Skip to main content

Veronica Siman (B.A., ’88, Ph.D. ’88)


I arrived in Chapel Hill in May 1980 with my parents and siblings, after fleeing my country (El Salvador) due to the civil war. My father was invited as a visiting scholar at the School of Medicine to teach Ethics, which is something he did while in El Salvador, at the Jesuit university (UCA).


I entered UNC-Chapel Hill in August 1980, and in December 1983, I obtained my BA in Economics and Sociology. When the time came to attend graduate school I knew I had to major in Sociology, and specialize in Demography. I had enjoyed the undergraduate class taught by Dr. Krishnan Namboodiri on Population Problems (SOC 32), and wanted to learn more on those issues. Although I applied to other universities, UNC is the one that offered the best conditions for me, so I stayed; I am very thankful for the opportunity of getting my master’s and PhD (December 1988) with a teaching and research assistantships.


When I was completing my Master’s in August 1986, I met with my advisor, Dr. Namboodiri. At the time I wanted to return to my country but he asked why not continue with my PhD, if I already had the research assistantship and only a few more courses to go and the dissertation. Dr. Namboodiri made me realize I had no commitments in El Salvador, and could  take advantage of this opportunity. And I did. I decided to stay and complete my PhD.


Little did I know that staying meant that I would meet the man that would become my husband one month later; he arrived in Chapel Hill (also from El Salvador) as a Fulbright scholar to complete a Master of Science in Public Health. We had never met before, but one year and nine months later we were married (30 years ago!) at the Carolina Inn. Five years ago we traveled back to Chapel Hill with our three kids so they could see where we had met, where we had studied, where we had lived (including Odum Village), and where we had gotten married.


I have very nice memories from the Sociology Department. I remember there were students from many different countries in the program: Australia, China, Mexico, and the Philippines, among others. There were many Americans, also from diverse parts of the USA. I have nice memories from many of the faculty: Rachel Rosenfeld, Craig Calhoun, Peter Uhlenberg, Ronald Rindfuss, Barbara Entwisle, etc.   I spent quite some time at the Carolina Population Center and really enjoyed learning there and the international focus of the various projects.


I am very thankful to Ronald Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for all their support with my dissertation. They provided very valuable feedback and on a quick turnaround which allowed me to graduate in December 1988 and return to my country then.


Upon my return I felt frustrated because research is not really valued in El Salvador, and there were practically no opportunities at the time. I worked with the government for 14 years in population and social policy; then for four years I worked with Futures Group, in a national and a regional project related to reproductive health, and since 2008, with the United Nations and Population Fund; first, as Assistant Representative in El Salvador, and since 2014, as Representative of the Guatemala country office.


I enjoy working for sexual and reproductive health and rights. We are able to work on projects aimed at empowering adolescent girls and promoting comprehensive sexuality education. We also have the opportunity to do some research on which to base policy and program design. Currently we are supporting the Government of Guatemala in the implementation of the 2018 population and housing census (the last one was in 2002!).

submitted March 2018

Verónica Simán


UNFPA Guatemala

5 avenida 5-55 Europlaza,

Torre IV, nivel 10, zona 14,

Ciudad de Guatemala

Tel +502 2384 3151