A day in the life of a NCAA Woman of the Year Honoree

3 Mins read
Summer Bales

In a Q&A complementing our Flickr tour, soccer star and 2021 MPP candidate Summer Bales reveals what attending GPS looks like today

By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

Summer BalesAt the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), our faculty, staff and students are deeply committed to human rights and international law. For Summer Bales, immigration is personal, growing up with a mother from Sudan and witnessing first-hand the Muslim ban ordered back in 2017.

Inspired by what she saw, Bales started volunteering with the San Diego-based International Rescue Committee (IRC). There she helped people fill out their naturalization applications, DACA renewals and learned more about every aspect of family-based immigration, which led to her National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) nomination as “Top 30 Woman of the Year” for her leadership on the soccer field and in the greater San Diego community.

“I love that San Diego is a border community. We are in this flux of cultures,” said Bales. “The city is one of the largest resettled refugee communities in California. In San Diego, there are so many cultural communities that all come together in this really beautiful way.”

When not making a lasting impact on her community and cohort, Bales can be spotted in Mission Hills, one of her favorite neighborhoods in San Diego. Always active, she loves playing indoor soccer with her old teammates or practicing yoga on the beach. Namaste.

For the full story, check out our Flickr album as we follow her around her life at GPS.

What drove you to pursue a degree at GPS?

“I did my undergraduate here, so I already had a chance to take classes with some of the GPS faculty as part of the International Studies Program. The focus on quantitative skills and real-world career applications made it the best choice for me.”

What is your specialization track and why did you choose it?

“I’ve been leaning towards the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program design and evaluation track. It seems the most flexible for me to work in a nonprofit organization eventually. Its focus on designing research-based programs and quantitative impact assessments allows organizations to make meaningful and sustainable change. I hope to design social programs to ensure the greatest impact for people in my community.”

Summer Bales 1

What motivates you to come to campus every day?

“All of the different people I meet, from the faculty to the students – everyone is so passionate. Since we all come from such diverse backgrounds, I learn something new every day, from hearing their stories to challenging each other along the way. It makes going to class exciting.”

Please tell us more about your inspiring journey to becoming an NCAA Women of the Year Top 30 Honoree.

“The honor recognizes people that have demonstrated leadership, community service, athletic and academic ability. Playing soccer at UC San Diego had a really big impact on my whole college experience. It was my safe place, my second family and I really formed a big community with athletics and my team in particular.

It was my former teammate that encouraged me to pursue Alternative Breaks. As part of the program I worked with an NGO in Nicaragua on a water security project. It really got my gears going with how I could engage with international studies not only in a different county but right here in San Diego. It really helped motivate my work at the IRC and ultimately my desire to focus on immigration policy.”

Amid your rigorous training schedule, in what ways do you strike balance between sports, school and having a social life.

“Doing sports in my undergraduate really helped me with time management. Soccer is a placeholder; you cannot burn out. You need to be physically and mentally healthy in order to get everything done. I take that mentality into graduate school now. The healthier I can be, the better I can perform.”

What do you hope to pursue in the future career-wise?

“There is a really interesting and exciting sector of nonprofits related to women’s empowerment through sports. The program design and evaluation track is the most versatile and would give me a quantitative toolkit to apply to any nonprofit organization. I plan to use these skills in an area I’m passionate about, promoting cultural exchange and the transformative power of sports. The empowerment I received through being on a team is something I hope to pass on to other people.”

Do you have any advice for future/incoming GPS students?

“Find your ‘why’, your reason for pursuing this degree, what motivates you and brings you purpose. That is sometimes more difficult than finding a career path. But that ‘why’ is what you will come back to when you face challenges and question your ability to overcome them. It will always motivate you forward.”

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