(Image above: four members of the UW Tacoma Class of 2020 - Thnwa Ahmed, Kathryn Davidson, Clinton Sizemore and Nataly Herrman and family.)
Nataly Herrman, ’20, knew she wanted to go to college. Trouble was, she didn’t really know anything about higher education. “I’m a first-generation student and I didn’t grow up with anybody that went to college,” she said.
Born in Alaska, Herrman also spent time in Louisiana before moving to Washington at age 10. “I was one of four girls and was raised by a very hardworking single mom, who worked graveyard as a waitress to support our family,” said Herrman.
While Herrman may have lacked an understanding of how the college process worked, she did have an ace up her sleeve. “I have always had really strong self-esteem about my capabilities and that’s thanks to my mom who always made me feel as if the sky was the limit and nothing was out of reach” she said. “That’s why I kept pursuing college even though it often felt unattainable.”
Herrman started at Edmonds Community College in 2007. It took a while, but Herrman completed her associate’s degree. “I would take a class at a time when I could afford it and when it was doable for my family, which made the process really slow,” she said. Herrman and her husband have four kids. The oldest is 16 and the youngest is six.
Herrman transferred to UW Tacoma in the fall of 2018 with the long-term goal of becoming a nutritionist. “I’ve actually changed my path a hundred million times,” she said. “I was going to be a pediatrician, an accountant, a radiologist.”
As it turns out, Herrman had one more change of heart. She chose to major in psychology because the topic interested her and because she did not need a specific undergraduate degree to get into the UW’s graduate nutritional science program. Something happened along the way to becoming a nutritionist. Herrman found she loved psychology.
What happened? Well, Herrman met Assistant Professor Amanda Sesko. “She was my first professor in my first class at UW Tacoma and she was amazing,” said Herrman. The pair become close. Herrman worked as a research assistant for a year-and-a-half in Sesko’s Social Judgement Lab. “She [Sesko] really cares and wants me to be successful. I really look up to her.”
To that end, Herrman wants to become a research psychologist. This means graduate school. “That’s on hold for the moment,” she said. “I want to wait until the kids are a little bit older.” For now, Herrman is exploring options in her current field. She is a registered behavior technician and primarily works with children with autism. “I want to continue on this path for a while,” said Herrman. “I enjoy the work and the people I get to work with.”
Growing up, Herrman didn’t have anyone in her life that had been to college. The road from that first day of class to the last has been long and difficult at times. Herrman made it and her achievement is for her kids as much as it is for herself. “This is probably my biggest accomplishment, one I fought for and one that had the most obstacles, but I made it through,” she said. “I’ve shown my kids that this is something they are capable of and it’s doable and it’s not scary.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org