Campus & community, People, Work life

‘On equal terms:’ Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, student development director

Lupe Gallegos-Diaz is director of the UC Berkeley's Chicanx/Latinx Student Development Office

lupe gallegos-diaz smiles at the camera

Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, director of the UC Berkeley’s Chicanx/Latinx Student Development Office, is one of 18 women being honored as “unsung heroines.” (Photo courtesy Lupe Gallegos-Diaz)

Each day until Aug. 18  Berkeley News will host a series of Q&As featuring 18 unsung heroines on staff from all corners of the campus. The series will culminate on Aug. 18 with a special edition of Berkeley Campus Conversations, featuring four remarkable female staffers:

  • Cruz Grimaldo, assistant vice chancellor and director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office
  • Sunny Lee, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students
  • Mia Settles-Tidwell, assistant vice chancellor in the Division of Equity and Inclusion
  • Charmin Smith, head coach of Cal women’s basketball

The sixth woman honored as part of this series is Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, director of the UC Berkeley’s Chicanx/Latinx Student Development Office.

You were nominated by several colleagues as an unsung heroine for working on campus since the mid-1980s as an advisor, being a leader in Alianza, organizing the annual Chicano-Latino Graduation, and serving as Director of the Chicanx-Latinx Student Development Office. You’ve influenced thousands of young people at UC Berkeley, especially the traditionally underserved. Colleagues say, “She is always thinking not only how we can support our Latinx students, but how to support other marginalized folks on campus, how to be in solidarity with each other,” as well as “Lupe always goes above and beyond to help all who surround her. A real leader and role model.” How do you support marginalized people on campus as a leader and role model? (If you faced any obstacles, how did you overcome them?)

My journey to Cal is a story about many individuals who provided for me the foundation of values and principles to the actual “femtoring”/mentoring needed for me to become who I am today. This includes my parents Maria and Fidel, who were immigrant workers and who knew the value of familia and communidad, to my high school teacher Mr. Roberto Martinez, a Panameño who would empower us high schoolers” by saying “Si se Puede! You can do it – you just have to believe in yourself.” My college “femtor” and role model Ines Gomez, was a passionate Chilean who directed the Chicano Affairs office at Santa Clara University and brought to campus her friend and colleague the internationally known Brazilian educator, Pablo Friere. And I have been “femtored” by fierce committed “womxn” who have always believed in me and took me under their wings to serve and create together what is needed to address our most marginalized communities. These circles of support have guided and empowered me to know my value and the responsibility I have to change structurally the institutions that are oppressing and marginalizing people.

I am also very clear that my work at UC Berkeley with students (undergraduate and graduate) is really about advocating for education as a human right. So, my role is to advocate for our students and transform the institution to meet their needs, but I don’t do this alone. I also know that UC Berkeley as an institution must respect its staff and alumni who also play a role in changing the institution we work for.

It is very important that we understand our various “hxstories,” identities, privileges and power we hold and represent. As a Chicana at UC Berkeley who comes from vast “hxstories” of the Latinx diaspora in higher education, I am constantly checking my privileges as I do the work with students and the diverse communities across campus.

It has also helped that if I can’t find community then I create community and build teams. That has really benefited me personally and professionally when faced with challenging issues at UC Berkeley. Advocating collectively for social justice issues across campus for the last 30 years has really helped me build meaningful and lasting relationships.

What advice would you give to other staff members looking to move individuals, teams, units, or improvements forward at UC Berkeley?

Over time I have learned to become a good listener, to focus on helping one person at a time, to have patience and to work in teams. I have learned that working with and across our various marginalized communities and communities of color have really helped me understand our commonalities and differences to become an advocate for all that need me.

And when I am in very challenging situations, I tend to step back and breathe, listen to others and myself and I ask the questions “Why am I here, and what am I trying to accomplish?” Then I play out various scenarios in my mind of the things that could happen. And I can tell you that I have become a very good strategist and this comes from being in challenging experiences over the years. I have also learned to call on people for help, which is not always easy in an institution that is very individualistic.

What advice would you give colleagues to ensure that they aren’t creating obstacles or inequities for their peers?

As my professional position was born out of the Third World Strike and the creation of Ethnic Studies, I am clear that I must be in constant learning and growing to meet the needs of our students and communities of color.
I would really take time to check the privileges we carry and how these play out in our day-to-day work. I would also suggest taking training that really addresses what it means to be an ally versus a co-conspirator. Other training that I would suggest would be anti-blackness and Undocu Ally. We should also use the appropriate pronouns to help us understand who we are and what role we play inside and outside the institutions of higher learning.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with other female staff on campus?

Be yourself, take a risk and reach out to find familia and community across campus. If you don’t find what you are looking for, create it yourself and others will come. These circles of support can come from on and off campus. Find others who want to work on similar issues to keep you passionate and also to transform an institution that was not really designed for “womxn” and communities of color.

What future aspirations do you have at UC Berkeley?

I am laying the foundation and seeds now to eventually work with UC alumni of color to play an essential role in the transformation not only of UC Berkeley but the UC system.