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Valley hosts first International Women’s Day event

Keynote speaker Daisy Gonzalez articulated her experiences at the Valley College panel.

By Cassandra Nava, Editor-in-Chief

Upwards of 50 Valley College students, staff and faculty attended the Student Life led panel on March 8, coming together to celebrate and reflect on the shared experiences of women on the international holiday.

This year’s campaign theme was #BreaktheBias, a call to action against global gender inequality. Attendees were urged to post photos of themselves forming an “x” with their arms to social media with the hashtag, in the hopes of raising awareness for International Women’s Day. Valley’s Zoom meeting was a reflective event, acting as a safe space for women to openly discuss discrimination they have faced.

The keynote speaker, previous Acting Chancellor and current Deputy Chancellor of California Community Colleges Daisy Gonzales, shared her own personal and professional experiences as a Latina foster youth who was often mischaracterized as “at-risk.” Gonzales is the first woman of color to hold any chancellor position at the statewide level. She is the first Latina to hold the position of deputy chancellor, and the second woman to take the deputy title since interim Chancellor Diane Woodruff in 2007, according to Ed Source.

“Women are born leaders,” said the first Latina deputy chancellor. “From day one, our mere existence — our persistence in our society, in institutions that we are a part of, institutions that sometimes refuse to see us or recognize us or value us — is a form of revolutionary leadership.”

After spending 17 years in foster care, Gonzales attended a handful of community colleges, until she landed at Valley. The first-generation college student realized that this was the stepping stone to transferring to a four-year institution. The former Monarch stressed how important her years were at Valley. With professors that encouraged her to excel, she fostered a relentless work ethic. Gonzales shared how this shaped her into the first graduate student to finish a master’s and Ph.D in five years at UC Santa Barbara.

ASU Parliamentarian Kimberly Perez Solis moderated the next portion of the event in which panelists were asked questions on “breaking the bias.” The three panelists included artist and art professor Phung Huynh, former Valley ASU student and USC graduate Araksya Nordikyan and Valley’s TRiO program director Julia Vasquez.

While the panelists stemmed from different ages, ethnicities and careers, the common thread was their experiences of unequal treatment. Vasquez explored the issues of cultural identity in relation to gender roles, stating that being a Mexican first-born daughter shoved her into a tight box of expectations. The program director shared that the key to “breaking the bias” is to balance living in two worlds; the world of what is expected of her, and the world of her independence.

Huynh closed off the panelist portion of the event by sharing what she thinks can be done to address gender bias in education. The art professor advised female students on how to take up space and demand respect, stating that students must work to remove barriers in order to become agents of change.

“Do not take ‘no’ for an answer,” said Huynh. “Get cultural capital by taking your seat at the table. Don't wait for somebody to give it to you. Take it.”


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