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New Faces: Josefina Ly

The Engineering College admissions counselor is inspired by the beneficial experiences her mother provided her and her siblings despite a limited income.

People  |  Oct 26, 2015  |  By Megan Downs

Admissions counselor Josefina Ly once lived and worked on Okinawa. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

Josefina Ly, the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) admissions counselor for the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, now wants to help economically disadvantaged students find their paths to careers that can provide them financial stability and job satisfaction.

Why UNLV?

At UNLV I can help others be successful, especially because I believe (having) a postsecondary degree in hand opens many doors. In a previous position earlier in my career, I was responsible for promotions and new hires. I had to overlook many great candidates with more than 10 years of experience for promotions because they did not have the degree that the position required.

Location is what brought me to Vegas. There’s so much to do in Vegas day or night, so there’s no reason why anyone should ever be bored in this city. I love that I can drive less than an hour away, any day of the year to find breathtaking hiking trails. The opportunity to boogie board at my favorite beaches in LA, snowboard at Brian Head, and camp at Zion are just short road trips away.

What do you do for the College of Engineering?

I coordinate outreach efforts for College of Engineering faculty and staff and recruit students from the local community and Los Angeles into our undergraduate degree programs.

Additionally, I educate underserved populations about engineering and computer science disciplines, the benefits of pursuing careers in these fields, and the unique learning opportunities afforded to our College of Engineering students.

What inspires you about this position?

I have a passion for introducing individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to careers that provide stability and are rewarding.  So many of these kids do not have the opportunity to learn about careers beyond what their friends and family do to earn a living.

As a campus, we should work to make UNLV more accessible to our local community. Access goes beyond bringing people on campus. Access is coordinating activities or events that engage a wide variety of individuals, going into the local schools with the primary purpose to help the students, and strengthening the partnerships we have with organizations that serve economically disadvantaged youth.

What misconceptions do high school students have about the field of engineering?

Some high school students do not know what an engineer does so they begin to believe that careers in these fields are unattainable or unrealistic. They don’t see themselves as capable of having the knowledge or resources to succeed as an engineer and I’m here to show them otherwise.

What did you do during your time in Japan?

In Japan, I served as program director for the Marine Corps Community Services. I managed three school age, youth, and teen programs that served up to 300 students daily. I had only been living in Okinawa for two months when mainland Japan was devastated by the tsunami in 2011. Miyagi Prefecture was an area that was hit hard by the tsunami and took thousands of lives.

The most rewarding aspect of my job was when we planned and coordinated the first Oshima Youth and Teen Cultural Exchange. We introduced Marine Corps Installations Pacific (MCIPAC) youth and teen dependents to Japanese peers from Miyagi Prefecture in order to promote mutual trust and a greater partnership between the United States and Japan.

Who is your hero and why?

My mom. She is the strongest and most selfless person I know. She migrated to the States at the age of 18 with a family she barely knew during the Vietnam War. She raised five kids on her own. Growing up, we lived in a two-car garage in the Los Angeles area. 

Although she speaks very broken English, my mom always found a way to provide my siblings and me with rich experiences. She took us to swim lessons and dance classes at the community center, cookouts at the park, and any other free activity or event she caught wind of.

It was a legitimate fear of hers that any one of us would flunk out of school. The five of us graduated from college and that is something my mom is very proud of. She can now rest easy and be her silly, cheerful self.

How do you spend your free time?

I take my dogs hiking at Mt. Charleston and Red Rock; sway and sing along to live music at local concerts and festivals; cook up a storm and dirty lots of dishes in the process; root for the Chargers during football season; read novels, watch movies, and chase food trucks. But, I’ll pick going to the beach on a sunny day over these other activities any day of the week.