Leading With People, Leading For People

by Jady Ojiri, Office of Development Communications

After testing positive for the COVID-19 virus in July and beginning the first year of her undergraduate career through Zoom, Magdalena Macias ’24 has overcome innumerable obstacles. But in the face of all of these battles, Macias has never lost hope.

In only a few months, Macias has developed lasting connections at USF as a Muscat Scholar, Magis Fellow, and biology major — all while being a COVID-19 survivor and contact tracer in her small hometown in Northwest Arkansas. 

Macias is leading the charge towards a better future for all and she’s inspiring others with her resilience and willingness to be an exceptional leader.

Serendipity In Action

Macias first discovered USF during a casual conversation at home. Her brother, who’s coincidentally named Francisco, jokingly suggested that Macias apply to USF.

“I started looking into it and I fell in love. I could really envision myself growing at USF, as a student, and as a person,” Macias said.

Macias aimed to work for her college tuition without the help of her parents, but she was unsure if she would be able to afford everything on her own.

Before Macias made her final college decision, she was awarded a university tuition grant from USF and her financial worries were substantially alleviated.

Through this gift, Macias gained access to opportunities like the Muscat Scholars and Magis programs and she thanked the university for embracing her potential as a student and supporting her educational pursuits.

Facing Life-Changing Hardships

But just as Macias was about to fly to California for her first campus visit before the start of the school year, everything changed. Earlier this year, ten people in Macias’ household tested positive for COVID-19.

The virus devastated her family with the loss of her uncle and changed each of their lives in a matter of weeks.

Macias was also one of the members of her family who experienced severe symptoms during her fight with the virus and was admitted into the hospital.

“My family is a perfect example of how fast it can get out of control. It spread within two weeks,” Macias said.

Since recovering from the virus, Macias has taken steps to speak out about the importance of following recommended health guidelines and she urged others to learn from her family’s experience.

“Everyone hears, ‘a quarter of a million people are dead,’ but that’s just a number. They’re not [seeing] the faces and the long-lasting effects that this can have on families,” Macias said.

Inspired to Help Others

Despite the difficulties her family faced, Macias has accepted her ability to create positive change moving forward.

“I am just trusting the process. Things happen for a reason,” Macias said.

With the help of Mary Dutton, a USF pre-health professions advisor, Macias was hired by the contact tracing department at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in August.

Among a group of 20 tracers, Macias reaches out to special populations in Arkansas who have been the most affected by the virus, including those within the Marshallese and Hispanic communities.

She values each moment she has to educate others who aren’t as familiar with the virus and the way it spreads. Macias even travels with extra face masks with her at all times to ensure that those who need assistance are given those resources.

Leadership is at the Heart of a Don

Macias constantly returns to a piece of advice from one of her professors who said that the greatest scientists are those who “Lead other people, lead with people, and find new ways to do things.”

Macias has carried those words of guidance with her ever since, especially now. She believes that true Dons lead by example and holds others accountable.

“The pandemic is not something that we have to live with forever. There are things we can do to help stop the spread of the virus. They’re sacrifices you make now to be able to celebrate with loved ones later on,” she said.

For now, Macias holds onto the anticipation of seeing USF for the first time and exploring San Francisco in the near future.

“I’m definitely hoping that I’ll get to go see it. Hopefully in the summer,” Macias said.

To support students like Magdalena who are Changing the World, consider making a gift in support of the COVID-19 Response Fund as part of Changing the World From Here: Campaign for the University of San Francisco.