March 06, 2016

Adriana Villavicencio, PhD

Take a moment to read about the life, career, and personal interest of our alum Adriana Villavicencio, PhD. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter. Whether it's just enjoying eggs and pancakes at home, visiting the Met on the weekends, or dancing to Celia Cruz together, that quality time is precious. Otherwise, I enjoy walking in the city, brunching with friends, and watching bad reality TV. 

What inspires you?

My husband inspires me. The work he has done for his community and the deep historical knowledge he has of his ancestors have inspired me to deepen the way I give back to my own community and to explore the rich history of my people. Beyond that, he is a person of vision and big ideas. That type of leadership inspires me to think less about what's wrong with the world, and more about what's possible.

What did/does the Columbia University experience mean to you?

When I was applying to colleges, I didn't have a lot of support or guidance. I did my own research in the public library and eventually narrowed my list of 20 to 10 and then to 1 school. Columbia was my dream school and getting in set me on a path towards realizing so many ambitions, including loving what I do, feeling like what I do matters, and being constantly surrounded by people I can learn from. I will always feel grateful for the opportunity Columbia gave me -- a first generation American and daughter of immigrants who perhaps wasn't ready for Columbia on day 1, but who left prepared for the world outside.

Who is a hero of yours?

Perhaps it is cliche thing to say, but it is absolutely the mother is a hero of mine. She emigrated from Ecuador when she was just 22. She was a young mom of three and managed to make a home and career in this country. By the time I came along, she had started her own business serving a largely Latino and immigrant population. She retired after 25 years, but continues to serve the community to this day. I also admire her for the way she always encouraged me to be myself and follow my dreams, even if that meant taking me 3,000 miles away from her. That's an important lesson I hope to carry out as a mother to my own daughter.

What’s something quirky about you?

I have eclectic taste in music in that I possess and regularly listen to music from every possible genre. But maybe the quirky part is that when I hear a new song that I really love, I can listen to it on repeat for days at a time. It feels like I have to live inside a song until it becomes part of me and then I can move on.

What future development do you look forward to?

I hope we continue to invest more in space exploration. I believe that learning more about our part in the universe highlights the fact that we are all in this enterprise of humanity together. I believe it sparks hope and ignites our collective imagination. It is humbling and awe-inspiring, while also a reminder of how much we can create and move as a species.