Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint who or what steered the direction of one’s path.
For Tatianna Zambrano, a 2020 UA graduate, the course of her entire life has been shaped by two things: her family, with its rich heritage, and her younger brother Alex.
“My family background is pretty heavy, but it’s made me who I am,” said Zambrano, a Tuscaloosa native. “Everything in my life relates back to my family.”
After her brother was diagnosed at the age of 5 with autism and ADHD, her family spent years navigating puzzles and searching for the best resources available.
Through it all, Zambrano has filled the role of adoring big sister exceptionally well, and her love and compassion for her brother inspire her to live life serving others.
“My passion comes from my brother,” said Zambrano, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “My family struggled for years to find answers. I decided to become a psychologist because I want to help families easily find the resources that took my family so long to discover.”
Zambrano was a first generation college student. Her father, an immigrant from Mexico, quit school after the sixth grade. Her mom, who is half Korean and half English, went to beauty school. It was always important that she get the best education and pursue their dream of her going to college.
Zambrano had ideas of going away to college, but after meeting with a UA recruiter, she quickly changed her mind.
“I realized all that I was looking for in a university, we have it right here in my hometown,” said Zambrano, who attended UA on a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship. “I had no idea about all the amazing things happening on campus. It was an easy choice, and attending UA was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
A bonus was staying close to home and to her family, whose cultural diversity is a source of pride for Zambrano.
“People don’t see that I’m triracial when they look at me, so that’s always a nice little surprise,” she said. “We have a lot of cultures blended into our family, and I acknowledge and celebrate all aspects of my heritage.”
While at UA, Zambrano was highly involved in the Honors College, research studies, several honor societies and numerous organizations like the child literacy program READ Alabama and UA Dance Marathon.
“We raised over 1 million dollars for Children’s Hospital through UADM in my time at UA,” said Zambrano. “My brother’s diagnosis came from Children’s, so I’ve always wanted to give back to them. This was one way I was able to do that.”
Zambrano, who graduated summa cum laude, also helped her professor bring to Bryant-Denny Stadium an organization called KultureCity, which creates sensory accessibility and inclusion for those with invisible disabilities.
When it comes down to it, everything Zambrano does leads right back to her brother and her mission to help those like him.
And her future will likely follow suit. In the fall, she’ll enter the doctoral program in psychology at the University of Florida through a full-tuition Fellowship Award. She hopes to one day provide children with early diagnoses and give them the tools they need to be equal in the education system.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.