Gibran Chavez-Gudino, an active member of the USD and San Diego communities, was the proud recipient of the 2011 Alcalá Award for his dedication to academic excellence, community service and leadership. Bestowed on one male and one female student every year, the Alcalá Award represents the core values of the University, and Chavez-Gudino was no exception.
A double major in political science and theology and religious studies, Chavez-Gudino's commitment to community service can be seen in the time he spent at the Bayside Community center in Linda Vista. Spending Friday afternoons dancing and instructing senior citizens on the finer points of ballroom dance was one of Chavez-Gudino's fondest memories at USD. "It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life," said Chavez-Gudino of his time at Bayside. "I never left without feeling fulfilled. The loving community that embraced us every week at Bayside was overwhelming."
"I did not find myself until I branched out."
Chavez-Gudino was also active in on-campus clubs including Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) and Dancesport. In both of these groups, Chavez-Gudino took on leadership roles, which he attributed to his personal and academic growth at USD.
Noting that he was initially hesitant to join such groups, Chavez-Gudino said his education truly started when he became involved on campus. "My formal classroom education led to personal growth that [expanded]…outside of the classroom," said Chavez-Gudino. He explained that this informal education also enlightened his academic experience.
"I never left [Bayside Community Center] without feeling fulfilled. The loving community that embraced us every week at Bayside was overwhelming."
One professor in particular influenced Chavez-Gudino's personal growth. "Espín is one of the smartest people I have ever met," said Chavez-Gudino of Orlando Espín, ThD, professor of theology and religious studies. "He is a masterful storyteller [and] believed in me enough to help me believe in myself, and for this, I am forever grateful." Under Espín's guidance, Chavez-Gudino embarked on a research project studying Our Lady of Guadalupe, a popular religious symbol that served as the topic of his senior thesis and presentation at USD's Creative Collaborations. In the process of his research, Chavez-Gudino proposed that Our Lady of Guadalupe is not the spiritual personification of the Virgin Mary or God; instead he argued that Guadalupe is a symbol and expression of God's motherly love and concern for the vanquished.
"My formal classroom education led to personal growth that [expanded]…outside of the classroom setting."
As a McNair Scholar, Chavez-Gudino was mentored throughout his undergraduate years at USD with the goal that he would find a career teaching at a college. In August, Chavez-Gudino will attend Harvard University's School of Divinity to earn a Master's in Theology. He plans to earn his doctorate and teach at a university in California – preferably USD.
He echoes his passion for community and campus involvement in his advice to incoming freshman. He urges them to try new things. "I did not find myself until I branched out," remarked Chavez-Gudino. He went on to say that the University has so many opportunities for students, so everyone can find their niche.
- Leslie Hammann