Season 3 Episode 142: Standing Up for What You Believe with Mary Kate Soliva

We welcome back Mary Kate Soliva to update us on her life since transitioning 2 years ago. Mary Kate served more than 11 years in the US Army, with much of her service dedicated to Special Operations Forces. In 2021, Mary Kate separated and transitioned into the Army Reserve. She worked as a program manager for the Project Management Institute and is now supporting Special Operations at Motive International. As the host of the Veteran Voices podcast, Mary Kate brings to light insights, perspectives and stories from those that have served or who are currently serving. She is the co-founder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative and volunteers with a host of organizations.


Mary Kate started her transition early. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the in-person transition services were not available, so she leaned heavily into building her network and scheduling virtual coffees with people through LinkedIn. Like many veterans, Mary Kate had moments of panic and questioned whether she was making the right choice by leaving. Through her networking and LinkedIn involvement, she was approached by the Project Management Institute for a role that they were looking to fill. Some of the connections that she made virtually on LinkedIn have since become some of her closest friends and mentors. It is possible to build quality relationships virtually.


Since Mary Kate has shifted her service from active duty to reserve, she has become very aware of the unique challenges that reservists face. Many of these soldiers live hours away from their unit’s base. In addition, many of the resources we commonly think about are only for active-duty service members or there are caveats attached to the resource. Mary Kate hopes to find solutions to common issues surrounding the reservist service member.


In 2022, Mary Kate co-founded the Guam Human Rights Initiative. Because she graduated from the University of Guam, the US territory holds a special place in her heart. As a current doctoral student, she is researching human rights issues impacting Guam and Micronesia. In addition, she collaborates with other scholars and students in other parts of the country and world to find solutions for the issues plaguing Guam. Although human trafficking - specifically sex trafficking - is a priority, there are other human rights issues such as family violence and food insecurity that she is also researching.


The Hoover Institution Veteran Fellowship Program started in 2021 and is a nonresident year-long program based out of Stanford University and under the direction of Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Each fellow focuses on a bipartisan topic that is impacting the American people. Mary Kate gained the support of Dr. Rice along with the Governor of Guam and other high-profile people and entities for her research into human rights issues in Guam.


Mary Kate has never been paid for her advocacy or volunteering work, but the opportunity to really make an impact on the lives of others keeps her motivated and inspired. Both of her employers since leaving the military have been supportive of her and have given her the flexibility to pursue her other interests.


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