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Careers that help you move from intention to action
A photograph of Sara Vasquez sitting with a blue sky above and other mountains behind her.

Whether you’re a recent college grad, a seasoned nonprofit professional, or an aspiring sector-switcher, attending the right graduate program can advance your career. For many prospective grad students, the Idealist Grad School Fairs are the perfect opportunity to take that first step and explore all of your options.

We had an opportunity to speak with Sara Vasquez about how attending the 2019 Idealist Grad School Fair in Seattle helped to shape her career path.

Name: Sara Vasquez (she/her)

Idealist Grad School Fair attended: Seattle 2019

Undergraduate degree: Bachelor’s in History and Spanish, minor in Marketing, Gonzaga University, class of 2015

Graduate degree: Master of Human-Computer Interaction and Design, University of Washington Information School, class of 2021

Dream job: Product Designer creating researched-based innovations in healthcare or education

When did you first realize your ideal career?

In my heart of hearts, I always wanted to do something with storytelling, design, and social impact. While earning my undergrad degree at Gonzaga University, I studied history and Spanish with a minor in marketing. I got into design through my work producing educational and advertising content for the Gonzaga Environmental Organization (GEO), but I didn’t know about UX design and how I could use it to help people until well after I’d graduated.

What was your motivation for attending graduate school?

I didn’t plan on going to grad school right away. I wanted to learn more about the real world and figure out how I could engage with others through art and design.

After a few years working in healthcare and business administration, I felt I could do more for patients and clients if I had a hard skill and wanted to retrain. I researched and tried out many paths when I finally found UX Design. I thought, "“This is it! This is the way art and design can directly help people.”

What was the grad school search like for you, and how did the Idealist Grad School Fair help? 

I started studying UX design part time and thought that a master’s degree would help me break into the field. I was hesitant to go to school full time again because of the cost, but my peers encouraged me to explore my options.

The Idealist Grad School Fair helped me realize going to grad school was possible. I had been searching for different program options and saw on Idealist that the University of Washington would have a table at an upcoming grad fair.

I think back to some of the conversations I had there, speaking with reps and other students, and thought that I should just apply and see if I could get in. University of Washington had so many programs that aligned with my interests that the whole process actually felt viable. And ultimately, taking that leap enabled me to get into the Human-Computer Interaction and Design program at the University of Washington Information School.

Describe your graduate school experience.

My program was a year-long intensive. I was initially worried that being out of school for so long would prove detrimental to my success in the program, but found my years of varied work experience lead to direct product improvements. Further, my background in research, history, and storytelling really helped me to advocate for myself so that I could work on the projects that interested me most.

What advice would you give to people considering graduate school?

Do your research, believe in yourself, and just submit that application! Growing up, I had this perception that grad school was a waste of money, but after graduating in 2021, I have doubled my earning potential.

As a Chicana with a nontraditional background, it’s important for me to mentor others and “lift as I rise,” as they say. Having a technical skill is life-changing and it’s been really empowering to say I earned my degree.


Interested in exploring grad programs ranging from public policy to international studies? Search for universities and programs using the Idealist Grad School Directory and contact admissions representatives directly.

Jaxx Artz profile image

Jaxx Artz

I oversee the content and resources we share at Idealist to help organizations, prospective grad students, and job seekers make an impact in their personal and professional lives. In my spare time, I love to read, cook, and explore NYC's parks.