Senior Liz Perez: A Leader for Others

Liz Perez (GU photo by Amanda Ford)
May 07, 2020
By Harry Smith (’21)

SPOKANE, Wash. — Liz Perez, a Gonzaga University graduating senior with a double major in political science and economics, has seized multiple opportunities during her four years here to stand up for and serve members of the Gonzaga community who receive inadequate assistance and representation.

Perez, from East Palo Alto, California, served as president of La Raza Latina, an organization that provides a space for the Latinx population on campus — among many other civic-leadership activities.

“Being the president of La Raza Latina was the first time I had taken a leadership position for a club on campus,” said Perez who also earned minors in international relations and Spanish. “It prepared me for other roles I took on later and helped to showcase me as a mentor for some of our underclassmen and I was able to help guide them in their transition.”

Perez stated that La Raza is important because it allows students to present their culture through their own perspective and interpretations.

“My favorite memory was watching our annual festival come together last year,” said Perez. “It is our biggest event of the year and the entire board has been working on this for a year, so it’s exciting to see it actually come together and see the club members have fun when showcasing our culture.”

A scene from La Raza Latina’s annual festival for people to engage in and learn about Latinx culture. (Photo by Amanda Ford)
A scene from the La Raza Latina’s annual festival for people to engage in and learn about Latinx culture. (Photo by Amanda Ford)

Gonzaga’s Unity Multicultural Education Center, a resource center that advocates for underrepresented students and provides experiential learning opportunities for all students, became Perez’s second home on campus.

“UMEC always felt like a safe space where I could hang out and be an authentic version of myself,” Perez said. “It was also the first space on campus where I truly felt supported as a student and cared for.”

Perez is proud of the work she and other members of UMEC accomplished.

“We had to speak out and advocate for the marginalized communities on campus that are often overlooked by the administration,” said Perez. “We were able to create institutional change that will remain intact for future students to enjoy.”

Building a ‘More Inclusive and Just World’

Perez also has been a steady presence in the Center for Community Engagement where she served for three years in Connections, a one-on-one mentoring program that works with middle school students from Spokane Public Schools. This year, she served as a peer mentor for BRIDGE, a mentoring program serving underrepresented first-year college students.

She is a recipient of the 2020 Gonzaga President’s Student Civic Leader Award that recognizes students throughout Washington Campus Compact member institutions who are addressing critical issues on their campuses and in their communities through service and social entrepreneurship.

“Liz is an exemplary civic leader on Gonzaga’s campus,” said CCE Director Molly Ayers.

In the nomination letter for the award, Kathy Au, a CCE College Access Corps AmeriCorps member, noted Perez has stayed true to her mission of cultivating an inclusive community for everyone, no matter the identities they hold.

“There have been countless times that she has gone out of her way to provide support to her mentees,” Au noted. “By providing pronoun stickers for her mentees, organizing a week of events in solidarity with the undocumented community, interning at a local organization supporting undocumented people through their immigration journey, Liz shows how her work goes far beyond building a competitive résumé — it’s to create a more inclusive and just world.”

As she reflected on her last four years, Perez has a message she wished she could have given to her first-year-self.

“Don’t be afraid to take up space on campus since this is also your home for the next four years,” Perez. “Be unapologetically yourself in each space you enter.”

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