Macalester prides itself on the diversity of its students and the multitude of stories, perspectives and experiences those individuals contribute to the community. This sought after uniqueness that so many Mac students embody can come in many forms. For Erin Ortiz ’15, the many moves she has made with her family as a child have shaped her into the strong and determined woman she is today.
At Mac, Ortiz is known for her involvement in track and field, sprinting the 200m, 400m, and various relays for the team. Her favorite is the 200m. Despite having asthma, which at times limits how far Ortiz can push herself, she has competed at both indoor and outdoor MIAC Conference meets, improved her running form and times from high school, and earned Academic All-Conference honors.
In choosing colleges, track was not the deciding factor, but it was important to Ortiz. “Track wasn’t a huge reason for me to come here, but it was definitely a big bonus,” she said. Although she joined the team in part because of the welcoming nature of Martin Pepper, head coach at the time, Ortiz has had a positive experience all four years. “It was hard at first when [Coach Pepper] left, but I just really love Betsy [Emerson, assistant coach] and Matt [Haugen, assistant coach] because they are are so relatable and care a lot about their athletes. And Margaret [Gehring, head coach] came in this year and she’s just so much fun. I’m really sad that I couldn’t have more years with her,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz has continued to run track while at Mac because of the friends she has made and confidence she has gained from it. With almost 80 people on the track team, Ortiz values how many people she gets to meet who she would not normally get to know, especially underclassmen. “It’s been a real privilege to get to know so many people and just be on a team like that,” she said.
In addition to participating on the track and field team, Ortiz has been a member of Little Scots for much of her time at Mac, worked for the head coaches, joined Mac Catholics and the senior gift committee. Although one of her regrets from her time at Mac is not being more consistently involved in other extracurriculars, she does not regret prioritizing track. “I wouldn’t change that, ever,” Ortiz said.
Although track has been a huge part of her life at Macalester, she did not begin to run competitively until her sophomore year at Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis, Oregon. That year, Ortiz returned to the US from Ireland, where her family had moved for her father’s work with Hewlett-Packard. Before track, Ortiz played soccer and could be found sprinting after the ball, as a forward. “My parents encouraged me to try track and I ended up liking it more than soccer. There was less team drama and the coaches were really good to me,” Ortiz said.
At the same time as she discovered her passion for track, Ortiz immersed herself in her high school’s orchestra as principal bassist. In addition to having her older brother and other friends in her orchestra classes, her high school won state musical contests on multiple occasions. “It was a really positive experience. I loved orchestra and it was really sad when I made the choice that I should not continue playing the bass,” Ortiz said, but she did not let the cumbersome nature of the bass and her decision to stop playing get in the way of her love for music, especially classical. “I bought a ukulele and love playing that too,” she said.
Ortiz was born at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, California. Her father was a lieutenant in the navy at the time, and her mother a lieutenant commander. Soon after, her mother retired from the Navy to raise Erin and her brother, who is one year older, and her father was hired by Hewlett-Packard. For her father’s work, the family moved from coast to coast many times, returning to the same town in Oregon four times. In eighth grade the family moved to Ireland, where Ortiz experienced her first major culture shock as a shy middle schooler. In Dublin, Ortiz tried out badminton and became the singles city champion. While there, she had the opportunity to travel to other countries in Europe, too. One of the highlights was finding her father’s family in Spain after sending out letters to people with the same last name in his city.
From living abroad Ortiz learned a lot about social interactions and realized that she did not want to be a shy person any longer. “It’s more fun to talk louder and to be a little more obnoxious and embarrass yourself than it is to sit back and watch other people embarrass themselves,” Ortiz said.
Because of all of her travels, including a trip to China her sophomore year, Ortiz decided not to study abroad while at Mac. “I thought I had done a lot abroad, and I wanted to go to school in the same place for four years for once. I don’t regret that choice, but I hope to do more traveling when I graduate,” Ortiz said.
As a linguistics major and psychology minor, Ortiz ultimately hopes to become an audiologist. Last year she thought about speech language pathology as a career, but after shadowing a husband-wife duo in their audiology practice over the summer, Ortiz is excited to have a clear goal. “It’s something I grew very passionate about very quickly, so next year I plan to pursue an Au.D program at the Oregon Pacific University,” said Ortiz. After three years Ortiz would be able to start practicing audiology.
In the future, Ortiz hopes to complete a bucket list she has compiled over the years. This would include becoming proficient in three languages: English, Spanish and Chinese (which she is still learning), playing the bass again, kicking in a vending machine like the characters did in Jurassic Park, and performing a citizen’s arrest.
For now though, Ortiz is content reading SciFi novels like Flowers for Algernon and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, watching horror movies with her friend and fellow sprinter Emily Diener ’15, playing the ukulele, running, and exercising her photoshop skills to create funny pictures of her friends.
“I think that I’ll be happy wherever I go and whatever I do. It’s just a matter of meeting the right people and fate,” Ortiz said.