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Elizabeth: VAL gave me the tools to continue my education in the U.S.


Posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at 6:12 PM

Elizabeth, an English Language Learning (ELL) student at Vermont Adult Learning (VAL) in Rutland, was born in Archidona, Ecuador. Trained as an economist in her homeland, her professional background includes international work as a policy analyst, director of research, and independent consultant. Her skills allow her to apply quantitative analysis to complex economic and social policies.

Elizabeth immigrated to the U.S. in 2014 with her husband. Although she studied English (and French) in Ecuador, her knowledge of English was limited. Elizabeth recognized the importance of expanding her English competency to prepare for continued studies. Her husband attended college in the U.S. and was already fluent in English.

Seven years later, Elizabeth and her husband are the proud parents of a four-year-old and an eleven-year-old. She begins a Ph.D. in Complex Systems and Data Science at the University of Vermont in the fall of 2021 where she was awarded a research assistantship. This follows her having earned her Master’s Degree in Complex Systems and Data Science at the same university. Elizabeth points out that there are, proportionally, few women working within STEM and even fewer women representing the Latinx community.

Elizabeth worked hard to learn academic-level English while navigating a new culture. Helping her son to be successful in an American school while also preserving links to Ecuadorian culture is a bit of a balancing act.

“I learned about the holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Also, when I visit Ecuador, I always bring food back to Vermont,” Elizabeth said. “There are grains we like to eat—-mote and chocho–that are unique to the Andean region. These grains contain a lot of protein and are eaten by indigenous people in the mountains because meat is expensive.”

“Marcy (ELL Teacher) and Nancy (Volunteer) helped me improve my English, prepare for the TOEFL Exam, and complete graduate school applications. They continue to help me.  VAL helped me find a community of people from all over the world,” Elizabeth said. “I can also say there is a huge social issue for women who migrate to the U.S., usually as a wife. You’re busy taking care of your family. Taking classes at VAL got me out of the house where I could make friends and start to understand how things work in this new place.  You start to find your place. VAL is the entrance to the community. VAL gave me the tools to continue my education in the U.S.”

“Elizabeth is one of the most intelligent and driven women I have ever met,” Marcy said.  “I had no doubt she would be accepted into the Ph.D. program.  She is brilliant, and her work in Ecuador as an Economist is extremely impressive!” 

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