Patricia Marquez, PhD, is associate professor of Management for the School of Business Administration and faculty director of the Ashoka Changemaker Hub. She answers questions from Inside USD about her Venezuelan roots, what she does in her free time, and her inspiring work with the USD Changemaker Hub.
Perhaps the biggest difference is that in Venezuela I am Venezuelan and in the United States I am also Venezuelan. It means two different things. As an academic in Venezuela, I had a sense of urgency and mission because the country was increasingly politically polarized. Everyday, violence was on the rise. Most social problems were not new, such as the large inequality gap and corruption. Regardless of whether problems were new or old, there seemed to be an imperative for being an engaged-activist academic, learning from different sources (not just publications or the academic environment) to contribute to foster dialogue and to develop solutions. That doesn’t mean that there were always success in the projects and initiatives I was involved in. There were many lessons. Sharing knowledge and insights with a wide audience seemed very important to me. Coming to the United States implied big changes at a professional and personal level. Here, we experience a sense of safety that we didn’t have living in Caracas. There is structure and order, and that can be an enormous relief when you come from everyday chaos. In this country, there is an ongoing spirit that anything is possible because opportunities can be found everywhere. I have been a student and a professor in this country and I never cease to be amazed at the amount and diversity of support that exists for all types of endeavors.
Q: What do you miss most?
In Venezuela I have a deep sense of belonging. Imagine what is like to grow up in Caracas, a cosmopolitan city of approximately 6 million people, feeling as if you were in a small village. Everything and everybody appears familiar. I had a large extended family and a network of friends, including several whom I knew since kindergarten. There are many shared references about music, history, food, and TV programs, among others. I get the jokes. There are particular sounds and aromas of the tropics that cannot be found anywhere else. A favorite of mine is the smell of after rain in a city that is filled with all sorts of trees and surrounded by the imposing Avila Mountain. I miss the unique sweet flavor of mangoes growing on my own backyard. Each season there were so many that we had to give them away. Here I have to pay one dollar for a green mango imported from Mexico or somewhere else. Everything in Venezuela is lush, colorful, and dramatic. I miss the easy-going nature of people. We are full of energy and we express warmth in multiple ways, from kissing each other at hello and goodbye to inviting strangers as if they were family. There is vibrancy on the streets. It is what we call the Venezuelan chispa (spark). I miss that inexhaustible capacity to laugh with gusto and enjoy life.
We are at a moment in time where there is an ongoing debate about the value of a traditional college education. There are disruptive innovations that can represent opportunities or threats to old models of teaching and scholarship, depending on how we choose to see them. Some groups are outraged at the cost of higher education. Others question whether universities are really all that effective in preparing young generations for existing challenges. I am passionate about USD being a Changemaker Campus because it provides us with another opportunity to ask ourselves how what we do as a university contributes to shape the society of the present and the future. The Changemaker Campus recognizes the history of USD in its commitment to a values-based education and community engagement. It complements USD’s path in moving forward as the purpose of Changemaker Campus is to strengthen an ecosystem that encourages and supports innovators and creative problem solvers.
Q: What is your hope for the future of Changemaker Campus at USD?
The expectation that many of us have is that Changemaker becomes more and more an integral part of what the university is about. That means that Changemaking components are explicitly embedded in the curricula, as well as the extra-curricular. Students, regardless of their majors or minors, emerge with the empathy, thinking, knowledge and capabilities to excel as professionals, living with purpose and without fear of changing the status quo when it is unjust and harmful to others. As Changemaker academics we continue to push the frontiers of knowledge, with the conviction that knowledge geneartion goes beyond personal recognition or advancement. It is a scholarship that reveals an active commitment to contribute to address complex problems around the world including social conflicts, gender inequality, hunger, and environmental degradation. My hope is that as Changemakers we are not afraid of questioning and changing aspects of the current academic dynamic to better support a deeply engaged scholarship.
Q: How do you enjoy your free time?
Does such a thing exist? My favorite activity is to spend time with my 13 year-old son, Cristóbal. As he grows up, that seems to be harder because his days are filled with various sports and other social activities. I treasure every moment with him, including when I can convince him to converse while I am driving him from one activity to another. When I am not working I enjoy riding my bicycle or going to the gym. I was born with an excess of energy. Maybe is that Venezuelan chispa that I mentioned before. Two years ago I discovered tango dancing. It provides a perfect combination of exercise, music, and performance. I confess that I love the tango outfits, particularly the shoes that come in all types of heels (which I never wear) and exotic colors. An ideal weekend could be one spent reading books that are not related to work. I have always been a fan of good mystery novels.
– Melissa Wagoner
(Photos by Chris Keeney)