Born and raised in an English-Spanish-speaking household in the Los Angeles area, graduating economics senior Sophia Calabretta attributes her love of learning to her grandmother, Natalia. Long before she fully understood the value of an education, Natalia would sit with a young Sophia to go through flashcards, read books, practice Spanish, and do math worksheets. As Sophia grew, she came to see that not everyone has access to education, including her grandmother who was an immigrant to the United States from Mexico, helping raise her siblings and picking fruit in the fields. With influences like these, Sophia became someone who loved to learn for the sake of learning, deeply appreciating the opportunities afforded to her.
Given its relevance towards socioeconomic mobility, lifetime earnings, general success, etc., it is not surprising that attending college was always expected of Sophia; but beyond these expectations, college also felt to her like a place where she would flourish and be free to explore whatever subjects she desired while connecting with others whose minds worked like hers. After graduating high school, Sophia enrolled at Baylor University where she would become active in the campus community, discover the field of economics, and spend 2 years before ultimately feeling like something was missing. Wanting to learn from some of the best instructors in the country, Sophia transferred to the University of Michigan, hoping to grow from the challenges presented by the academic rigor available here.
Though Economics was already her principle concentration when she arrived on campus, Sophia has found the field incredibly interdisciplinary. Supplementing her major with courses from other areas of interest, such as Politics & Philosophy, Public Health, and Anthro-biology, have shown her that everything connects and there is always a way to bring what she’s learned back to Economics. This is what excites her most about the discipline: its intersectionality and ability to explain the world from trends and changes, to (in)justice and inequalities, race relations, crime, household choices, environmental justice, and really everything in between. It is an extensive field which will allow her great flexibility in choosing possible professions.
Though arriving at U-M as a junior was difficult in many ways, from finding friends to wishing she’d arrived earlier to experience more of what U-M has to offer, Sophia has been able to integrate into the campus community through extracurricular meetings and interacting in discussion sections to get to know people. She has joined the Society of Women in Economics (SWIE) and the College Democrats groups on campus, and last summer she was an accounting intern working on the SEC Reporting Team at Ally Financial where she was also an active member in their Latinx Employee Resource Group (ERG). With this group, she co-edited the Spanish version of a youth financial literacy book Planet Zeee and the Money Tree, and co-hosted a bilingual Wallet Wise session.
In this year impacted by COVID-19, Sophia has faced challenging health issues and had to watch her mother work the front lines as a nurse in Los Angeles. Her virtual internship was also cut short, decreasing her take-home pay which would have helped with her expenses during this school year. Nevertheless, Sophia has found ways to stay active and involved. She took advantage of opportunities to explore hiking trails in her area and read outside. She participated in Economics research remotely and, through her health trials, she learned about managing stress and various pressures to take better care of herself—a lesson she would advise other students to take in: to be flexible and resilient. That life will throw unexpected things your way, but the strength gained from rolling with the punches will allow you to push through a lot of things.
As she looks ahead to graduating in a few short months, Sophia is proud to have been a Wolverine and looks forward to entering the Accelerated Rotational Program at Ally Financial as an Analyst within Finance where she will learn from senior members and continue with the Latinx ERG which had attracted her to the company in the first place. Knowing she is entering a field that is all too often male-dominated, she plans to use her new role to empower other women in whatever ways she can. Sophia is also interested in pursuing a dual M.B.A. and M.Ed degree, with her ultimate goal to either open or teach at a dual-immersion language institution in the future. In her time at U-M, it was only too glaring the lack of representation of Latinx/Hispanic students on our campus. She wished there were more students who spoke Spanish, or who were mixed-race like herself, and whose experiences were similar to hers. She wished Reggaeton music played the way trap plays from Frat houses, and more Latin American flags hung off of houses, but they didn’t. She wishes her identities had more of a presence, but trusts someday it will. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and quoting Tim Cook, Sophia says “'We pave the sunlit path toward justice brick by brick,’ and being a voice for my community is my brick.”