SALT LAKE CITY — Growing up in a village of the Philippines wouldn't have given current Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez many opportunities, so when she was 2 years old, her mother chose to move their family to the city.
The family lived in the slums on the beach, she said, and later in the slums of the city.
"We were so happy to have our own home," Tuminez said. "It was only a hut on stilts in the water, but it was good for us."
Tuminez shared her experience as a keynote speaker of the 2021 RootsTech Connect, a family history conference run by FamilySearch, a volunteer-based organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This year's event was 100% virtual due to the pandemic and attracted a record number of over 380,000 participants.
The scholar credits her success to the many women in her life that helped encourage and cultivate her confidence, especially her mother.
"My journey from the village to the slums and later to the University of the Philippines, Brigham Young University, Harvard and MIT and now at UVU wouldn't have been possible without my mother's vision and fighting spirit," she said.
Thanks to all these "women warriors," Tuminez is able to carry on the legacy as a woman warrior herself.
"I am the third generation among women warriors," she said.
As a 5-year-old, Tuminez met Catholic nuns after they knocked on the door of their hut. The nuns thought they were bright children and invited them to attend an expensive school, free of charge.
"This moment changed my life forever," Tuminez said. Those nuns would go on to teach her how to read, write and worship God, she said.
In her first week of school, she didn't know any letters or numbers; but over the next few months, a young Tuminez had been moved to the front row after proving herself to be a dedicated student.
When Tuminez was 10 her family was first introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through its missionaries. She was later baptized into the church.
"That has been a truly formative influence in my life, in the sense that the belief in human progress and spiritual progress in a loving God and the divine worth of individual individuals was further affirmed through my LDS religion," Tuminez said at the virtual event.
When reflecting back on her mother's sacrifices to provide an opportunity for her family, Tuminez said she is thankful.
"My heart overflows with gratitude … as I think about the spirit that flows from life to life to life. My grandmother was given so little and my mother the same," Tuminez said. "Yet, they had strong hearts and skillful hands and stubborn brains that helped them take advantage of opportunity endure suffering and care for themselves and others."
Now, she hopes to continue the strong lineage with her children.
In 2018, Tuminez became the seventh president of Utah Valley University and the first woman to serve in the role.
"I took this job to make myself useful to others," she said. "I take great pride in the work that my team and I do."
While Tuminez reflects often on the importance of her own ancestors, she admits she doesn't think about what her own legacy might be.
"It's important for me that I feel happy as much as possible, that I am doing useful things for others and for myself, and that I am kind, I am charitable," she said.
Thanks to the women warriors in her own life, Tuminez has been able to fulfill her educational aspirations and help inspire others all over the world. She encouraged others to think of the women warriors in their life and consider how their actions helped guide their children, and their children's children lives
"My grandmother, my mother, and other women warriors in my life are all women who dared to dream in difficult circumstances. They found courage to leap into adventures and didn't let their circumstances over overly sway what they could and would become," Tuminez said.
Editor's note: Deseret Digital Media, Inc., the operator of KSL.com, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.