Impact Connections: LIFT Consultant Interview with Maizie Fernandes

by Sandi S. Ruddick

Maizie Fernandes is an outstanding student consultant with the LIFT program who worked with NI (formerly known as National Instruments) for the Fall 2020 semester. She is currently a junior at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a B.S. in Public Health, with a concentration in Infectious Disease and Microbiology and a minor in Religious Studies. Maizie has also served as a research assistant at Dell Children’s Medical Center Foundation, a student researcher at the Center for Research on Addiction and Brain Health, and an undergraduate student researcher for The Freshman Research Initiative.

I was honored to connect via Zoom with Maizie to talk about her experiences with LIFT.

Sandi: Good afternoon, Maizie! Thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me about your experiences as a student consultant with LIFT.

Maizie: It’s my pleasure! I am always happy to talk about it — doing LIFT was good for me academically, professionally, personally, and socially. The community I found within LIFT was amazing. Not only did we have a mission we were all working toward together, but they also made sure we stayed connected and were good mentally through this time of COVID and isolation.

Sandi: Tell me about your journey to LIFT: how did you hear about the program? What made you want to be a consultant?

Maizie: I’m not a McCombs student, but I found the opportunity with LIFT on the UT website. This is not something that would normally appeal to me — I was not very experiential growing up. However, I was interested in the social impact aspect, the group work, and the freedom the program offered me to explore an area outside of the public health sector. This journey with LIFT has been one of great love — they do a great job of making people feel loved, welcome, supported, and constantly encouraged. It encouraged me to try new things and step outside my program. Meeta and Madison were always there to brainstorm with us and walk with us in our journey; we never felt alone.

Maizie presents to NI with her LIFT Team

Sandi: That is wonderful to hear, Maizie! Would you describe for us your work in the impact space: your fellowship work at NI; other areas or opportunities?

Maizie: I was very excited to get to work with NI, especially because the project was geared toward diversity and inclusion (which is near to my heart). We consulted NI on a skills-based volunteer program framework and toolkit. One challenge to our project was staying focused on not letting regional differences get in the way of the good work we wanted to do, as each region was so unique. We accomplished this by keeping the culture of each region in mind and adapting each to the vision. It was really cool to interact with the volunteers of the program, see what they do, and find out why they volunteer. We saw the potential and hard work of the volunteers, and it gave us a platform. On a personal level, it really encouraged me to flourish and do more myself. The impact this program has had on me over six months has been phenomenal — and all over Zoom!

Sandi: What are your future goals? How might they offer you the opportunity to contribute to social, environmental, or governance impact?

Maizie: I originally decided to major in public science so that I could have the biggest impact possible helping others in the global community. My goal has expanded to pursue mental health in business, so that we as a community can be there for people when they need help. This experience with LIFT has shown me that I can work outside of where I had originally planned, and I can create a platform for pursuing my goals wherever I work — it will be an adventure! I have also been offered an internship with NI for next semester — I am so honored to be chosen to work with them again!

Sandi: Wow — congratulations, Maizie! I see you are pursuing a B.S. in Public Health with a concentration in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology. I also see that a good portion of your time as a student researcher has been dedicated toward mental and behavioral health. What inspires you to pursue the latter?

Maizie: I am passionate about pursuing mental health for us as a global community. I used to suffer from depression. It was part of my life experience that I wanted to use to help other people. My student research in mental health was interesting and fun — it gave me so much joy to feel that I was contributing and helping others.

Sandi: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Maizie: I love my team; the administration at LIFT was really good at putting together a good group of people who work well together and support each other. I love Meeta. It’s been really cool having her as an advisor, mentor, and friend. She is amazing at reaching out, giving advice, and never leaving any of her students feeling stranded. LIFT is a wonderful platform — I’m so glad I tried it out!

This interview has been edited in context and length for clarity and brevity.

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Welcome to Impact Connections, the GSLI’s blog space! We were formerly known as the Social Innovation Initiative.