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Advocating for Activism

News Story

Victoria Gonzalez ’18, the co-founder of #PaceUEndRape, has been tirelessly advocating for survivors of sexual violence. Not only that, but she’s also pursuing a combined degree: a bachelor’s of political science and a master’s in public administration. Now THAT’S ambition.

Victoria Gonzalez ’18 has taken Pace’s NYC Campus by storm ever since she came to the university in 2013. She’s a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, the National Society of Leadership, and the Success Alpha Chi Psi Chi International Honor Society. She’s also pursuing a bachelor’s and master’s degree. “I knew that getting a master’s degree at Pace was a wise investment because of its reputation for promoting public service and social entrepreneurship,” Gonzalez explained. She was accepted to the Bachelor’s in Political Science/Master’s in Public Administration combined degree program.

What initially drew her to Pace? Its diversity, academic support network, and more. “Although Pace is famed for being a business school, I was delighted to see that the university supported a wide range of liberal arts majors,” she told us.

Gonzalez got involved in advocacy and activism on campus when, along with Nelli Agbulos ’17 and Larissa Szilagyi ’17, '21, she started #PaceUEndRape, an organization committed to sustained, student-led activism at Pace that fosters a safe environment for all students. “In my freshman year, I recall reading all these articles of survivors of campus sexual violence coming forward to get justice and that there were allies, students, standing with them,” Gonzalez explained. “It was then that I knew that I could do the same—that I could be an advocate for survivors and work to keep my own campus safe.”

It’s not easy running an organization with only three people at the top, but Gonzalez has a few tips for any would-be activists out there. “At the first meeting of each semester, we encourage members, new and old, to introduce themselves and share their pronouns so that know they are in a safe place. It’s [those] little intentional acts that make a difference.” She also encourages organizers to stay on top of their goals and not get side-tracked. “You have to be a little strategic to get your way.”

That wasn’t the only organization Gonzalez led. She co-hosted Pace’s first Out of the Darkness Campus Walk for Suicide Prevention last spring, too. “I’m proud to say we raised almost $7,000 in donations—exceeding our initial goal of $3,500!” She told us. All proceeds were donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (Note that Pace will be hosting the campus walk again on Friday, April 6, 2018. There’s plenty of time to get involved!)

Since coming to Pace, Gonzalez interned for the Hunger Project, America Needs You, and Project Pericles, but there’s one nonprofit that holds a special place in her heart. “My internships at Sanctuary for Families, New York’s leading service provider for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and other forms of gender violence, were the most impactful.” She interned with them in the spring of 2015 first to fulfill a civic engagement requirement, but her work didn’t stop there. Thanks to the Helene and Grant Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship summer-funded internship program, Gonzalez returned that summer to work as their Program Evaluation and Client Data Systems intern.

“[That] affirmed what I wanted to do with my life: work in public service.” She says that this ‘aha!’ moment struck when she was calling and surveying clients, many of whom were survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking. “Client after client expressed their gratitude for all the support that their counselors gave them [at the Sanctuary]. That was when I knew that I was meant to support this important work.”

We were particularly interested to hear about her involvement in the sixtieth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality. She had quite a lot to say about it. “I think the biggest lesson I learned is that not everyone gets a seat at the table—even in spaces created to support the most disenfranchised,” Gonzalez said. “For example, I attended an End Violence Against Women town hall that was held in the Trusteeship Chamber of the UN. It wasn’t until I saw a friend’s tweet that I noticed there was a problem with the panel: there were no women of color.

“At first, I didn’t see what the problem was. But then I realized something: these discussions on gender violence tend to overlook that ‘violence against women’ means something else for a white woman compared to a woman of color. There are certain privileges and challenges that shape each woman’s definition of this issue and the solutions to end it.

That’s why, even though it was an honor to visit the United Nations, it reminded me that there is still work to be done to ensure everyone’s voice—everyone’s experiences—are heard.” Wise words!