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Humans of the U: Jessica Holiday

“I became a Native American outreach and community engagement coordinator in July 2023. I have been working in victim services for several years, and I really needed to shift gears. I was drawn to this position because college access for students in southeastern Utah is such a hopeful and inspiring thing. 

I love the University of Utah. I think it’s an amazing higher education institution. I’m biased because my mom graduated from the U with a bachelor’s degree in sociology when I was really little. She was going to school part-time and I remember being on campus with her when I was like three years old. It was such a cool experience. 

Recently, I was on campus in the Student Services Building and a vivid memory came back to me: I was really little and holding my mom’s hand and walking with her in the building. I called her right then to tell her. 

I think having experiences like that when I was young really opened me up to college and knowing that education was important. If I hadn’t seen my mom earn her degree, I don’t know if I would have continued in higher education. 

My position is based in southeastern Utah and I work with education and community leaders in the Navajo Nation and White Mesa Ute Tribe to help their students access college. I am from Monument Valley and I am enrolled in the Navajo Nation. I am grateful that I was able to come back and live, work and serve in my community. 

My position is housed in Undergraduate Studies and we want to raise the retention and persistence rates of Native American students that apply to the U, get accepted and attend. I not only help students apply to college but help connect them with the resources they need to continue with their degrees. 

Based on my own experiences, I know how important it is for young kids to be exposed to higher education, so I also want to create more opportunities for K-12 students to be exposed to the idea of going to college and what that looks like.”

— Jessica Holiday, a Native American outreach and community engagement coordinator based in southeastern Utah