By Published: April 4, 2022

New assistant dean for inclusive practice wants to help students feel included and seen across multiple spaces

As the first person from her family to graduate from college, Patricia Gonzalez, assistant dean for inclusive practice in the College of Arts and Sciences, understands the need to increase diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts at the University of Colorado Boulder.

She is committed to building a community in which students, faculty and staff celebrate cultures and identities through multi-layered efforts to increase retention and instill a sense of belonging among all students.

“This inclusive practice work is personal to me,” Gonzalez said. “The position I’ve been given enables me to create change, to amplify voices of people we have not centered or have failed to center. It allows me to go back to a grassroots approach of meeting people where they are, to understand their needs, to ensure we’re not just coming up with Band-Aid solutions but truly getting down to what matters and understanding how to close those existing gaps to help us all be successful at this institution.”

Gonzalez’s work is about centering students, along with faculty and staff, at the heart of CU Boulder’s engagement initiatives. Her work recognizes that students are not just in arts and sciences, but also in dining halls, campus life, involvement in other majors, minors and departments, and active in CU organizations, so to make them feel included and seen in multiple spaces.

She is developing is a mentorship program for faculty and staff who are Black, Indigenous and/or people of color. The program is a support system that helps new hires and current employees feel a sense of empowerment.

The position I’ve been given enables me to create change, to amplify voices of people we have not centered or have failed to center.”

Workshops are being held for faculty and staff on topics related to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) such as inclusive language, understanding macro- and micro-aggressions, addressing anti-racism and anti-Blackness. Gonzalez’s goal is to help people reflect on individual behaviors that contribute to non-inclusive environments.

“In order for us to stand out as an institution, we have to build equitable systems that will help people be successful,” she said.

One of 11 children, Gonzalez grew up in an immigrant home in South Los Angeles. She saw her undocumented parents struggle to get by, afraid that one day they would be taken from her. Yet the strength and love her mother showed for her family continues to inspire Gonzalez.

“I want my parents to know they are loved and that I will continue to advocate for people in the same way they taught me. I will also create equitable systems where people can be successful,” Gonzalez said. “My parents inspire me and are my strength, my rock and my biggest reason why I do the work I do.”

A Doctor of Education in organization, change and leadership from the University of Southern California is just one of Gonzalez’s notable academic achievements. She also holds a master’s in higher and postsecondary education and administration from Teachers College at Columbia University and has a bachelor’s in government and philosophy from Franklin and Marshall College.

She continues to learn both inside and outside her field. Currently she is reading The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change and the 1619 Project.

“In my previous professional roles, I always felt like I had to continually prove myself,” Gonzalez said. “At CU I know I have proven myself and have the skills to be successful. My research in diversity and inclusion doesn’t mean that I know everything. One doesn’t ever stop learning. I am still learning and growing in my own JEDI journey. And I am committed to making CU stand out as an institution that drives forth JEDI efforts.”

Photo at the top of the page: Patricia Gonzalez, seen here with her parents, Maria and Jose Gonzalez, after she earned a doctorate degree in organization, change and leadership from the University of Southern California.