I grew up in Manila, Phillipines and came to the United States for graduate studies in psychology at UNL. I then worked as an Extension assistant at the Douglas/Sarpy County Extension Office and then as visiting faculty at Creighton University. In 2005, I came back to UNL as a faculty member.
What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I have a split appointment between two departments. I am a professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, as well as chair for the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design.
What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I first came to UNL as a graduate student. There were two faculty members in the Psychology Department with whom I wanted to work. The late Carolyn Pope-Edwards was a scholar in the field of child development and cultural socialization and Gustavo Carlo who conducted research on factors that promote prosocial development in children and adolescents. What drew me back to UNL was the opportunity to continue my research and to apply this work directly through Nebraska Extension. Nebraska has a very robust Extension program and a strong focus on supporting the positive development of youth.
What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?
One of the things I love most about working in an educational setting is that we are in a landscape where we are learning all the time, as well as contributing to the bodies of knowledge in our various fields. It is also inspiring and humbling to be around professionals who are incredibly dedicated to impacting the lives of others through education.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would say that having students grow and transform would be what I consider my biggest achievement. This includes students at UNL who move on to have their own careers in and outside of academia, as well as learners in Extension who go through their “Aha!” moments during workshops and programs, or who otherwise gain skills that they can use in their personal or professional lives.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I have four sisters who are all named “Maria”.
What is your life like outside of work?
Outside of work I spend a lot of time with my husband and 12-year-old son. Pre-pandemic, we travelled together quite a bit to visit friends in various parts of the country as well as family in the Philippines and Poland. In light of the current pandemic, we have started travelling more locally – discovering parks around Nebraska and neighboring states. These days, it is hard to spend time with friends and family, so we connect through various means (e.g., phone, Facebook Groups, etc.). I’m also a dedicated vegetable gardener, even though I don’t always know what I’m doing, and my garden always ends up like a jungle. I love cooking and exploring different cuisines from around the world. I’m also almost always reading some fictional novel and I follow a ton of podcasts with a range of topics, including science, finance, comedy, cooking and history to name a few.