Spotlight on Loretta Müller
Aug 1, 2022 8:00 AM
Loretta Müller (she/her/hers) is our August 2022 spotlight! Since April 2021, Loretta has been the Executive Assistant on the University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (UHEDI) team making sure things run smoothly and being an amazing support resource to the team.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Mālō E Lelei! It is an honor to be highlighted this month!
A little bit about myself: I was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, a smaller town just outside of Boise. My parents raised us on a pig and cow farm, where I learned a lot about hard work and having a wild imagination. My brother and I were tasked with the pig feeding; my dad would go to local bakeries and take their expired or damaged food items for feed. My brother and I would always take our share of donuts and spoil our dinner because we'd be full by the time we got called in for dinner.
I am of Tongan descent. My father migrated to the US in the 1970s in search of a better life. He found himself in Hawai'i with relatives and then made his way to California. He eventually settled in Idaho, where he met my mom, who was visiting from California. My maternal great-grandma introduced my parents, and the rest is history! Growing up, my parents have always instilled the importance of not only hard work but an education. Since they left all they knew back home in Tonga at an early age, they came to the US and immediately went into the workforce. My parents are very strong supporters of continuing our education. After high school, I attended the University of Utah; the shock and reality of being on my own really set in for me, so I made the choice to return to Idaho and live at home and continue schooling there. I earned my Medical Assistant certification and began my career in health care. I loved it! I worked in urgent care, where I grew and learned so much. 2019 came along, and I felt an urge for change. I spoke with my parents and agreed that moving back to Utah, this time better prepared, would be a good choice for me. I accepted an MA position with UHealth and got right back into it.
Eventually, I felt another urge for change and found myself in the UHEDI office. I have been in Utah for 3 years and love it here; I love where my career has taken me and the opportunities it has presented me.
Outside of work and since COVID, I have found myself to be a homebody. I enjoy long walks and easy hikes—I tried some snow sports this past winter and broke my arm, so I think I'll keep to the homebody from now on. I am not the best cook, but I do enjoy making things from scratch. I hope in the near future, I can travel outside of the US and visit my family in New Zealand and Tonga.
What excites you about working in UHEDI?
The opportunity to grow. I have not gone a day without learning something new either about myself or about the mission of UHEDI. I am in a place where I have envisioned myself for a long time—going to work does not feel like work. Being surrounded by a supportive team that feels like family has also been a bonus.
Why did you want and choose to take this role?
Since the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many Black men and women, I knew that my heart wanted and needed to be in a place where I can be the positive change.
This role really "fell in my lap." I recall one night, I was talking to my sister about how I see myself growing in a new area, somewhere I can live and breathe diversity and be that face someone like me would look for. A friend of my sister’s reached out to her about this position for herself, but she presented it to me. I did not feel like I fit all of the qualifications, but I took a leap of faith and applied anyway. I am so grateful that I did.
Sometimes folks look at EDI-focused careers and work as not being enough to prepare for other leadership roles outside of EDI departments. How do you feel this work does or can help benefit and advance your career as well as your close collaborators and partners?
I feel like the skillset I have gained in the last year with UHEDI has prepared me for so much more than any other role I have had. I learned that there is so much more to an individual than their job role. I have made and found community outreach connections by taking the time to talk to people and getting to know their life as a whole.
I feel like the space that has been provided to me has allowed me to be comfortable enough to question things and make progress that otherwise would've been overlooked. Being a good leader to me means you take genuine interest in your partners/collaborators lives and understanding that there is more to them than their work, and I feel the EDI space has really encompassed that.
What is your "why?"
My "why" is very simple; it is my family. Being a first-generation Tongan American, I witnessed a lot of the adversity my parents faced for their imperfect English, the color of their skin, and the way they dressed. I never want to submit to an atmosphere that would allow this again. Looking back, I was embarrassed of my culture because it did not fit in, I regret now and only hope to create a safe place for everyone to feel included in.
Fun Facts to Know About Loretta
- Food or drink you couldn't live without: Coffee!!!!! I will not say I am a coffee snob because I drink any kind, but I will not ever go without it.
- Something you'd like to cross off your bucket list: Use up all the pages in my passport! I want to see the world.
- Favorite class in school (any level of schooling): I always said I love math, no matter what level. But math did not love me back.
- Most recent movie you watched, and do you recommend it? I just watched Top Gun: Maverick. I loved it. I had to watch the original since I had not yet. 10/10 recommend.
- Where is the next place you'd like to travel to or visit? First on my list is to go back to New Zealand. My dad's family is mostly there, and I haven't been since 2003. I miss everything and everyone, and I still dream about their food!