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Alum of the Week

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Julie Frye

Senior Portfolio Manager at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

One of the best quotes I heard at the Casa, and emblematic of so many of our experiences in El Salvador is, “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.” Traveler, there is no path; we make the path by walking. I think so many of us in college are trying to figure out how we make sense of our interests and passions with what we want to do with the rest of our lives. It’s been more than a decade since I attended the Casa, and I feel as certain as ever that the Casa shaped so much of my path; in ways that I was searching for, but couldn’t fully define when I sent in my application. At that point, I was majoring in accounting and finance, and while I liked the logic of business classes, it would have been hard to call it my passion. I spent my free time and elective classes trying to learn more about social justice issues and volunteering in the Spokane community that surrounded Gonzaga. There wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t wonder how this all fit together in the long run.

Then you go to El Salvador and meet someone like Griselda or Cristina, who take you to their home, and offer you the best meal their families may eat all year. You go off to the countryside and stay with a family whose understanding of languages is that the wealthy babies of the world are born speaking English and everyone else is born speaking Spanish. You have heated discussions in class with your peers about the role of social justice vs. charity, and then you take a step toward integrating what you once knew to be true with what you now see.

Today I work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a role that absolutely combines my passion and my skills. A core focus of my job is financing projects focused on primary healthcare in Africa. The outcome of this collaboration is a parent being able to sleep through the night because they now know their child won’t die from malaria. It’s the woman who can now access contraceptives to plan for her family so that she can feed all of her children and send them to school. It’s the child who now gets vaccines to protect against preventable diseases. Doctors, teachers, nurses and so many other professions are critical to people worldwide, but through the Casa, I started to see that every profession can intersect with the needs of the world.

Everyone’s time at the Casa is different, but I can’t think of a more formative college experience. For whatever few certainties there are in life, I am confident I would not be where I am today without the Casa.

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