Growing up in the Philippines, Andrea Dayne Soleta Schmutz could have never imagined the impact and influence she would wield within the broader Asian community. Her story is best summed up by the scriptural North Star “with God, everything is possible”.
Roman philosopher Seneca once said “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Andrea’s march through life has been anything but fueled by luck. She’s flipped the script so that when opportunity comes she is prepared. Those opportunities have included representing the Philippines in a Miss United Nations USA pageant and numerous international government internships and jobs.
We recently asked Andrea to talk about her interest in immigration, political science, and her participation in the 2012 Miss United Nations USA pageant.
You seem to have an intense interest in government with a particular focus on immigration. Talk about when you realized you had this interest and what you have accomplished, and hope to accomplish, by putting so much focus on immigration?
My interest in government started when I was at BYU. My major was Political Science and I had many internships and volunteer opportunities within the government sector.
I interned with a Congressman in the US House of Representatives, interned with the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, DC, served as a volunteer for Final Exit Poll at Brigham Young University, and interned with the British Parliament and World Trade Center Utah.
When I finished my graduate degree in International Affairs at the University of Utah, I knew that I wanted to work within International Affairs so I was grateful when I was offered a job as an Immigration Specialist for the University of Utah International Admissions office where I helped issue hundreds of I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Students) to undergraduate and graduate students entering the university.
Currently, I am working part-time as a research associate with the Utah Women & Leadership Project with Asian women in Utah, facilitating discussions to make their voices heard. I hope to build bridges and trust within the Asian communities and Utah Women & Leadership Project.
What led to your participation in the Miss United Nations USA contest in 2012? Talk about that experience and any life lessons that came from it.
I was in my third year at BYU and, as an International Student, I had limited work opportunities. My funds were depleting so I needed to find ways to pay for my tuition. Someone encouraged me to join a scholarship beauty pageant and I did.
I represented the Philippines and during the competition, I won Best in Evening Gown, Best in Talent and Fan Favorite. I won Miss United Nations USA 2012 and $1,000 in prize money. It was such a memorable experience because I gained so much confidence, faith and friends during the pageant.
My platform was to inspire girls to have more self-confidence and being beautiful is not only seen in our outer appearance. When we are kind, humble, loving and confident then our beauty radiates within. I gained a lot of friends in the pageant which are still my friends up to this day.
One of the judges, who was a former Miss Utah, gave me a 100% score for my talent and she said she never gave a 100% score previously. Lastly, during my interview with the judges before the competition, one judge said when I walked into the room, there was like a beam of light on me.
Talk about your experience at Ensign College? What impressed you during your time there?
I am grateful for Ensign College. It was my first college experience in the United States as an International Student. During my time as a student, I learned the value of hard work, persistence and patience. Since it was my first time in the US, it was a huge learning curve for me. The values I learned during my time at Ensign College have proven valuable to me up to this day. I met a lot of lifelong friends during my stay there.
I was impressed by how important it is to include the Lord in my studies during my stay at Ensign College. I love how we prayed each time we started our classes, I thought it was a unique experience. I received a lot of scholarships that helped me finish my General Studies and eventually transferred to Brigham Young University.