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Meet a Badger: Maria Ontiveros ’12

Maria Ontiveros ’12

It's time to meet amazing Badger Alumni, Maria Ontiveros.  Learn more about Maria and how she reflects on her time at UW.

Which years did you attend UW?


What was your major and what degree did you obtain?

I majored in International Studies and Chinese and received a Bachelors in Science.

What is your hometown?  

Quad Cities: Davenport and Bettendorf, IA; and Rock Island and Moline, IL.

Describe your career:

I am an English Language instructor at a middle school and the director of a nonprofit organization called Mercado on Fifth. The Mercado hosts weekly summer events that offer a platform for minority-owned businesses and a vibrant space for the community to gather and celebrate culture. (Check out the website at:

Describe a fond memory of your years at UW:

I was sitting in the Rathskeller, studying Chinese, when I heard an older gentleman and an exchange student talking about China. I joined the conversation, which led to collaborating with them on a project called Rivers as Bridges! This initiative is a sister-river exchange program aimed at connecting youth from the Yangtze and Mississippi River valleys. Later that year, we brought together 40 undergraduate and graduate students on a multi-day trip through the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin to learn about culture, commerce and conservation along the Mississippi.

How would you describe the education you received at UW?

My four years at UW were both diverse and formative. Slow to choose a major, I enrolled in classes ranging from Textile Science to Soil Science, Classical Chinese to Social Entrepreneurship.

The UW language department took me all the way to China, instilling in me my love of world cultures. A student group called Slow Food taught me to appreciate what’s local. Both experiences made me who I am today.

What would you tell prospective students who are considering UW?

You will never look back. I have never met a Badger who wasn’t proud to be one.

How will you celebrate the UW? Check out the ways you can join the philanthropic festivities when Day of the Badger returns March 28–29.