Sandra was sixteen when she left Peru to join her father, an undocumented Peruvian immigrant, in Oklahoma. At the age of eighteen, she moved to California, where she attended Berkeley City College (BCC) and the University of California, Berkeley. At BCC, she founded the Latin American Students Association. At Berkeley, Sandra won the CAL Alumni Achievement Award, and was accepted into the Haas Research Program and the McNair Scholars Program. Funded by the Institute of International Studies and the Haas Fellowship, she wrote her thesis on the effects of participation in an organization on the lives of Andean women affected by civil war in Ayacucho, Peru. Her thesis received high honors and was published in the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal.
After working in a large mining company in South America, Sandra returned to the United States to pursue her doctoral studies in sociology at Columbia University. She currently conducts research on various topics related to diversity and inclusion. As a doctoral student, Sandra has been awarded the Columbia University Provost Diversity Fellowship, a 2017 National Science Foundation Research Fellowship, among other awards. She has served as the chair of the Graduate Students of Color Alliance at Columbia, and launched the Intimate Conversations with Women in Academia series in the department of sociology at Columbia.