California State University, Sacramento
Recipient, William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement
Joanna Siefert was born on a military base in the Philippines, and came to the United States with her family when she was two. She considers herself to be a Mestiza, a Filipina, a Native American, and a person with Hispanic blood and mixed heritage. Joanna attended college initially without the support of her family, and then married and had a daughter. Later she became the first in her family to attend a four year university. In August 1999, Joanna's mother was in a car accident that severed her scalp and right ear. While Joanna nursed her mother back to health, she noticed that she herself was growing weaker. She was diagnosed with an advanced stage of ovarian cancer and had to undergo surgery and intensive chemotherapy. These events were transformative, and ignited her passion to help others and realize that she needed to get her degree. Joanna enrolled at Solano Community College, later transferring to the University of California, Berkeley where she received her bachelor's degree in social welfare. She is now enrolled in CSU Sacramento's master's program in social work. Joanna has worked as a hospice volunteer, an auxiliary reader for the blind, a phone buddy for the elderly and a jail intern counseling adult inmates. Her life goals are to be kind, to not judge and to always keep hope alive.