BA in Integrative Studies

Raquel Gonzalez, 2007

Raquel Gonzalez

As a first-generation college student Raquel Gonzalez, BA Integrative Studies '07 and MS Conflict Analysis and Resolution '12, didn’t have the benefit of a lot of guidance or even a clear idea of what they wanted to do once they accomplished the actual goal of getting into a college. Part of their journey to figure out where they belonged and what they wanted to do, included changing colleges to find the right community. Gonzalez was drawn to Mason since some friends were students, and they learned about the availability of experiential learning, something that intrigued them. “I learn better by doing,” Gonzalez said. They enrolled in Mason and decided to major in Integrative Studies for an intersectional and holistic approach to areas of interest.

“The values at Mason really spoke to me,” Gonzalez said. “I liked that it had a diverse community and that teachers were learners as well. I had finally found an academic community where I felt included and heard. Up until this point, I was wondering, ‘what makes a good community in which all people thrive and feel a sense of belonging?’ At Mason I learned how to address social inequities to strengthen communities.”

Gonzalez got to broaden their community experience as they took advantage of several study abroad programs. They even spent one year studying in Malta as part of her master’s program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

As a student Gonzalez gained important life skills that they apply every day in their career. “I was taught interpersonal skills. Active listening. Teamwork. Conflict management. Problem solving. In my capstone project for my master’s degree, I was taught to think outside the box and do something that had never been done before.”

Those skills have made Gonzalez successful in the public sector. “This is what I wanted to do when I came to DC after high school: I wanted to pay it forward and help people like me who come from low-income backgrounds, so that they did not make the same mistakes I did.”

After earning their bachelor’s ’s degree, Gonzalez planned to support uplifting marginalized communities through non-profit work. But political developments prompted their sense of duty and they shifted focus. “It changed the direction of my career,” Gonzalez said. “I worked on former president Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and soon after he was elected, I got offered a job in his administration.”

Gonzalez continued to work in government up until the COVID pandemic, when they switched careers and returned to their non-profit roots, to more directly impact and help communities. In their personal capacity, Gonzalez served on the Board of Directors for multiple nonprofits, helping to design and deliver leadership development curriculum. Professionally, Gonzalez consults with social justice organizations to improve their strategy, operations, and culture. “I want to leave the world better than how I found it. I am so thankful for my community at Mason. I am still in touch with many of my professors and strive to be the mentors they were for me to other students. It is why I became a mentor through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences LinkUp series and encourage others to do the same.

Raquel Gonzalez preparing to meet President Barack Obama, 2009. Raquel Gonzalez preparing to meet President Barack Obama
in the Blue Room of the White House (2009). 

Originally published in the CHSS Annual Report 2021-22