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Shanthi Gonzales

Transforming Politics

BA '01, Political Science

Shanthi Gonzales
Meet Shanthi Gonzales (BA ‘01, Political Science), a Cal State East Bay alumna, who works for Oakland Unified School District and will be a featured speaker this Saturday for Women on the Rise: Pioneers Transforming Politics. 
Shanthi served as a student journalist and then editor of The Pioneer which greatly improved her writing and communication skills and has been a major strength in her career.  It also taught her more about working as part of a team. Through her work with The Pioneer, she got her first job, which started as an internship with Alameda County. And finally, her first elected office was as part of the Associated Student Body at CSUEB, launching her career as an elected official.

Q&A with Shanthi

Why did you decide to attend Cal State East Bay?

CSUEB was not my Plan A, but I have never regretted attending because I had (mostly) small classes with my actual professors, not just Graduate Assistants. I am still in touch with some of the professors I had, 20 years later, and I think that was profoundly different from the experience I would have had at a UC. Later in my time at CSUEB, I began my career, and was able to take many evening classes that made it possible for me to work and finish college at the same time. At a larger university, I doubt that I would have had the opportunity to serve as Editor of the student newspaper, or to serve in student government. Those opportunities have shaped me to this day.

How has your education here at East Bay helped you with your endeavors?

I will just name a couple of different ways that CSUEB has shaped me, though there are many more I could share. Serving as a student journalist and then Editor of The Pioneer greatly improved my writing and communication skills, and has been a major strength in my career. It also taught me more about working as part of a team. Through my work with The Pioneer, I got my first job, which started as an internship with Alameda County. And finally, my first elected office was as part of the Associated Student Body at CSUEB, launching my career as an elected official.

Tell us a little bit about your career journey.

That story is too long to tell! I would just say that I believe in investing my professional growth and development, and that has really helped me, especially working with a career coach. It has helped me figure out how to get from Point A where I felt stuck, undervalued, or unhappy, to Point B. Also there is no training like experience, so I have also gained a lot of professional experience from volunteer work on the boards of community organizations. Not all professional development opportunities cost money. Employers are investing less and less in professional development for employees, so this is something that many leaders are having to prioritize and invest in themselves, but in my opinion, it is well worth it!

Tell us about your experience being part of the Oakland Unified School District.

OUSD is an organization with many challenges, and there is no professional development course I could have enrolled in that would have given me the same opportunities to learn and grow. I have learned about change management, learning to use evidence to make good decisions, the tension between the needs of current students and families and future students and families, and the difficulty of working in harmony with people who don't share my values or priorities. Building trust takes time - a lot of it!

If you could share one piece of career advice with our graduating Class of 2019, what would it be?

Four pieces of advice: Ask for help when you need it; it is actually a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness. Find mentors and lean on them. Mentor others who come behind you. If no one is offering to invest in you and your leadership, invest in yourself.
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