Coming from the small town of San Sebastián in Puerto Rico, Paul. H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs alum André Zhang Sonera never dreamed he'd have the opportunity to go to college on the mainland. A chance encounter and quick conversation about IUPUI at the National FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) Convention in Indianapolis in 2010 changed that. A follow-up call with an IUPUI admissions advisor allowed Zhang Sonera to begin imagining himself as an IUPUI Jaguar.
"The most appealing factor of this campus for me was its proximity and integration with downtown Indianapolis and the different partnerships and collaborations with the many community organizations and entities that serve its residents," Zhang Sonera said.
Passionate about public service and civic engagement, Zhang Sonera majored in civic leadership and minored in policy studies, and earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2016. During his sophomore year, he participated in the Sam. H. Jones Community Service Scholarship program, which more firmly rooted his civic-minded future.
Three internships during his undergrad years exposed Zhang Sonera to what a career in public service might be like. In 2014, during the fall semester of his junior year, Zhang Sonera served as an intern for the Executive Office of the President at the White House through the O’Neill School's Washington Leadership Program. The following summer as an operations intern in the City of New York Mayor's Office of Operations, Zhang Sonera evaluated the quality and availability of interpretation services for limited English proficiency residents. In the fall of 2015, he coordinated logistics and event management for the Indiana Bicentennial Commission in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.