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Mary González talks about change

Over 60 students, staff and community members filled the Dengerink Administration Building’s auditorium on Nov. 6 to hear Texas state representative Mary González talk about identity, culture and social justice. Her talk, entitled “How Tortillas and Rainbows Taught Me To Change The World,” was the first of a series coming to Washington State University Vancouver as part of the Marquee Diversity Series.
González’ talk began with her own personal story of living in Texas and living near the border and how that has been a symbol for her view on the world, living as someone who is bicultural, bilingual and binational. Growing up with a very political father, González was always surrounded by politics and wanted to change the world. She felt at first that the only way to do this was through politics.

After working with three legislators, González noticed that politics didn’t move that fast, they were messing with peoples’ lives and that many of them were approaching politics like they were playing a game. González left politics and starting thinking that perhaps there are other ways to improve the world outside of the political policy space.
Deciding to pursue education after her short time in politics, González said she fell in love with the ways that people in an academic space are truly challenged and feel that they can make a difference. After the Texas legislation made massive cuts to public school funding in 2011, González knew that politics were going to affect her life no matter what.
In 2012, the state representative from her hometown retired and González decided to run. Being a queer young female in Texas running against four men seemed like an impossible prospect, but one of her opponents was discovered to be involved in drug trafficking, which began a major swing in her favor that ultimately placed her in her state legislature.

After she finished telling her personal story, González talked about the need to keep challenging the status quo. She said upper education has become diluted with the idea of simply getting a degree to get a job, to then go to work. She disagreed with this and wants to see more from higher education, saying that people need to be more driven to make a difference in life and think more broadly.
When talking about risks university students can take, González said a university is the environment where you are really encouraged and allowed to challenge for change and encouraged to be radical. She argues that universities are no longer fundamental pieces to movements because they no longer encourage students to really think critically or to organize cultural movements.
The main point González wanted everyone to take away with from the talk was to think of how we are actively and intentionally working to make change happen, because it is an every day process. She also said that, in particular, small campuses are great places to start to foster and create a certain culture of social justice.

The talk concluded with a Q & A with the audience members. When asked if there was anything else she would want to say to people who could not attend the event González said “I visit a lot of universities and what is so inspiring about this and other small campuses is the possibility to create and be a utopia for social justice.”
The event was hosted by the Student Diversity Center as part of their Marquee Diversity Series. A number of speakers selected by a student committee will be coming to campus to talk about diversity and other topics. To learn more about the Marquee Diversity Series or the Student Diversity Center, they can be reached via phone at 360-546-9568 or via email at studentdiversity@vancouver.wsu.edu.

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