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New UW-Eau Claire graduate will leave a legacy of advocacy for equity, diversity, inclusion

| Judy Berthiaume

Photo caption: When Rosa Gómez graduates from UW-Eau Claire, she’ll have three degrees and a resume filled with research and other life-changing experiences.

When Rosa Gómez graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in May, she’ll have three degrees and a resume filled with research and other life-changing experiences.

However, it’s what she’s leaving behind — a legacy of student advocacy for equity, diversity and inclusion on campus — that matters most to the Burnsville, Minnesota, native.

“While I’m immensely proud of securing funds for student initiatives, helping people implement EDI-based projects and being a student representative, what’s most rewarding is being a part of the communities I’m in,” Gómez says. “There is no way I would’ve accomplished what I have without their support.”

Gómez says she’s surrounded by “trailblazers” who are passionate about the work they do and the EDI-initiatives they push for. They’ve taught her how to “step into my own power” and to advocate for the values she believes are important.

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Everyone has a role to play in fighting for social justice, Gómez says, adding that she’s motivated, in part, by her own identity as a “queer, multiethnic person of color.”

“Higher-ed institutions, like many places, aren’t designed for people like me,” Gómez says. “While I face adversity, I’m in a position of privilege to hold the door open for others who may not be afforded the same opportunities.”

It’s rewarding to know her advocacy and organizing work will benefit current and future Blugolds, says Gómez, who will earn degrees in political science, journalism and Latin American studies with a language emphasis, and a minor in Spanish.

“I see people I’ve encouraged become first-time voters, and to me that’s making change,” Gómez says. “I see organizations I’ve brought together work in collaboration for a good cause and I consider that making change.”

As co-director of the Student Senate’s Equity in Student Matters Commission, Gómez “represents and amplifies other student voices and advocates for their needs.” In that role, she secured $104,000 for multicultural student organizations, Services for Students with Disabilities and the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. She also is collaborating with the Art Student Organization to create community libraries on campus that include literature about heritage months and recognition days.

Gómez, a University Honors student, received a grant to study the experiences of honors students of color. She interviewed multicultural honors students and created a narrative around their shared experiences. This spring, she presented her research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at UW-Eau Claire.

“We hope by doing this research we can make programmatic changes that combat systemic racism and create a more equitable, inclusive and diverse honors program and university,” Gómez says.

Gómez’s advocacy work and her academic programs are preparing her for a career with an EDI focus.

Journalism, for example, is a “powerful tool for social justice,” Gómez says. When writing, she can “bring an equitable, diverse and inclusive lens to how I portray people’s stories” and highlight the achievements of diverse communities.

As a Blugold, Gómez also embraced opportunities off campus. After studying abroad in Costa Rica, she traveled the country, immersing herself in the local culture. She then traveled to Budapest, Hungary, to work alongside UW-Eau Claire professors examining anti-racism practices as they relate to Roma communities in Europe.

Closer to home, Gómez joined UW-Eau Claire’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage, which she describes as a “call to action to continue EDI efforts and to recommit myself to social justice values.”