Twenty-five college visits, including 18 on the East Coast. That’s what Los Angeles native Marc Gonzales did before he ultimately chose his college pathway on visit No. 26, the University of San Diego.
“I had a bit of a dream to go far from home,” the 2010 Loyola High School graduate recalled. “My brother did his undergraduate degree at USC, but I wanted a different experience.”
Realizing that East Coast winters weren’t to his Southern California-conditioned liking, his choice turned out to be approximately 120 miles south of home. He came to San Diego, a city known for its great climate, beaches and fun, varied activities, and it appeared to fit Gonzales’ initial approach to college.
“I was very involved in student government at Loyola High and I received the Loyola Award, which is similar to (USD’s) Alcala Award, as an all-around student. I did what I loved and that was being around other students and doing things, putting on events for them,” he said. “But I felt I’d done so much there that when I came to college, I told myself I’d do my thing, do the college experience, join a fraternity, attend social events, go to class and just do my four years.”
Thankfully, for the sake of the USD community and those who know the now 21-year-old senior business marketing major, Gonzales’ work ethic never waned. He signed up for an Emerging Leaders course and considered running for an Associated Students (AS) senator position. But it was a Student Life Pavilion open house that started Gonzales’ path to becoming the proud Torero he is now.
“I went to the Torero Program Board table and I learned about concert crew (now Street Team). I was interested in that and joined. But, knowing me, I’m not going to be a passenger who’s just along for the ride. I was volunteering, taking a leadership role within that, learning the ropes and shadowing TPB members.”
He quickly ascended to TPB’s intercultural director role and was a point person for planning the spring 2011 University of Diversity Week.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite event, but the first one, March of the Toreros, was the first one I directly coordinated. It was my introduction to what it meant to be a community on a university campus,” he said. “It got me to think outside of them just being events. They had a purpose.”
Gonzales is a TPB fixture. He’s dabbled in all areas of event management. He’s programmed events for themed weeks, for spirit-filled events such as Homecoming, sports, speakers and concerts. Gonzales, TPB’s chairperson this year, works with student leaders, staff and administrators across campus. He works with the AS executive team to coordinate programming for student initiatives.
“Marc’s a champion of Torero pride; he contributes countless hours of time, energy and passion to help create an active and vibrant campus life,” said Jason Fitzer, assistant director of student activities and organizations for the Student Leadership and Involvement Center (SLIC). “Marc is highly respected by his fellow students and TPB members and takes the time to build authentic relationships with students, staff, faculty and administrators. As a result, he’s frequently asked for his insight and perspective. Marc is a Changemaker who works for the benefit of his fellow students and understands the opportunity and responsibility associated with his role as a student leader.”
Farrah Coltrain, TPB vice chair and fellow senior, says Gonzales’ passion is non-stop: “Marc eats, sleeps and breathes TPB. Being on the board with him for three years has given me the opportunity to see him develop not only his own leadership skills, but also develop TPB as a whole. When Marc arrived, there were probably very few students who could tell you what TPB stood for. Now, on a daily basis, the campus is buzzing about signature events that Marc’s had a huge role in implementing.”
While Gonzales admits to trying to step back this year and let TPB members lead the way, his support is always present.
“It’s humbling to think that as an undergrad, a peer, colleague or friend, that we have an opportunity to impact someone’s college story or experience,” Gonzales said. “It would be cool, say 10 years from now, that when students talk about their campus experience they’ll recall a TPB event or TPB member who impacted their experience. A lot of events do that. Maybe it’s an out-of-state student whose first trip to Mission Beach is Sun, Surf and Volley. Maybe it’s seeing Imagine Dragons perform for the first time (Homecoming 2012).”
Involvement is Gonzales’ forte. He’s in the International Business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, leads campus tours for college visitors, and participates in University Ministry activities. He’s even starred in a video to introduce USD’s new MySanDiego mobile app. In May, Gonzales (pictured, above right, with Fitzer) was recognized when he received Student Affairs’ Outstanding Contribution to the Entire Campus through Involvement Award.
“His outstanding character is what makes him an amazing Torero,” says SLIC Coordinator Liberty Hebron. “One time, Marc found $5 bill laying on the ground next to the bike rack as he locked up his bike next to the SLP. He came into the office and asked for paper and tape to make a sign: ‘If you lost money here, come to the SLIC and ask for Marc.’ He didn’t want to keep the $5, a nominal amount, but went above and beyond to make sure the money was returned. Due diligence, compassion, and going beyond what’s expected is how Marc creates a vibrant Torero Spirit.”
Gonzales credits his father Jun, a mail carrier, and his mother, Melinda, who is a clinical lab scientist, for what they’ve taught him.
“My father calls people on his route his customers. He’s very customer-oriented and people-oriented and works hard every day. I’m people-oriented and I strive to do better for every person I interact with and for products and services I provide,” he says. “My mom is introverted. She’s outgoing, but also methodical and silent. I get that way, too, when I’m planning an event. I just need to be alone and figure it out. But I also have an outgoing personality.”
The latest TPB offering has been the Homecoming Spirit Week with events for student organizations to vie for the title of most spirited on campus. TPB is hosting the Big Blue Bash Festival and concert, headlined by Young The Giant. Per usual, Gonzales will make sure everything is right for all guests in attendance. Take it from those who’ve worked alongside Gonzales — it will be a quality-run event.
“Marc has taught me there’s a solution to every problem,” says Coltrain. “He’s taught me that having a deep sense of pride in every aspect of your involvement is at the core of what makes someone a successful leader. If you don’t wake up every morning looking forward to your day, no matter how chaotic and stressful it might be, then what’s the point of doing everything? It’s not an option for Marc to do something half-heartedly.”
Twenty-five other colleges failed to convince him, but USD wholeheartedly understands how fortunate it will be to call Gonzales an alumnus — and a Torero for life.
— Ryan T. Blystone