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From Mongolia to Alaska, determined to make a difference

Michelle Goolio

Michelle Goolio

Michelle Goolio, B.A. Social Work ’13

Michelle is the youngest of six from a family of Mongolian herders in the Gobi Desert. Tumenkhishig is her Mongolian first name; she adopted Michelle for ease of use in America. This May she graduated from UAA with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Personal experience with the devastating affects of poor health care in her home country set Michelle on the path to UAA. Before she left Mongolia in 2006, her father struggled with illness, often traveling from their small town to the city to receive medical care. During these visits she recognized a need for a place for herders to stay in the city that provided a comfortable and safe environment. This fueled her passion for pursuing a career in social work.

“Herders are looked down upon, not respected,” she said. “Even though we had an appointment, they moved people ahead of him.” After years of poor care, her father died of a heart attack in 2009.

Since she’s left Mongolia, Michelle attended an English-as-a-second-language school in California, and after a year, traveled north to attend UAA. Her social work education, exposure to the Hickel House, Hospice and the Ronald McDonald House, as well as a practicum at the American Cancer Society, greatly influenced Michelle’s commitment to raise money to build a place for rural herders to stay when they’re in the city for medical care.

“It’s quite touching to participate in these classes,” Michelle said. With her internship experiences and guidance from mentors, she is taking her education back with her to Mongolia. Despite the challenging road ahead, she is determined to make a difference in her country. Read Michelle’s full story.