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ASU alum found home at university she once ignored


Holly Celaya sits in a hammock

Holly Celaya.

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August 03, 2018

Born in Tucson, Arizona, but raised in the East Valley, Holly Celaya grew up a dedicated University of Arizona fan.

“I spent most of my life ignoring ASU as an option for college,” Celaya said. But when the time came, she decided to apply anyway and sought a few scholarships that were specific to Arizona State University.  

“After being accepted into the Leadership Scholarship Program and Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, I explored the campus and fell in love. I instantly felt at home. I saw such diversity — in interests, clubs, volunteering opportunities, research, majors and lifestyles. There was no better fit for me,” she said.  

Celaya, who graduated in December 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and global health, said she took a microbiology course early in her college experience and was instantly hooked.

In addition to peer mentorship and leadership programs, Celaya participated in a research lab studying Arctic sea ice algae and studied abroad in Tanzania with HEAL International, among other activities.

The opportunity to study abroad came from a class she recommends to all students, regardless of their major: MIC 314: Science, Society, and Behavior of HIV/AIDS.

Through the program, Celaya received training to facilitate conversations about sexual health and wellness in Arizona and Tanzania.

She said her biggest takeaway from the trip was realizing that human experiences are universal.

“All over the world, people are generous and kind, and they grieve and hurt just the same. Through it all, they are resilient and full of love and light.”

Postgraduation, Celaya lived in Tanzania for five months. Since then, she has started a position as a medical scribe at the San Carlos Apache Health Center and plans to apply to medical schools in the next few years, focusing on public health, rural health and underserved populations.

Celaya said the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences helped prepare her for her future in many ways, including the emphasis of group work in her classes.

“Postgraduation, group work has helped me understand differences in communication and how to work as a team in the professional environment. My education has prepared me to take on almost any situation. I feel confident in my ability to do research on a topic, practice a skill, ask questions, and perform to expectations.”

To new and future Sun Devils, Celaya offers the following advice: “Listen first and then try something new. There are endless opportunities at ASU, and the hardest part is deciding what to explore. If there is something that interests you, go for it. If it doesn’t work out, there are so many more opportunities waiting for you. I also highly recommend any courses taught by Dr. Shelley Haydel. She’s the best.”

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