Erika Gutierrez ’09 Unites Clinical Research, Policy, and Humanitarian Work

Following is one of 28 first-person alumni profiles that were compiled in a photo book for the Park Foundation Trustees in September 2016. Each alumnus was ask to share highlights of his or her path from receiving the Park Scholarship to the present day.

Name: Erika Gutierrez ’09
High school: North Carolina School of Science & Mathematics
Hometown: New Bern, North Carolina
Undergraduate field(s) of study: Chemistry and English
Additional degrees: M.S./M.P.H., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013
Current place of residence: San Francisco, California
Current job title and employer: Public Policy Analyst

Erika Gutierrez '09 giving French and mathematics lessons in Senegal
Erika Gutierrez ’09 giving French and mathematics lessons in Senegal

During my Peace Corps service in West Africa, where I originally served as an international development agent in the Senegalese Ministry of Agriculture and within the Department of State/Peace Corps, I witnessed the introduction of free mobile internet into emerging and resource-poor countries. This technological revolution and sudden access to information could be compared to the invention of the printing press and has major implications for humanitarian and international development assistance. I currently work as a Public Policy Analyst for the tech industry in Silicon Valley, which aims to provide free and basic internet services for the remaining disconnected 4.5 billion users. In addition, I lead, design, and advise projects for the Data for Good Initiative between governments, NGOs, and international development stakeholders.

The Park Scholarship and my educational experiences at NC State provided me with a skillset that I have been using throughout my career. I have had a lifelong interest in humanitarian work and I have been exploring this issue from many different viewpoints and angles. I have worked in clinical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), evaluated health and environmental policy at the NIH and EPA, published original scientific research related to the intersection of health and climate change, and completed graduate school in this field.

Erika Gutierrez '09 doing community extension work in Senegal's Niayes region
Erika Gutierrez ’09 doing community extension work in Senegal’s Niayes region

After years in research, I joined the United States Peace Corps in West Africa to gain field experience in a resource-poor environment and to better understand the challenges facing countries impacted by climate change, terrorism, political instability, and food insecurity. Thanks to the Park Scholarship opportunities, their funding of my language acquisition and study abroad, general studies, and the alumni network of service-oriented Park Scholars, I have had an incredibly rich career while remaining committed to service. I am unsure where I will be in ten years; however, I do know that I will remain committed to service and I would like to continue influencing public policy in a leadership position.

Thank you for your continued funding and expansion of enrichment opportunities for the Park Scholar community at NC State. These experiences shape our lives and have provided us with the skills and awareness to tackle our community’s most pressing issues.

posted 2016.10.31