Born August 8, 1964 in a small island in the province of Iloilo, Philippines, Mary Astrid Segovia Tuminez was raised in extreme poverty. She was the sixth of seven children. Their mother left them when she was only five years old. Their oldest sister, who was only 15 years old then, raised them.
Right after their mother left, Astrid and her siblings were fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend a private school run by Catholic nuns. She credits the nuns for giving her the opportunity to get an education, which she believed gave her the success and accomplishments in her early years. She believed that education enables individuals to fulfill their dreams and maximize their potential in life.
“A pivotal event changed the arc of my life when I was five years old. Nuns from a Catholic order called the Daughters of Charity began talking with my mother and older sisters one day. The Daughters of Charity ran one of the best convent schools in Iloilo City: the Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus. They had just established a free department for underprivileged children – and they asked my sisters and me to attend. They closed the free department a few years later, but five of us kept going and they didn’t charge us anything. What did that education mean for me? From being an illiterate child, ignorant, malnourished and insecure, I became someone who learned to read, discovered numbers and devoured everything.
“I was illiterate on the first day of school. In my school, the smartest child was put in the first seat, first row. The dumbest child was in the last seat, last row, and I was actually in the last seat, last row. But after a few months, I’m happy to report that I ended up sitting right in front – and I’m here where I am now all because of my access to education.
“Speaking personally, education really is the great equalizer. If you grow up underprivileged, education offers you the chance to discover an entire world. You might live in a village or under a bridge in Manila and know nothing about anything, but education can set your mind free. Any time you open up a mind, you’re opening up possibilities.” [Source: Wikipedia]
A new life in the U.S.
Tuminez went to the United States in 1982 to start new life when she was 18 years old. She held a student visa but she eventually became a U.S. citizen. She began her study at Brigham Young University (BYU). She earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian and international relations from BYU. She then went to Harvard University where she earned a master’s degree in Soviet Studies. After that, she studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she earned her Ph.D. in Political Science and Government.
After completing her studies, Dr. Tuminez went to work at the Carnegie Corporation of New York as a program officer, focused on grant making in democratization, conflict prevention, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In the 1990’s, Dr. Tuminez joined AIG Global Investments as a research director and ran the Moscow office of the Harvard Project on Strengthening Democratic Institutions. This was where she worked with leading reformers of communism. She was also a senior advisor to the Salzburg Global Seminar, and a consultant to the World Bank, and institutional sales/research professional at Brunswick Warburg.
In 2003, Dr. Tuminez went to work at the U.S. Institute of Peace as a senior research consultant, where she assisted in advancing peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). She worked in that capacity until 2007.
She was also a member and former adjunct fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was the author of the book, “Russian Nationalism Since 1856: Ideology and the Making of Foreign Policy,” and other publications on a range of subjects.
Move to Singapore
After her stint with the U.S. Institute of Peace, Dr. Tuminez took a challenging job in Singapore as Vice-Dean of Research and Assistant Dean of Executive Education at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (National University of Singapore). She trained more than 2,000 private sector professionals in leadership and organizational change. She was also charged to lead marketing, fundraising, and grants administration for the National University of Singapore.
In 2012, Dr. Tuminez authored, “Rising to the Top? A Report on Women’s Leadership in Asia,” a project supported by the Asia Society and the Rockefeller Foundation.
She has been a U.S. Institute of Peace scholar, a Freeman fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, a distinguished alumna of Brigham Young University, a fellowship recipient of the Social Science Research Council and the MacArthur Foundation, and a member of the International Advisory Board of the Asian Women Leadership University project and the Institute on Disability and Public Policy.
She serves on the board of the Philippines’ second largest bank, the Bank of the Philippine Islands, and board member of Singapore American School, and ASKI Global, a non-governmental organization (NGO), which was focused on training and financing entrepreneurship among Asian women migrant laborers. She served ASKI’s Chair of the Board until 2017.
In October 2012, Dr. Tuminez joined Microsoft as Regional Director for Corporate, External and Legal Affairs for Southeast Asia. She led a team that supported 15 markets and earned more than $1 billion in revenues. Her role was to strengthen government relations, and cultivate corporate citizenship, including business and regulatory initiatives in that region; and enhance understanding of trending issues shaping regulation and policy, specifically drivers of inclusive growth in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Dr. Tuminez was an advocate for increased global access to education for women. She delivered a TEDxChiang Mai presentation, “Dare to Empower and be Empowered,” where she discussed the necessity of providing leadership and educational opportunities to women and laid out concrete steps for organizations to encourage, utilize, and sustain female talent. In various opinion pieces, interviews, and articles, she stated: “The economic growth we have in Asia looks a lot less impressive when you consider that half the population is not realizing its full potential. Women are ready to do more and be more. We can be engineers, mathematicians, business people, educators – or whatever else we dream of being.”
In 2013, Dr. Tuminez was named one of the “Top 100 Global Influencers” by the Filipina Women’s Network of the United States.
On April 20, 2018, Dr. Tuminez was introduced as the seventh president of Utah Valley University (UVU) in Orem, Utah. The Utah State Board of Regents unanimously voted for her appointment. UVU serves more than 37,200 students and is the largest public university in Utah. It is one of the few in the nation that offers a dual-mission model that combines the rigor of a teaching university with the accessible vocational programs of a community college. Among the eight colleges and universities that comprise the Utah System of Higher Education, women lead three others. Dr. Tuminez is the fourth. However, she is the first woman to become UVU President. [Source: Deseret News/Marjorie Cortez]
Being selected a UVU President “is in some ways overwhelming, but my life was completely transformed by education,” she said. “I was really intrigued by type of education that is being done here, the dual mission, which I thought was bold and experimental and also, really the right kind of approach in the 21st century. It addresses inclusion in a big way at a time when the world and societies are polarized and socio-economic differences are becoming bigger and bigger,” she added. [Ibid]
Daniel W. Campbell, chairman of the board of regents, said Tuminez’s experience, vision, and dedication to student success would ensure that UVU continues to thrive in the coming years. “Dr. Tuminez has proven to be a dynamic leader across academic, nonprofit, public policy and corporate sectors. Throughout her storied career, she has focused on bridging gaps in education and opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, which seamlessly aligns with UVU’s institutional mission and core themes,” Campbell said. [Ibid]
Dr. Tuminez is fluent in English, Russian, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), French, Tagalog and a working knowledge of Spanish. She enjoys running and has completed one marathon and four half-marathons. She had 11 years of martial arts training in a system called Tan’s Dazzling Hands while living in New York City. She is married and has three children. At the time she was appointed UVU President, Dr. Tuminez was resident in Singapore.