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OADI Honors 2024 Award Recipient

Sarena Tien, PhD

Sarena is standing on the left holding her award. She is smiling

What impact has OADI had on your professional experience?

OADI has shaped my intended career path by teaching me that student support isn’t limited to the classroom. There is so much that we can do to help students outside the classroom, and I’ve been fortunate enough to not only experience OADI’s holistic guidance myself, but also see students flourish in a warm, welcoming, and inclusive community. As a first-generation, low-income graduate of color, I’d like to continue empowering and advocating for students, especially underrepresented and underserved populations who are typically overlooked by Predominately White Institutions (PWIs).

What has it meant to be recognized for an award and as a recipient?

I cried when I received the email notifying me that I’d been nominated for an award. Mentoring McNair Scholars has been my way of trying to ensure that students don’t experience the exclusion and alienation that I did at PWIs. My work isn’t something I do for recognition, but it’s so encouraging to know that what I’m doing is valued, acknowledged, and appreciated. It’s still surreal to know that I’ve received a meaningful award that I can display in my future office. 

What values guide you and inspire you in your career?

My dissertation argues that female friendship is a unifying force for social justice and positive change. I bring these values into my career by building a sense of community, care, and belonging amongst students. Support systems and a sense of belonging are so crucial to guiding and sustaining us. 

What is next for you now that you have graduated with your Ph.D.?

I've accepted an offer as an Advising Fellow at UVA! I’ll be part of a cohort of advisors supporting undergraduate student success, belonging, and inclusion in a liberal arts environment, and I’m excited to put my OADI experience and my PhD to use outside of the classroom. 

Tell us a fun fact about yourself?

I enjoy creative writing and have published poetry as well as short works of fiction and nonfiction.