By Barbara Gutierrez

A Change Agent

By Barbara Gutierrez
A graduate of the School of Education and Human Development, Victoria Gonzalez enjoys working with communities to make a difference.

Victoria Gonzalez wants to be a change agent in communities.

The Tampa native, who graduates from the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD), with a Bachelor of Science and a major in Human Social Development Studies and in International Relations, learned early on that to make a difference you have to engage people where they live and work.   

“In academia we think we can solve the world’s problems, but we try to do that from behind our desks or from the library,” said Gonzalez. “But in Human Social Development you shift your perspective. If you involve the people who also want to make the change you find out that they have incredible ideas and a lot more can be done.” 

Her classes took her into the Miami community. In one instance, she worked with the Audubon Society, the environmental group, trying to gain insight and support to pass a Senate bill that would conserve water for the Everglades National Park. She gathered information from community members, sat in meetings and explained the organization’s mission. 

“I loved it,” she said. The bill passed as part of the Legacy Florida law signed by Gov. Rick Scott in early April. In a way, Gonzalez played a small part in that. 

Gonzalez has also worked, as part of another class, with the group Citizens for a Better South Florida, an environmental organization that educates the public on preservation of the South Florida environment. She went on a trip with the group and young students from the inner city. 

“It was great to see the children experience this beautiful ecosystem right in their backyard,” she said. “They put their cell phones down and admired what surrounded them.” 

The children were eager to know how they could help preserve this beautiful environment, she said. The experience taught her that transformative change could take place at the grassroots level as long as the constituents understood the issues at hand.

Her professors describe Gonzalez as a hard-working, highly responsible student. She will be receiving the top Human Social Development Award for the student who best models community engagement and learning. 

“Victoria is an unassuming yet powerful presence on campus,” said SEHD Professor Laura Kohn-Wood, chair of the Educational and Psychological Studies Department, who taught her Community Psychology class. “Her performance in my class was nearly flawless and she was able to understand and articulate concept and theories from the field in terms of their relevance to human and social issues.” 

After graduation, Gonzalez will enroll in a graduate program for International Development, concentrating on Resources and Sustainability at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. Her hope is to be able to teach someday, but before that, she wants to have work that will help her impact different communities.