three flamenco dancers in purple dresses perform on stage

My Alumni Story: Erin Barringer-Sterner

Jun 13, 2023 | Feature, Spring 2023

When I was in high school, my family relocated to Rio Rancho from our small hometown in Illinois. We moved to ease my mother’s severe asthma, and although I was hopeful our new life would help her, I was heartbroken to leave our friends and family for a state where we didn’t know a soul.

As I was graduating high school, I was fortunate to receive a UNM Presidential Scholarship, and I enrolled at UNM to stay near my family. Once classes started, I began to appreciate how lucky I was to be at UNM. I’ll never forget discovering the Zimmerman West Wing reading rooms and feeling that maybe my idea of “home” was shifting. I dove head-first into campus life: during my sophomore year, a few friends and I co-founded a new student organization. As a junior, I enrolled in UNM’s study abroad program and lived in the UK. And in my senior year, I joined the National English Honor Society and met the three people who would become my lifelong friends.

UNM empowered me to try new ideas, make mistakes and grow. I became involved in political activism and discovered a passion for sexual and reproductive health and rights. After graduating in 2006 from UNM’s English Language & Literature program, I studied public policy at the University of Chicago and worked at several non-profit health care organizations. I’m now the national director of Data Strategy, Analytics, and Governance at Planned Parenthood Federation of America ¬– my dream job.

Artist rendering of the new Art Building on Central Avenue
So much of who I am today and what I’m most proud of in my life is rooted in my experience at UNM. When I graduated, I promised myself that one day I would give back to the community that shaped my life. I’m proud to be a Presidential Scholarship Program sponsor, a member of the New Horizons Society and a new president for my local alumni chapter. We’re currently planning our first post-pandemic event, and I can’t wait to meet other Lobos in my new home, Phoenix!

When I think about “home” now, I feel a sweet mix of memories: the endless green fields and late summer thunderstorms of Illinois – and also sunsets on the Sandias and the scent of piñon in crisp winter air. UNM taught me that home is where you are seen and loved; it is what we carry in our hearts, no matter where life takes us.

Erin Barringer-Sterner (’06 BA)

Spring 2023 Mirage Magazine Features


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This