Notes From The Workfront: FSU History Alumnus William Ortiz (BA 2019)

William Ortiz

My freshman year, I did not grasp the true value of education. Nor did I know about undergraduate research, Directed Individual Studies, fellowships, and other enriching opportunities. As a first-generation college student, my idea of college was simply attending classes and earning a piece of paper proclaiming that I had graduated. Once I realized how wrong I was, I packed as much as I could into my junior and senior year.

My view of history is interdisciplinary, especially focusing on contemporary history, so I double majored with international affairs and sought opportunities in adjacent departments. By the time I graduated in May 2019, I earned two certificates from the Emergency Management and Homeland Security program, a certificate from the Globe, completed the Garnet and Gold Scholar Society requirements, got a TEFL certificate at the Center for Intensive English Studies, and was accepted as a 2019 Rangel Scholar into the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment program my graduating semester.

I completed most of this during my final two years at FSU. To all current students, make the most of your college experience by actively seeking these opportunities. Go to your professor’s office hours, read the flyers on the department walls, check on social media, apply for fellowships, do everything that you possibly can to expand your knowledge.

I was lucky to make relationships with many of the History Department’s fantastic faculty and staff that supported me through my academic and professional journey. There are too many to count, but Dr. Will Hanley, and Dr. Anasa Hicks from the History Department, and Dr. Tanu Kohli from the Center for Global Engagement, stand out as the most intellectually stimulating and helpful. They all challenged my points of view and inspired me to forge my own intellectual pursuits.

Knowing that I wanted to work with migrants, I also sought opportunities outside of academia. I interned with the International Rescue Committee in Spring 2018. There, I got to see what the refugee resettlement process looked like on a local level. The IRC Tallahassee office is supported by Una Bilic and other fantastic staff members who are always seeking volunteers and donations. I also interned for the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights where I learned about immigration law. If any students are interested in migrant issues, I highly recommend reaching out to these organizations! Additionally, there are many student-run organizations that assist local migrant communities you can reach out to.

I just had my two-year graduation anniversary, and I feel nostalgic writing this. After taking a year off to teach high school English and Sociology, I have taken my first real step toward the career that I desire. I knew I wanted a career related to migrant advocacy, so in August 2020  I enrolled in the AmeriCorps Vista national service program and moved across the county to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I work with the Employment Program of Bethany Refugee and Immigrant Services, under Bethany Christian Services. Bethany operates under Church World Services. I assist our employment specialists in securing gainful employment for our refugee clients. I also take care of administrative duties. I feel blessed that despite taking this risk in the middle of the pandemic, I do not regret my move. I love the city and the organization, and the work is fulfilling. With refugee admissions at an all-time low, AmeriCorps Vista is a unique program that allowed me to gain entry-level experience in my dream career. The main benefit of completing one year of service is gaining non-competitive eligibility for federal employment.

My AmeriCorps service ends in August, and I am once again figuring out my next step. While looking for new opportunities, I plan on furthering my education to become a better advocate of migrant populations. I enrolled in a one-year online professional certificate program in Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies through Villanova University. The certificate focuses on immigration law, practice, and migrant advocacy. Upon completion, I will fulfill the Department of Justice's education requirement to become an accredited immigration representative. The lessons I learned as a student of History and member of the Tallahassee community prepared me for my next endeavors.