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A family affair

Abigail Peralta's parents came from the Philippines in the 1980s to receive their Ph.D.'s from Texas A&M University. Years later, she followed in their footsteps.

by Heather Rodriguez ’04

The Peralta family, left to right: Caroline, Abigail, Engelbert, Erle, Milagros, posing in front of a home at night

The Peralta family, left to right: Caroline, Abigail, Engelbert, Erle, Milagros

It’s roughly 8,500 miles from the Philippines to College Station, Texas. Yet, like her parents before her, Abigail Peralta made the journey to earn her Ph.D. in economics from the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University. She graduates Thursday.

“My parents came here from the Philippines to get their Ph.D.’s in the 1980s,” Peralta said. “They had such a great experience here that it encouraged me to come here as well.”

While Peralta and her twin sister Caroline were born here in 1989, they moved back to the Philippines when they were only 20 months old after their parents completed their advanced degrees. Back home, their father, Engelbert, taught agricultural engineering and their mother, Milagros, taught chemistry at a nearby university. They also had another child—a son named Erle.

Then in 2013, the Department of Economics offered Peralta a graduate diversity fellowship, and she decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps.

“The program director, Mark Hoekstra, reached out to me to let me know how much he wanted me here,” she said. “It was that extra little personal touch that helped me decide. And it’s great because he became my advisor in the program.”

Peralta specializes in public economics, particularly electoral institutions and government behavior. She said economics can be used to detect election fraud.

“Growing up in the Philippines and seeing the problems we have with our democracy made me want to study economics in the first place,” she said. “It’s a functioning democracy on the surface but it bothered me that we had elections in name only.”

After graduation, Peralta will begin teaching economics at Louisiana State University. But she says she will miss the camaraderie of Aggieland, and she will take her memories with her—just like her parents did.

“My mom always told me how great of a place A&M is because people were so understanding and helpful here,” Peralta said. “She always told me to be helpful to people because she never would have gotten through the program with twin babies without the kindness of strangers.”