Amica Atienza: Speaking of the Future

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Amica Atienza, the UW Tacoma 2020 Commencement Student Speaker, emerged from an existential crisis with a B.S. in biomedical sciences and a platform to share her story.

An “existential crisis” ultimately provided Amica Atienza with clarity. “I just felt like I had to fix everything, but I couldn’t fix everything, so what was the point?” she said. Atienza’s angst revolved around her future. “I had to focus on what I liked and how I thought I could best contribute,” she said.

Atienza graduates in June with a biomedical sciences degree. She plans to spend the next year working before going back to school. “I want to be an obstetrician,” she said. “As I looked back at the classes I’d taken and the papers I’d written I realized I’m passionate about women’s health and prenatal care.”

Born in the Philippines, Atienza came to the United States at age four. “My dad is a missionary pastor and our church in the Philippines also had a church here,” she said. “They asked him to take over as pastor and so we moved to Federal Way.”

Education is a priority in the Atienza household. Both of Amica’s parents earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the Philippines. Thanks to Running Start, Atienza graduated from Federal Way High School and Highline College in 2017. 

When it came time to transfer, Atienza knew where she wanted to go. “UW Tacoma was always my first choice,” she said. “I was really looking for a combination of resources, small classes and a supportive environment.”

Atienza spent most of her first two years coming to classes then going back home. That changed during her junior year.  “I made an effort to spend more time on campus,” she said. “I started going to events and getting involved with the FASA [Filipino American Student Association] and eventually became an officer.”

Never one to mince words, Atienza had strong feelings about the decision to hold a virtual Commencement this year. She signed a petition asking for an in-person Commencement to be delayed. Atienza also wrote a letter to campus leadership. “My frustration kind of came in waves,” she said. “At some point I just decided I didn’t want to be angry anymore.”

A funny thing happened. Notifications were sent out for a Commencement speaker. “I felt I had to apply because I’d been running my mouth so much,” she said. “I couldn’t just sit there and complain and not try to contribute.”

You have probably guessed by now, but Atienza is the student speaker for UW Tacoma during this year’s virtual Commencement. “I’m excited to talk to my peers,” she said. “This is a rough time but let’s not let this pandemic spoil the moment. This is a big accomplishment and we should be proud of that.”

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 12, 2020
Photos by: 
Amica Atienza
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or