Students of the Week

(Fall 2017 and Spring 2018)


October 20, 2017

Our fifth featured Ambassador of the week is Luna Hino-Nakayama. 

Luna is a senior in Public Health, but she didn’t start out in that field. Luna’s story of self-exploration and discovery is one we feel is important and inspiring. In order to do it justice, we asked Luna to tell us her journey in her own words. We hope this can help you all as you work towards your goals and future selves.

“I started out my college career as a Biology major, then quickly changed it to Microbiology. Through my first semester, I found myself unable to identify and feel like a part of the competitive biology community, especially because I simply could not agree with the biomedical model of health. I spent some time being unhappy and anxious, and experienced a period of time where my grades plummeted. I desperately looked for change in my life, and soon found Public Health as a major on campus.

I asked the Public Health advisor to override me into one of the intro level public health courses, and found the holistic model of health, which I found a deep connection and understanding with. Through my work with STEM AP, mentoring in Holyoke, I understood that I was passionate about working with people in the community. I changed my major to Public Health during the first week of my Sophomore year, and I would say that it was the best decision I had made in college.

As a Public Health major, I was allowed to explore diverse topics and take classes I was interested in, along with hard science courses like Bio Statistics. But I found myself getting deeper and deeper into social justice work, and wanting to find out more about the systemic and institutional oppression in our society. This lead to my decision to work towards the Civic Engagement and Public Service certificate, which is all about social justice, political theory, public policy, organizing, and valuing diversity. Through this program, I started my internship with Safe Passage, which is a non-profit in Northampton servicing survivors of domestic violence and relationship abuse. At my internship, I have gone through extensive training to learn about the systems of oppression, active listening skills, trauma informed interventions, how community organizing and prevention programs can help communities build a violence free environment, and much more. I have given opportunities to participate in both direct service and administrative tasks, and it has completely transformed my worldview. 

Aside from the the internship at Safe Passage, I have participated in many activities;
UMass EMS as an EMT-Basic, 
Kindergarten teacher at Amherst Japanese Language School every Saturday,
President of Public Health Club (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017),
Administrative Assistant in Epidemiological Study on Campus, 
Developing Social Justice Workshop for STEM AP, 
& Volunteer translation service at local hospitals. 

Because of all of the experiences I got from all of these activities, I have made a decision to go on with my academic career to get a Masters Degree to become a Social Worker. My goal for the future now has deviated quite a bit from what people would typically classify as a STEM career, but I feel that being a scientist at heart, and having a hard science background helps me a lot, and will continue to help me with my career. Science helps me to be objective, has given me the right skills to conduct research, encourages me to ask questions, helps me understand scientific implications of health disparities, but most of all, it makes me value and embrace failures and reminds me to persist.

I've spent so much of my time in college switching paths and goals, but I am confident in saying that my time and struggles spent on hard science was never a waste. In fact, I think that exploring, making mistakes, and getting lost is one of the most important steps you take in college that really helps to solidify the process of choosing the path you want to go on. I encourage freshmen to never doubt their instincts or gut feeling. If they feel like something's wrong about the path they are on right now, never be afraid to critique or explore. It took time and courage, but that's what I did, and I'm happy to say that I couldn't be happier with the path I've found for myself” 

We hope reading Luna’s narrative has inspired you all to persevere and reminded you that it is okay for goals to change as long as we are always moving forward. Thank you Luna for sharing with us! We wish you nothing but the best in all your future endeavors. 


Congratulations Luna!

STEM Ambassadors Program