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CSUEB grad making a difference for immigrants & low-income workers

Head shot of Shanthi Gonzales, CSUEB grad making a difference in the East Bay

Shanthi Gonzales '01 is committed to making a difference in the Bay Area and beyond. (Photo: Shanthi Gonzales)

  • August 7, 2013 5:00am

Don’t be surprised if you see the name “Shanthi Gonzales” on an election ballot one day.  This Cal State East Bay grad is committed to making a difference in the Bay Area and beyond.

Gonzales ’01, history and political science, has community service in her DNA. Her father was an organizer for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers then spent his career as a public interest lawyer.  Her mom still works as a mental health social worker. “I was taught that we all have an obligation to others in the community, and in particular, that immigrant and low-income workers are especially vulnerable members of society that need special attention,” she said.

Both professionally and personally, Gonzales practices her mantra of helping those who need a hand.  Most of her free time is spent in her role as Vice Chair of the Oakland Library Advisory Commission, where she is working with other library supporters on an upcoming ballot initiative to keep all branches of the Oakland Public Library open.

“Many families in Oakland don’t have internet access without the library, or reading materials for their kids, so we need to keep library services accessible to everyone,” said Gonzales.

She also sits on the boards of the Human Relations Commission of Alameda County and La Raza Centro Legal. 

Professionally, Gonzales works for  the Women Donors Network (WDN), described as a “… community of progressive women who multiply their energy, their strategic savvy, and their philanthropic dollars to build a more just and fair world.” From membership recruitment to writing for their web site, Gonzales says she finds her work fulfilling because “…I know that our members care about building the progressive movement and I have a part in that.”  

During her years as a CSUEB Pioneer, she served as an elected officer of Associated Students, Inc., and the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Pioneer . “I liked that most of my classes were small enough that I could get attention from the faculty if I needed it,” she said.  “Having gone to larger universities since CSUEB, I can tell you that is not the case everywhere!”

As a double major in history and political science, Gonzales said she really enjoyed classes taught by CSUEB faculty members Jessica Weiss, Norm Bowen and Wendy Sarvasy because, “they all offered perspectives that helped to shape my thinking.”  With her passion for social justice, she adds, “It helped to encounter the same subject matter with different hats on and think about them in different ways.”

Her advice to current Cal State East Bay students interested in community activism or social justice?

“Volunteer.  Find an organization that you like and stick with them. They may find a way to pay you eventually, but even if they don't, you will gain experience that will serve you well for your next opportunity in the movement.”

Gonzales also encourages students to take advantage of campus resources. “I was too reluctant to ask for help, mentoring, attention, etc.  And, I wish I had been more comfortable networking.”

She’s not all business.  The quote she shares during the interview is not from Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr., but rather Woody Allen, “80% of life is just showing up.” Shanthi Gonzales has indeed shown up and, for that, we're thankful!


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