Sonoma State Student Patricia Ayala Macías Shares Why It’s Important for College Students to Be Involved in Student Government

Patricia Ayala Macías is a 5th year student pursuing a Chicano and Latino studies and a business administration major with special concentration that incorporates ethnic studies with her business courses and Spanish minor at Sonoma State University. Patricia is also a proud first generation college student. In high school, she participated in the Upward Bound program, which helped her understand the importance of a college degree and how to get into college. The mentorship and guidance she received led her to become even more passionate about education and equity. This experience was also critical in choosing to major in both business and Chicano studies. As a double major, Patricia has the opportunity to expand upon on her knowledge about both subjects and more specifically the importance of finance in educational equity. Understanding finance and its relationship to equity is critical for her next scholarly steps: pursuing a doctoral degree in education policy and leadership. Patricia knows well that theory and research are just one part of the whole, and that she must put in the praxis (on the ground level work).

Patricia has been actively involved in clubs and programs since she arrived at Sonoma State. However, it was in her third year that her involvement also met social justice. She began with being a student ally member in the UndocuScholars Coalition followed by founding the Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS) de SSU chapter. This involvement lead to two big conferences, one being the North Bay Womxn of Color Conference, bringing Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors as keynote speaker. The other major conference was the MALCS Summer Institute. These conferences not only brought womxn of color from across the country but have been one of the few to do so at this university. So what can possibly be next for her?

In December of 2016, Patricia filed the paperwork to run for Associated Students (AS), student government on campus. She ran for Associated Students Student Services Senator. When asked why she ran, she replied, “Why not me? If they can do it, why can’t I?”

Patricia wanted to prove to herself and others that they can be in this student leadership position.

“I knew the material and had the experience, wanted to empower and teach others that this is possible – not all about popularity but if you know the material and policies, you can do it,” Patricia said. She had support and encouragement from her professors, especially the few Latinas in the Chicanx Studies department who welcomed her to speak in their classes so she could share why she was running for the student body position.

As the first in her family to attend college, Patricia knew that this would be important for her to do. She shared that “the system wasn’t helping me, just how systems were created you can change them if they come from the right or similar background and thought. Something is not working, and I want to change it.”

Patricia explained, “I’ve learned that others can be diverse ethnically/racially but not in thought or understanding of the intersectionality of race, class and gender. Some may have the words/book knowledge, but they can’t apply it.”

For Patricia, being able to apply knowledge is critical because in order to make change one must know how to word the issues, collaborate with those that may be affected by the issue at hand, and lead a collaborative effort. Her goal is to not only bring about change that is beneficial to the university but also to the student.

As the Student Services senator, Patricia works with students to have their voices heard, and she sits amongst other student affairs administrators to amplify the student voice. She sits on boards and is part of the Academic Senate. Patricia shared that senators can have more power because they hold more seats than those who are in the Executive positions, like the President or Vice President of the student government. In this role, she is learning the functions of the academic governance system and how students get to hold the administration accountable and most importantly advocate for students of color, especially undocumented and first generation students. By collaborating with the other senators, she is able to get resolutions or policies passed that lead to broader conversations like the impact of raising college tuition or the rescinding of DACA and addressing the needs of the undocumented student community. One resolution she worked on to get passed was pertaining to DACA and undocumented students and their families. Having AS condemn the termination of DACA, calling Sonoma State administration to continue supporting undocumented students by fully staffing the UndocuResource Center and to have money allocated to be able to provide programs and services to address the specific needs for undocumented students. This resolution also called for advocating and lobbying for broader immigration reform. And at the beginning of this semester, she helped move forward a Call to Action – Defend DACA, Associated Students “supports a Clean Dream Act. Pushing for a bill that will create a pathway to U.S. citizenship for DACA recipients without using young immigrants as bargaining chips to harm other immigrant communities or provide funding for a border wall.” This resolution puts the AS on record as being supportive of DACA and undocumented students.

Involvement is important for students of color because of the perspective they can bring to the table. Being involved in student government can assist the students’ growth, help young people develop a holistic approach to civic engagement, and is empowering. Having a diverse student government at the university level is critical as there are more and more students of color enrolling in higher education, and the reality is that what used to work in the past for student success does not always work today. As higher education professionals, our role is important, Patricia shared, “Having mentors to teach us how to do the student advocacy is key to learn that these are the positions that exist and that there is a process for participating.”

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Mariana Martinez

Mariana Martinez

Mariana G. Martinez, PhD, is the eldest of three and the first in her family to earn a high school diploma and a higher education. She was raised by immigrant parents that encouraged her to get an education so that one day she could work as a secretary and not in a physically laboring job like the fields. Mariana has been an advocate in the field of education for almost 2 decades. Her love and passion in education began as Senior in high school interning at a local elementary school. Currently Mariana is the Research Coordinator for the McNair Scholar Program, a federally funded program that serves first generation and historically low income students pursue the next of their educational goals, at Sonoma State University. She is also a Lecturer in the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Department.

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