Iliana Chen ’24

Iliana Chen outside holding diploma

Iliana Chen ‘24
Majors: Education & Learning Science - Liberal Studies and Environmental Studies 
Next Step: Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistant Program in Uruguay

Iliana Chen, a double major in education and learning science and environmental studies, has had a transformative academic journey at LMU. Originally from Irvine, California, Chen has always had a passion for education, global exploration, and making a difference in the community and has pursued these passions at LMU.

From a young age, Chen knew that she wanted to become an elementary school teacher. She was originally drawn to LMU because of a program that allowed her to earn a bachelor’s degree and her teaching credentials in four years instead of six. She was also drawn to the Jesuit mission, with its focus on service and social justice, making LMU the perfect fit.

Chen’s academic pursuits have been marked by many enriching experiences, beginning with a class she took during her freshman year, taught by Professor of Urban and Environmental Studies Bernadette Musetti. This class made her more interested in how education and environmental studies can intertwine. “Professor Musetti talked a lot about eco-literacy and combining the environment into daily teaching practices. That piqued my interest in environmental studies and how I could teach elementary students about the environment,” said Chen.

Also, during her freshman year, Chen went on her first Alternative Break trip through the Center for Service and Action and has been on one every year since. It was an eye-opening experience that deepened her understanding of social justice and advocacy. Wanting to lead others through that same journey, she became a student leader for Alternative Breaks.

Being an education major, Chen has always known about Fulbright. Still, her global experiences at LMU, coupled with a desire to gain more hands-on teaching experience, led her to pursue the program seriously, and she has secured a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award. In Uruguay, she will have the opportunity to be placed in multiple schools for four months at a time, during which she will supplement local English language instruction and provide a native speaker presence in the classrooms. “I just thought it would be a cool opportunity to see students of different ages and then also be able to compare working and teaching in the capital city versus a smaller, more rural town,” said Chen.

Chen knew she wanted to immerse herself in a Spanish-speaking country as she anticipates working with Spanish-speaking communities back in Los Angeles in the future. Chen has prior experience teaching English abroad in Bali and is looking forward to another opportunity where she will be able to combine her passions for education and traveling.

Chen has gained a well-rounded and fulfilling undergraduate experience by building meaningful connections with faculty and staff and by engaging in campus opportunities. She joined Creare, a youth-focused service organization on campus, where she received valuable mentorship from staff in the Center for Service and Action. She also worked in the William H. Hannon Library, supporting events and outreach. “The profound impact of mentorship and hands-on experiences has helped me grow and develop during my time at LMU,” said Chen. 

Looking ahead, Chen plans to pursue a master’s in education and hopes that her Fulbright experience in Uruguay will allow her to narrow down her field of study. The goal for Chen is to develop her teaching practice and bring global knowledge, skills, and perspectives into classrooms and schools. 

“I definitely don’t see myself leaving the field of education,” said Chen. “I think it’d be cool to start a really progressive and very student-driven school.”