Tara Ashraf '11
Through the suggestion and encouragement from a neighbor, Tara Ashraf applied to Fisher. In her junior year, she decided to blaze a trail as a triple major in Spanish, communication, and English. She also proudly served the Rochester community through the Service Scholarship she received.
“Fisher was a lot of work, but it was worth it,” Ashraf explained as she reflected on her undergraduate studies and the supportive environment she found. “There is something about the professors at Fisher. They are invested in you as a person even beyond the classroom, and they want to see you succeed.”
Ashraf believes the Washington Center internship she obtained through Fisher changed her trajectory. This internship experience allowed her to work in national defense with diplomats from all over the world. After graduating from Fisher, she completed a master’s degree in international media with a concentration in counterterrorism/counterintelligence at American University in Washington, D.C. She has worked for start-ups, the federal government, and as an English teacher in Medellín, Colombia.
Now, she tells everyone to study a second language: “Having exposure to another language equips you to go anywhere, and learning a second language helps you develop a level of comfort that opens doors and avenues of communication.”
She attributes her preparation for graduate studies and her career to experiences as part of the Alpha Mu Gamma, Lambda Pi Eta, and Sigma Tau Delta societies at Fisher. “These honor societies gave me the opportunity to practice public speaking and to help others as well.”
Through the Fisher internship in Washington and her intensive academic journey, Ashraf was able to land her dream job at the Pew Charitable Trusts. As a communication associate, she was responsible for press releases and other communications related to international health policies. However, she reminds others—and herself—that “life will change in ways that you don’t expect.” She needed to step down from her dream job to become a caregiver for a loved one. While it was a difficult decision for her, she treasures the precious moments she was able to share with her family.
Despite her journey through grief and loss, she hoped to continue her career in international policy communications. While seeking to overcome the challenges of returning to the workplace after her three-year caregiving hiatus, she called her Fisher professors. “I found support from Fisher even in the midst of my life changes.”
Ashraf found encouragement to return to school and begin a new phase of her journey. She will soon be a certified Spanish teacher, and she recommends to everyone she meets to add language study to their undergraduate course load. “Even if you are not planning to do anything with the language day-to-day, study it now because it builds unexpected connections along your journey.”
Olivia Lopez '16
Cardinal Courier Advisor
When Olivia Lopez arrived on campus as a first-year student, she had declared a Spanish major and hoped to eventually declare a second major. By the time she graduated from Fisher in 2016, she had a second major in communication/journalism and a minor in international studies.
Lopez explained that she really enjoyed reading and writing from a young age. She became passionate about drawing attention to injustice and comparing lived experiences. Observing the spirit of activism and advocacy in Lopez, family members and mentors suggested that she explore journalism. Though she believes she “stumbled into journalism,” she also recognized “this was a beautiful pairing” with a Spanish major.
During her undergraduate studies, Lopez was able to study abroad in Argentina where she blogged about her travels and experiences. She learned more about political activism and civic engagement in South American countries.
“I love connecting people through story, and that really was my motivation for being in this world of communication.”
With a second major in Spanish, Lopez was not only able to develop conversational skills in a second language to support her work as a journalist and communications professional, but she also developed a greater understanding of cultures different from her own. She described that learning a second language requires humility yet produces greater empathy for the human experience.
“Learning another language was uncomfortable, but it was the best thing I could do for myself. It gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about culture, community, and myself. I really believe learning another language pushes us to appreciate differences so we do not live in silos only connecting with people who live and experience life as we do.”
For Lopez, Fisher was a place where the “sky was the limit,” and the encouragement she felt from the faculty allowed her to take risks and flourish. She credits her success in landing a job at the Democrat and Chronicle upon graduation to the support and access to community connections she received at Fisher. “The faculty really supported me during my internship and in preparing for an interview.”
Lopez returned to Fisher in the fall of 2020 as advisor of the Cardinal Courier, a student-run news website, which provides daily news for the campus community. “To be able to come back and teach at the place where I learned so much is an honor,” said Lopez. She sees her role as a “guiding force” where she shares her experiences to inspire students to explore, learn, and lead.
She hopes to empower students to take chances like learning a second language, traveling abroad, and taking on internships during their undergraduate studies: “There is so much opportunity to try new things at Fisher, and this is the time to take risks when surrounded by such a supportive environment where people want you to succeed.”