Developing a Culture of Diversity
Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Mary Gonzalez learned to move between two cultures – that of the United States and that of Juarez, Mexico, which was just across the border.
As the new assistant dean for student multicultural affairs at Southwestern, Gonzalez hopes to help members of the campus community become more aware of different identities.
“The real world is very multicultural,” Gonzalez says. “You have to learn how to work with people from different backgrounds, different beliefs and different worldviews. Having a multicultural awareness prepares students for after they graduate from college. It also strengthens their academic work.”
Gonzalez is no stranger to campus multicultural affairs work, or to Southwestern. The summer after she graduated from high school, she worked at the Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session that was held at Southwestern. LDZ is sponsored by the National Hispanic Institute and helps high-achieving Latino high school students develop leadership skills. “In the summer of 2001 I spent a week and a half here as an LDZ counselor, and that’s when I fell in love with Southwestern,” Gonzalez says. “When the job here opened up, I already felt familiar with Southwestern.”
Prior to joining the Southwestern staff this summer, Gonzalez was the program coordinator in the Multicultural Information Center at UT-Austin. She received undergraduate degrees in history and Mexican American Studies from UT in 2007. She also holds a master of liberal arts degree with a concentration in social justice from St. Edward’s University in Austin.
As an undergraduate at UT, Gonzalez served as student director of the Multicultural Information Center, organized the national Latina/o Leadership Summit in Austin for three years, and re-established the UT chapter of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens). She received several awards for her work at UT, including the Amethyst Light Award, which is presented to the outstanding Latina/o community leader, and the Dean’s Dozen 2007 Outstanding Student Award.
While in graduate school, Gonzalez became involved with LGBTQ initiatives and with Kappa Delta Chi, a Latina service sorority. She currently serves as the national vice president of collegiate affairs for Kappa Delta Chi.
“We are thrilled that Mary has joined us at Southwestern,” says Jerry Brody, vice president for student life. “She brings strong experience in developing programs that promote and support diversity and social justice in a university setting. Her interpersonal skills are outstanding, and she is thoroughly committed to the success of all student populations.”
Brody said the position Gonzalez holds is essential as Southwestern strives to have a student population that better reflects the population of Texas. “We also want to make sure that we continue to be supportive of all our students,” he says.
Gonzalez will work with the five groups that currently compose the Multicultural Council: Allies, A.S.I.A. Club, EBONY, Latinos Unidos and SU Native. One of her first goals is to take each group on a retreat off campus. “Initially I’m taking a lot of students on retreats because if you get them away from campus and you put them in a space where they have to have real conversations with each other, then they start to understand each other better,” she says. “By strengthening the Multicultural Council, I hope to make it become a strong component of student development at Southwestern.”
Although she originally went to UT with plans of working in politics, Gonzalez says she realized that she preferred creating philosophical changes in the world rather than political ones. “I decided to do student affairs because the people who were changing my life were student affairs administrators and I wanted to have that kind of impact on somebody else’s life,” she says.
Gonzalez says her favorite quote is by the late writer and social activist Gloria Anzaldua, who was also from Texas: “I change myself, I change the world.” “That’s my motto,” she says, “I’m always trying to change and encourage my students to change and to critically think about their role in society and on campus.”