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Berkeley Public Health student profile: Morino M. Baca

Morino M. Baca
  • Community Health MPH, Online MPH Program
  • Expected graduation: 2022
  • Hometown: Born in Española, New Mexico, grew up in East San Jose
  • Currently lives: Albany, California
  • Preferred pronouns: He/him/his

What sparked your interest in public health?

I have always had an interest in giving back and helping others. My interest in public health began to take shape as I grew up and realized how our interaction with our environment impacts our reality. As a kid, I wanted to be a doctor because that was one of the few professions I knew about. As an adult, I learned about the concept of servant leadership and this is when I began to realize that public health was a field where I could both find a place and have an impact that related back to who I was, where I came from, and what I hoped to do in the world.

What is your previous work and educational history and how did your degree fit into that?

I was an undergraduate here at Berkeley and received a dual degree in society and environment, focused on US environmental policy and management, and conservation and resource studies. I have worked in a ton of different jobs and have lived through a plethora of experiences. I have worked in retail, sales, marketing, consulting, the environmental field, manufacturing, the sports industry, education, as well as the healthcare industry, to name a few. All of this experience has served as a guide to where I am now and has led me to my degree in public health. With each experience, I have gained knowledge that has allowed me to develop as a public health professional.

Why did you choose the online program, as opposed to a traditional program?

I chose to enroll in the on-campus/online hybrid program because it was set up in a way that would support my reality as a non-traditional student. Being that I am a student parent (with two children, 4 years old and 4 months old) and that I have a full-time job (graduate student manager with Cal Football), I had to find a program that would work with my schedule and allow me to have the flexibility that I needed given my current situation. The Online MPH program does an amazing job in supporting its students, and so it was a perfect fit for where I am at currently, in my personal life/professional career.

How has Berkeley Public Health challenged you?

I have been challenged throughout my time in the program both academically and personally. I have had to deal with life circumstances that stem from being a non-traditional student, however I have been able to find comfort in knowing that the Online MPH program has my success and best interest in mind, always. I have been able to apply what I’ve learned both inside and outside of the classroom, but perhaps most relevantly, to everyday life. This has shifted some of my thinking/how I interact with my environment which has allowed me to interact at a much deeper level than before I was part of the program.

What have been the most transformational parts of your experience as a student at Berkeley Public Health?

Some of the most transformational moments of my experience in Berkeley Public Health have been moments of challenge. Moments where I questioned myself and my presence not only on campus, but in the program. I have been able to overcome this doubt and instead meet it with resiliency and determination because I know that I have a community that cares deeply about my success and integration in the program. I have gained a community which supports who I am, where I come from, and they appreciate my experience and perspective. This type of acknowledgment has allowed me to move beyond the self-doubt which often persists in first-generation students and instead has given me the courage to take my stand as a Native and non-traditional student at the world’s number one public institution.

How do you think your degree from Berkeley Public Health will help you achieve your career goals?

Getting my degree in public health has opened my eyes to the myriad opportunities available to you as you continue your education. Public health is so intertwined with almost any discipline, that there is an opportunity for anyone whatever their passion may be. I am looking forward to continuing to expand my understanding as I complete my degree over these next few semesters and am grateful for all that I have come to know up until this point.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

As I am exposed to more opportunities in public health, I see myself in some sort of administrative role. I have been doing a lot of work since becoming a student in the online program related to outreach, recruitment, and retention for Native and underserved populations. There is a large disconnect between the STEM field and these communities. I plan to continue my work as a public health professional at Berkeley and allow this work to guide me in my career.