optiMize Summer Fellows are off to a great start! 

We've been meeting every Tuesday evening at 6pm in Weiser Hall for workshops, collaboration time, and mutual support. And this is optiMize, so of course we also eat great food!

We would love for you to join us — here's an invitation to our next Tuesday Dinner. Even if it's just for the free dinner, we'd love to see you :)

PS: this photo is only of the Fellows, but we have friends of all ages who join us every Tuesday!



5.  We are starting to recruit for next year's Core Organizing Team! 

Do you know any first or second year students at Michigan who you think would love to join our team? Please send them this link to our 2018-2019 Core Organizing Team Application! If they have any questions, you can also feel free to introduce them to me via email.



Thanks for reading! Keep in touch!

Just for fun, here's a photo of me at Machu Picchu! Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to shoot me an email to ask me anything or talk about anything you'd like. I would love to hear from you!



Why not you?

Out of 210 project submissions, we funded 27 incredible teams. But still, too many deserving projects were left unfunded. Next year, our goal is to fund 40 teams. 

Can you help us make it happen?