Building Bridges: TJ Espinoza Seeks to Shine a Light on Possibility

“My journey is about building bridges and empowering the lowly, the minority, the poor, the weak, the disadvantaged, and helping them to stand on their feet to shine a light for all to see.”

TJ speaking
February 09, 2021

TJ Espinoza | ORGL ‘11

“It is in the midst of our time of political partition, racial tension and general unrest that our light needs to shine brighter than ever before. Rhetoric of hate and divisiveness has caused much harm to our country and has touched many facets of our daily lives, including those at home. At Gonzaga University, the Black Student Union attack invites us to take a deeper look at these profound issues that divide in order to prevent acts of hate. Equally important is the need to look at the common ideals that unite us as individuals, communities, societies and nations.”

TJ Espinoza, alum of Gonzaga’s M.A. in Organizational Leadership, reflects in the wake of turmoil and offers his own experiences as a means for greater understanding and collective hope.

TJ came to the United States as an immigrant at the age of 16 and despite the many challenges of learning a new language and adapting to a new culture, he pursued the goal of attaining a higher education degree. “I experienced episodes of discrimination along the way,” shares TJ “but I managed hold onto my family and my faith in God, which helped me to weather the storms of life.” TJ eventually graduated with a B.A. of Business Administration from Walla Walla University in 2005. It was just a few years later, while working as an Account Manager for Verizon Wireless, that he decided to apply to Gonzaga’s M.A. in Organizational Leadership program. “I wanted to continue enhancing my leadership abilities, and a graduate degree from Gonzaga felt like the best way to do that.”

TJ continues to balance and blend his corporate life and entrepreneurial pursuits with community development initiatives in exceptional ways. He uses the knowledge and expertise gained from 15 years of sales and marketing for fortune 500 companies to mentor aspiring business students and lead the Latino Business Resource Group’s Western Region chapter, an all-inclusive group focused on networking and development.

He also contributes to the Walla Walla, Washington community as an entrepreneur with a number of small businesses including a real estate firm, United Country Walla Walla Valley, and a juice and wellness bar by the name of The Fresh Lime. He remains actively engaged in public service within his community, creatively supporting charitable causes and volunteering on the Advisory Board’s for both the City of College Place’s Park and Recreations Committee, as well as the City of Walla Walla’s Housing Committee, who is working to develop affordable housing options.

In 2019, TJ was nominated to the Sherwood Trust Foundation’s Rural Leadership Initiative, where he has had the opportunity to be part of a cohort of cross-disciplinary community leaders as they gain skills for better serving their local communities from an economic and social perspective. The capstone project of this initiative will be to convert a vacant lot into a community park to benefit the city of College Place.

“I am utilizing the lessons learned from my Gonzaga days to lead with a genuine and authentic approach that seeks to find the true potential every individual has and then bringing it out to bear through, mentoring, coaching and development. Being a minority poses its own challenges. Being a leader in our community and putting myself out there has been an opportunity to plow a road for others to follow, and realize that it is possible to make a positive difference regardless of your background.”

As a mentor, volunteer and leader in a variety of spaces, TJ advocates for the building of bridges, to create greater understanding across cultures and beliefs, and for the need to impact our organizations, communities and families in healthy ways through open dialogue.

“My journey is about building bridges and empowering the lowly, the minority, the poor, the weak, the disadvantaged, and helping them to stand on their feet to shine a light for all to see.”

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