Anthropology Alumna Advocates Social Justice

Lillie Headshot

Lillie U. Dao, ’11, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UCF and has been advocating for social justice and health as a human right through her research ever since.

Dao has been devoted to working with underserved and marginalized communities to increase access to health services and health education. She is in pursuit of a research career in public health with a focus on medical anthropology, health disparities, and the social determinants of health. Dao thanks UCF and the countless opportunities it offers for her academic, professional, and personal growth throughout her young career.

After graduating from UCF, Dao earned her master’s degree in public anthropology from American University. During her academic career, she served as a principal student investigator, graduate assistant, and research assistant for institutions in the United States, Costa Rica, and Croatia.

For two years Dao served as a research associate for LTG Associates, a health and human services consulting firm in Maryland. During her time at LTG, she consulted for numerous public and private organizations. She primarily served as a researcher on a 2-year grant with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to develop a culturally grounded and community-based framework to inform advocacy networks for childhood obesity prevention in select underserved Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. She worked with 12 different AAPI communities throughout the United States and conducted ethnographic inquiry with more than 100 national, state, and local organizations. She also conducted research for projects that address intimate partner violence, immigrant and refugee health, maternal and child health, internet-based means of healthcare information dissemination, and religion and health.

Dao will continue working toward a research career in public health by beginning her pursuit of a Ph.D. in Public Health this summer at the University of South Florida in the Department of Community and Family Health.

Dao shared more on her time at UCF, her academic and professional career, and offers advice to students in the spotlight responses below.

Why did you choose to attend UCF? 

UCF is the nation’s second largest university with an immense amount of opportunities to guide students’ academic and professional growth. I saw UCF as an environment that prepares youth for critical civic engagement to make a difference in our world.

How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?

The university truly lives up to it’s saying that “UCF Stands for Opportunity.” The experiences and mentorship have proven invaluable in my academic, professional, and personal growth. Mentorship and growth at UCF came from many avenues including the faculty in the Department of Anthropology, Greek life, culturally based organizations, volunteerism, and Asian American associations.

Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?

Delta Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc., the Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations and associations, the Diversified Greek Council, and local Orlando-based volunteering and philanthropies.

What is your best UCF memory?

Two very memorable experiences at UCF were graduation day and my involvement with Delta Phi Lambda. The memory of graduation day left an imprint on my heart it was a celebration of my undergraduate academic achievements with my father and my dearest and closest family and friends. My involvement with Delta Phi Lambda was truly an extraordinary experience as it was by means of this sisterhood that I created some of my strongest friendships and grew immensely.

What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

“Work hard, play harder.” Life is a balancing act. It is vital to balance school and career ambitions with memories made with loved ones. At the end of the day it is time spent with and the love of family and friends that makes everything worthwhile. 

Dao answered some more questions in our 30-second “get to know you” portion of the spotlight.

Do you have any special/hidden talents? 

Salsa dancing.  

What do you do for fun?

Travel, water sports, volleyball, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors.

What is your best birthday memory?

Sky diving over Niagara Falls.


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