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Shamil Rodriguez



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About This Episode

Gary Santos Mendoza (he/him/his/el)  joins the show to discuss higher education, mental health awareness, identity and how it all relates to student loans and the student experience.

Gary currently serves as the director of the intercultural resource center at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ. The Intercultural Resource Center is charged with promoting an inclusive campus culture, the center fulfills its mission by advancing social justice and exploring intersectional and diversity issues.

Prior to joining Rutgers, Gary with at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) – Broward Campuses, where for five years he served in a long list of roles, including graduate financial assistant of business and financial and auxiliary services, adjunct instructor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology, assistant director of diversity and multicultural affairs, assistant director of campus life, and faculty/staff advisor of alternative spring break. Prior to FAU, Santos Mendoza worked at Florida International University – Biscayne Bay Campus for two years also in various student-serving capacities while earning his master’s degree in higher education administration.

If you like discussing topics like gender identity, mental health, cultural norms, and student loans than this two-part episode is just the episode for you. [This is part one of a two-part episode. Stay tuned for part two next week!]


  • The role of higher education administrators in the lives of students;
  • How your identity is fluid and what that can mean for your perspective towards money; 
  • The impact that cultural and societal norms had on his mental health as a student; and 
  • much, much more…


Enjoying the show? Leave us a rating and review. Every comment helps! Drop in your IG handle so we can thank you personally!


Read Gary’s Related Work Here:

Read Gary’s Other Work Here:

  • Torres-Baez, D., Romero Felix, A., & Santos Mendoza, G. (2021). Surviving the Continued Assault of Cultural Centers: Building Capacity During Crisis. In C.-M. Reneau & M. A. Villarreal (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Leading Higher Education Transformation With Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion: IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-7152-1
  • Silva-Cruze, K., Cruze, R., & Santos Mendoza, G. (2019). Testimonios Of Entry-Level Latina/o/x Student Affairs Professionals. In U. M. Robinson & M. G. Burke (Eds.), No Ways Tired: The Journey for Professionals of Color in Student Affairs: Volume I – Change Is Gonna Come: New and Entry-Level Professionals (p. 21). IAP.
  • Montelongo, R., Santa-Ramirez, S., Cruze-Silva, K., & Santos Mendoza, G. (2020). Latinx Network Writers Group: Demystifying the writing process for scholar-practitioners [Journal]. Developments-ACPA College Student Educator International. https://developments.myacpa.org/latinx-network-writers-group-demystifying-the-writing-process-for-scholar-practitioners/

Gary Santos Mendoza (00:00): Literally, I started with ladies and gentlemen. I've always started every presentation that I've had beforehand before. You know what ladies and gentlemen instantly, you just alienated a whole population of people. Reason. I say that you alienate them because of the fact that some folks do not go along the binary of ladies or gentlemen, some folks don't find comfortable the term. And in a way, for folks that are not lady or gentlemen, you just exclude a whole bunch of people.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:35): Welcome to the Student Loan podcast. Here. You'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses and inspiring stories about paying off student loans, we're your hosts DaphnéVanessa and Shamil Rodriguez.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:53): Before we begin, we have a message from a very special VIP please rate, review and subscribe to The Student Loan Podcast. This is not a professional advice that we speak from our own personal views and opinions.

Daphné Vanessa (01:10): The student loan podcast is brought to you by start new, where you can serve your community and get rewarded with tuition and student loan payments to check out of start new is on your campus. Visit start new.com.

Shamil Rodriguez (01:25): Welcome to another episode of the student loan podcast. Today we have Gary Santos Mendoza joining the show to discuss higher education, mental health awareness identity, and how it all relates to student loans and the student experience. Gary shares his personal journey and how it shaped his life and views towards taking out student loans to finance his very own education. He also goes into how his personal journey to deal with cultural and societal norms has helped countless students deal with those very same issues as they navigate the college landscape. Gary currently serves as the director of the intercultural resource center at Rutgers university in Newark New Jersey. So if you like discussing topics like gender identity, mental health, cultural norms, and student loans that this two-part episode is just the episode for you.

Shamil Rodriguez (02:14): So without further ado, let's get into part two of our interview with Gary Santos, Mendoza

Daphné Vanessa (02:21): Enlightening for a lot of people. Um, thank you also for the shout out to no longer say ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate that. What should people say instead of ladies and gentlemen?

Gary Santos Mendoza (02:32): So I'll give you this story because I also believe that lived experiences are very important. So as I told her about this whole thing, narratives are very important. I was at my very first national conference with a very predominant scholar in the field of higher ed sitting at my first national conference. No pressure, no giving my presentation. Literally I started with ladies and gentlemen. I've always started every presentation that I've had beforehand before. You know what ladies and gentlemen instantly, you just alienated a whole population of people. The reason I say that you alienated them because of the fact that some folks do not go along the binary of ladies or gentlemen, some folks don't find comfortable with the term and in a way, for folks that are not lady or gentlemen, you just exclude a whole bunch of people. So for me, when I was at that conference, I did that.

Gary Santos Mendoza (03:32): And in a way the presentation went okay, it was my first one, but then I also had a time for learning with those colleagues of mine that were gender nonconforming. And that was a real moment right there, because for me, it also made me realize, okay, we just continue to do better. And that means changing my verbiage because I come from a privilege that I know that I can walk down the street, light skinned, even though there's black within me, there's indigeneity within me. I can walk down the street and not get stopped by the cops different than someone that is of a darker skin tone that may get stopped by the cops immediately. But then when I'm bringing that example, it's important to realize that I do have privilege, but there are certain folks that don't have privilege. And sometimes those are folks that are gender nonconforming, gender and trans gender nonconforming and trans imagined for those folks that are also black and also on top of it have, or Latino and having to deal.

Gary Santos Mendoza (04:34): And let's just say working class, for example, imagine the intersection of identities that is in bad experience alone and how much, you know, minority station they experience. It is ridiculous that you add be on myself. I don't know what to do. So, but going with the term, you would use a term like, Hey, y'all or just like, if you don't want to say he or she, you know, what are my pronouns? He, him, his, those are my pronouns. I've always used. He him his or in ELA for Spanish, or you ask people like, how are you doing or a person's name? How are you doing instead of gendering the language of putting it within, you know, guys and girls, Hey guys, stay away from that. Hey girls, what's up? Hey girl, what? So it's always just a, probably just use the person's name or Hey y'all or people or everyone. It's so weird because that's not the conventional way on how we approach things sometimes, but in a way in the realities of the world, we're living at this moment and they haven't always been there, but not have been more prominent. Now we have to start acknowledging some of these nuances because in a way you don't know that within the intent of you trying to be good and trying to be inclusive, you're excluding and you're disrespecting other populations in the process.

Daphné Vanessa (05:56): Very true. Um, beautiful humans, stunning individuals.

Gary Santos Mendoza (06:01): There we go. Beautiful humans, stunning individuals. When I talk about like royalty, like Kings and Queens and royalty Kings, and, you know, cause sometimes we don't, we don't treat ourselves. Even for example, we don't treat ourselves knowing that we're royalty. When I mean by that is that we're Kings or Queens we're in between we're royalty where emperors or empiricism. Like I use those words because as I said, ladies and gentlemen, I'm saying Kings and Queens by state Kings and Queens and all in between or Kings and Queens and royalty because some people like to be referred to as a king. So I'm full. It's like to be shortly as a queen. I give credit a lot to the black community because I see a lot of uplifting in which we use the word Kings to describe black folk. A lot of the times within friends.

Gary Santos Mendoza (06:47): And I love it because it's like, why can't he be a king? I have some of my closest friends. I'm gonna say, yo, what's up king. How are you doing? Because in all essence, it's like, we think of some of these terms and we think of it like, can we really achieve it? And I'm like, no, we could, we're doing what we're doing. We're walking in our purpose in our truth. We're living our purpose. And our truth want to be also, um, being in a space to just reflect. And I feel like the black community, the African-American community, you know, as a black and African-American very differently because it's not all lumped into one that really elevates from my experience. We use the word Kings and really trying to teach that within their families. So I got to give them credit because that's something that is very important that wave the S the monetization of their experience that they've gone through. Um, especially like with Latinas, everyone else, you know, we're not all monolithic. We all have mixtures of so many different identities and ethnic and ethnicity and skin color, everything. Like, we're not just made up of one thing, but I do think that elevation needs to continue to be on the forefront with everything. So

Daphné Vanessa (07:54): Super helpful. I have so many questions, but I'll dominate this conversation. So I'm going to pass it over

Gary Santos Mendoza (07:58): To Shamil. Oh, no, it's all

Shamil Rodriguez (08:02): Good. This is good. I think what I hope that people in the audience are one connecting. Right? Cause I think we, we, we try to do a really good job where we, I like to think that we try to bring on different perspectives and some, you know, to show how different people are impacted by paying for school, the student experience, right. Um, and student loans, how it impacts you. And I, I think you'd do a great job of, of really living and sharing how all of that has come together for you. So I want to, I want to Gary, if you can, I want to go back to the beginning. There's something that I relate to that I think a lot of people have said from other guests, as well as like you're going to school, right. You're going to college, like you're going to education is like the future.

Shamil Rodriguez (08:43): It's like your freedom. It's going to help you economically. It's going to change your life. Right. But that can cause a lot of stress. And I think you had mentioned that, that like having that, that impact your mental health, because on the one hand you're taking out student loans because you're like, I have to do it. Like no matter what needs to get done, like I need to do this thing because that's what I was told. But then at the same time you have to balance this other side of it that says like, well, I still need to think about my wellbeing. Long-term to make sure that I'm not putting myself in a negative long-term position where I'm going to be, you know, financially, uh, at a detriment. So can you talk a little bit about how for you, how you were able to cope with those sometimes not all the time and sometimes conflicting messages, and then how have some of your students, or how do you, how do you coach them now, now that you've lived for so long and seen some of the, you know, the fruits from that?

Gary Santos Mendoza (09:35): Hmm. I think that's a very, it's a very interesting question for me. It was sometimes being in spaces and trying to figure out, like, when I went for, let's say the student loan will I needed, will I not need it? Think of it from this. I talked about in one of my book chapters before, um, be in a house. And I talked about actually here, um, being, living in a tenement apartment, getting like, I think a dollar or $2 allowance a week, um, to be able to get me through certain things that I've needed, um, to live, you know, and then if I did really good and I behaved and I got like a $5 allowance and then, you know, use it for something in New York city, that's a shocker, but that was a real big. So it was like, okay, you know, I used to think of the point like, oh my God, $10 is a lot.

Gary Santos Mendoza (10:21): And sometimes I like to still think of it that way when it comes to money. So even like if I find 20 items or $5 in the feet and the laundry is a good day, I don't care. I'd be like, yo, I probably, um, you know, within, for me navigating the trials and tribulations of student loans and trying to understand it for me, it financially with that example, I just gave also can imply that I live from a model that imagined if I had a little bit of money and I did good. Imagine if I had a lot of money, like the student loans were easily given me, what can I do with it? I remember what that student loan money, oh my God, I made the money dance. I took it out to places in New York city. I had to get out to places outside.

Gary Santos Mendoza (11:09): You know, we paid for the tuition and we paid for the books after that, then we took the money from things. But for me, the stress, the one thing that I've lived as some sort of a mantra has been always, and it was for me because I had to realize it with the amount of money that I kept on borrowing that it's going to get paid off. I don't know how I could dump things in my belly. I don't know how, but this will get paid off. If I keep doing what I'm doing. And when, I mean keep doing what I'm doing, which means not only going out Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and getting to religion class at seven in the morning, but most importantly was figuring out that keep doing thing. Live life, work hard, struggle because struggle is part of the experience and you will be good.

Gary Santos Mendoza (12:02): And even if it means that you're getting out of your comfort zone, that you're spending more money that let's say a student loan, or your check from when you were working is providing than it is what it is. Sometimes that was very difficult because I was also very guilty. And with that guilt came, the stress came, all that came from, and all that was rooted because when you're in a model that you don't have all the money in the world, that you're not blessed to have a family member or, you know, leave you a house or leave you like money or leave you all 401k or whatever the heck it is because there's been so many experiences of so many folks that I've dealt with. That, that it's interesting. The narratives that I've heard, um, you work from a model that unfortunately you're like, you have to do it on your own.

Gary Santos Mendoza (12:52): And sometimes you make decisions that you should maybe should have done a better decision. And it messed up my mental health a lot because of the fact that I was like, how am I going to pay all this back? There was some moments I had that refraction, but for me, it was always trying to figure out how to just put myself at ease to understand the one thing is like, unless it's death, there's always a solution. And there's always going to be a solution to this. And for others, when they're in a space of not knowing what to do, they're not going to see that that is a solution that you could find a way out of it. And over the years of experience also at work and being in different spaces, I've found different solutions on how to cope, but also realize that I'm able to get some things paid off.

Gary Santos Mendoza (13:42): I'm going to get it paid off. Like if it means that I'm writing another article, that if I get paid for, if it means I'm doing and in this day and age, because everyone's doing it, if it means I'm doing Uber eats and getting like those extra $60, that's going onto the loan screw that it's going to get paid because at the end of it, we're going to find a way to get it paid. That was always what I was saying in the beginning. So for me, it was navigating in spaces where I can work as hard or specifically, you know, what suspend what not to spend, but also trying to not feel guilty over the fact that I was spending this money because that also, that also stressed me out and that also got my anxiety. And at that point it was just like, you need to do not only to survive, but eventually thrive.

Gary Santos Mendoza (14:31): And at this point it was kind of, you know, just do what you can, but also don't put so much, you're broke. You're broke. Give her up in front of you. Don't put it as a front end because it doesn't define you for a lot of people that I've seen a lot of people, especially with students that they are really much like, I don't want to take out the slump. I don't want to take that money. And I don't know if it's been in our culture that we've learned like that. And I've been in kitchen tables with my family since I was with other family members, cousins, extended cousins. Oh my God, don't take out that loan. I'm am I going to end up paying it back? And I think it may be because of the experiences that I've had over the years, I'm like, God, I don't want to pay this back.

Gary Santos Mendoza (15:17): But then I also learned that while there is communities of color that are disproportionate to understand the education behind student loans, folks need to take them out because it's going to help them get to wherever they're going to get to like access to a job at pathway to employment or whatever it looks like. And, you know, I also want to keep this in mind that some folks end up not going to school, not going to college and end up still making their careers. Probably sometimes a little bit more than those that went to college. Very interesting enough. Um, I'm a big proponent, like, you know, college, you know, everyone could go to college by also I acknowledge that college is not for everyone and for their find their different pathways and make it work. So when I go back to my students, I take it from a holistic route that I'd tell them, you know, think of the pros and the cons.

Gary Santos Mendoza (16:10): You want to stay on campus, do the work. It may mean if you haven't found those brands and scholarships, you may have to take out this loan. But I also bring in my lived experience with loans. I bring it in that conversation because I think being an educator, you have a due diligence in order to provide an experience, but do don't just provide an advisement to someone that may be going through a time in their life that they need to make a decision. And I think being in student affairs myself and knowing that I'm talking about my lived experience to a whole bunch of students, as they're trying to navigate their experience. And sometimes that means that only on a financial sense, but a personal sense of professional sense. That's part of the job for me. I get nothing but pleasure. And to be like, you know, if you got to take out that loan, let's see what loan works better.

Gary Santos Mendoza (17:00): You want to get a public or a private financial aid. Most importantly, they're, that's, they're the experts. But like from the lived experience, like do this, you know, what, what do you think if five years down the road, can this money change your situation and then make it better? Can this, can you be able to pay this loan? If you're going to be in a feud, like let's say, you know, bio biotechnology or like being a scientist or being a doctor, things that would pay it off, go right ahead. It's your life. I'm not one to tell you what you should or should not do, but I am one that can help lead you into you making your decision. And I think for me, bringing into the Sumo conversation with students, with my lived experience, hopefully has provided sometimes some students, some clarity as to what exactly their journey should be that comes down.

Shamil Rodriguez (17:48): I think it's really good mental health advice too. Right. It sounds like a part of it really is like, you know, enjoying the journey through your living experience, right. Even though you had to work in school and take out student loans and, you know, unfortunately find a culture that, that really, like you said, like you said before, had like a deficiency mindset when it came to money and like, you know, a resistance to taking out loans, you at least were like, look, I'm going to figure out a way, um, I'm not going to let it really drag me down. And that, that came through your experience. So thank you for sharing those tips. And, um, and I'm sure it's going to help a lot of people as you continue to help more students, um, at Rutgers and wherever else you interact with them. So I think there's a good transition actually, Gary, into, um, your role at Rutgers in Newark and IRC and your role as an administrator, because you've, you've re, like you've said, you've been in different student affairs roles for quite some time now. And so you've gotten to see different perspectives, uh, from the students. So can you tell us a little bit about IRC? What does it do for Rutgers and, and, uh, what the purpose is and, and, and, you know, kind of tell us a little bit about that so we can head in that direction.

Gary Santos Mendoza (18:57): Sure. No worries. So I, I always say this thankfully and the less, the less fee, like it's been the blessing, all this, um, uh, uh, serve as a director for the intercultural research center at Brooks university in the work in Jersey. Um, for me, for those that don't know the word intercultural, um, this is where we gave a little bit of a 32nd background back in the day in the sixties. And ironically enough Rutgers university in new Brunswick had the Paul Rose, a campus center, one of the very first identity-based centers in the country. So in sixties, so more or less a lot of the fender was there since the seventies and eighties. Um, I mostly think of our LGBTQ centers in the seventies too, but probably one of the first centers, long story short, it came into a place that it went from providing identity for folks providing identity based services for folks as they were navigating college.

Gary Santos Mendoza (20:01): At the end of it, it grew because afterwards it went from an identity model all the way to a somewhat multicultural model and which we understand that there's more identities rather than just, you know, we are like just my individual identity spaces for certain people. Then it went to a multiple shop. Then within the multicultural model, you needed to also understand beyond that only that identity, your identity and other identities exist, how to pull it, how to coexist and how to work together with your identities to elevate you, which then with that came the intercultural, how to model within diversity equity inclusion. So going back with it, as I mentioned, Rutgers in Brunswick had the, for one of the first identity-based centers, I work at the one in Newark that was redeveloped, uh, very recently in 2019 when I arrived. And what we do is we focus on the diversity equity.

Gary Santos Mendoza (20:58): And I always say diversity equity inclusion, because people don't know what their culture is, just, I get all that background, um, more or less, it's the DEI, um, student, um, branch at the institution. Um, in that space, we deal with diversity equity inclusion initiatives on a personal professional and social lens. So what we do is provide students with the skills that they need in order to understand, to work with each other, with folks of different identities. A lot of the center is guided by Kimberly Crenshaw model of intersectionality. Um, for those that do not know what that is, is more or less understanding the lived experiences of folks and their multiple identities and how they permeate in spaces, but also more importantly, how they also point out oppression that happens within having certain identities and kind of the lived experience. And also within that model, how do we teach students about the aspect of multiplied identities, how we teach students to elevate themselves, but also how are we their guides in relation to when they get ready to leave Rutgers to work, that they're able to have an understanding of identity.

Gary Santos Mendoza (22:11): And through that we do events, programming services, part of student affairs, in essence. So like, and I think the aspects of student affairs in itself, which is where a lot of these centers also from research also stay is always in a space that focuses on, like, as I said, the personal question, social development, but for others, they may just see student affairs and we see higher ed, like higher end, but like multicultural centers or like compare it to like campus activities. Yeah. Just the people that do like the candy canes and like the balloons and free events and the free food. And maybe you do like an educational thing. That's cute. Maybe do that. Like, I think some people don't get the understanding that it's, I think it's funny because it's Spanish, Latino parents is funnier. They'll be like, so what do you do for a living? I'm like, um, I work as far as diversity center, like, oh, so you're a professor. Oh, you do this. I'm like, yeah, mom dress, you know, like if I say it in Spanish, um, the Rutgers and Newark gay, [inaudible] only way if I say that as a long-term. Oh, okay. That's cute.

Shamil Rodriguez (23:29): Whatever that is. Okay. Great. Great. Exactly.

Gary Santos Mendoza (23:32): I oh, great. Cool. Um, but I think within this, um, I've been able to also kind of bring my family a little bit more to understand my career. I think social media, while sometimes I've stayed away from social media and I haven't, um, it's been a good way for my family. That that's the way that they learn to see social media and the things that I do other than my mom, hearing all the stories about everything that happens. But, um, within it, um, you know, we work within the aspects of building community, um, collaboration across the, across the lines, not only within student affairs, but the academic side of the house, there's always been a consistent conversation of silos when it comes to higher education, especially in student affairs, there's always been that competition. Folks just work on their own within the center. There's no time.

Gary Santos Mendoza (24:18): And can't afford that, especially with a lot of issues going on around the country, um, with social justice, racial justice, things that are going on within areas like the university, which was made only for white folk back in the day. And now you have all these folks of color now coming to universities, not now because they've been here for 50, 60 years now coming in and now you have to provide the services, but also the tools that we're still uplifting these communities for them to be the next generation of scholars and change makers in the community. And that's an amazing feeling in a sense, because not only being a person of color, working with all these identities, being of somebody whose identities, we're helping our students, and not only within the intercultural center, we help our LGBTQ students and our undocumented population because both of those areas are origin to the university, but we find a way to provide the experience of a college for all students, where the diverse equity, equity, and inclusion center for all students.

Gary Santos Mendoza (25:20): And sometimes, you know, sometimes when you talk about these topics, it may go through having one specific agenda. But we also look at it as that as an, uh, me being part of the institution for my goal is always providing a space that also that's going to come get the learnings of the center and then go out and do amazing things at the end. So for me, like that's what my job entails and it's also with direction and, you know, figuring out ideas, you know, also trying to sometimes I think be in this battle, it's true that being in civil affairs doesn't mean that we only do, uh, candy canes and balloons, but we also do developmental conceptual and theoretical framework that we use in order to talk to our students and base our conversation. And it's for them to understand where they are in their lives and how we use those skills to push them into places that they're going into growth. And then that they're continuing to develop, to get to wherever they need to be.

Daphné Vanessa (26:14): I love that my last substantive question is going to be about the intercultural center and it being a space for everyone. So we know that a lot of, um, well, we don't know numero, I don't know numerically, but I've heard in the conversation that white, straight males feel excluded from the conversation on inclusivity. My question to you is, does the intercultural allow for white straight males to be a part of this conversation as well to be included? Or is it more so focused on populations that have been historically marginalized?

Gary Santos Mendoza (26:57): That's a great question. I think it came with the alluding a little bit with, um, when I mentioned before about some folks, I think, think that when it's something like diversity equity inclusion, there's like a certain agenda it's like we're facing towards one area or the other. I could definitely say from my experience of being in the center for me and you know, this is a lab based on me, that's thinking for the institution, but for me, um, I would like to think, yes, we do. Um, and the biggest reason is because I think what helps out with saying yes, that we are inclusive of all voices, including, you know, life folk folks within the LGBTQ spectrum, or even folks in the, in the hetero central sub spectrum of it. Um, you know, that is the role of why students pay their student fees to have spaces, to be able to engage with learning.

Gary Santos Mendoza (27:47): And sometimes that means that while our job is much more critical to bring those populations that traditionally don't come to our center, like that population that you just mentioned, that is our due diligence in our job, despite the fact that we may have our personal in there because a lot of diversity equity inclusion work was also personal work. It's also emotional work, emotional labor. And sometimes that also means you have to make the steps to speak to others across the aisle to be able to provide them the services needed. Now, going back to the question, has that happened in other spaces also? You know, I think there's still in my, with my perspective. I think in my area we've been doing it well, but I do feel within other schools, you know, from experience, I think it really depends on the population. It depends on the environment I went from working in New York city, which is one of the most diverse cities in the nation and possibly the world to work in Miami, Florida, and Palm beach in Boca Raton in which the demographic is way different.

Gary Santos Mendoza (28:56): Um, clientele is very specific and there was a small amount of a certain amount of population that involved black and brown people of color. So I think being in those environments, that experience, and also being at St John's because I feel like I've met a lot more folks that weren't just people of color has empowered my experiences to speak to that side of the aisle in this role, because at the end of it, while also have folks that may think differently, there is a need to bring that population into the freight. And I think when we have a lot of our white European, um, Anglo kind of folks coming into our center, it provides us more of a critical to provide education and learn from their lived experience. And also on top of it, provide them with the skills they need in order to be in spaces.

Gary Santos Mendoza (29:52): We have allies just like with folks when the summer riots were happening, we had why allies, why heterosexual folks, that we're also helping out with what trans women of color were starting with the Stonewall riots. But I think it's important to realize as well that while I like to think also within our space, we do a good job of it, of bringing in different folks, including our, our white folks into this space. The most biggest thing is that that's still a conversation that is in, is enriched with the fact that some folks of what they're getting at home may not keep in mind that learning about different cultures and identities is important. And if we have someone that passes them come to like, let's say the center, for example, you have to also realize that it can also mean because what they learned at home or what they learned from folks from their parents, their caregivers also put them in that space that maybe we shouldn't be connecting.

Gary Santos Mendoza (30:52): And, you know, a lot of that is learned from the home. A lot has learned from lived experience. But I like to think also within spaces like the center, it becomes a learning moment in which we provide the learning and skills sets that they need. There's an old saying in higher education law of the purpose of higher education administrators, and it's the phrase and local parenthesis. So kind of in place of the parent. And that's kind of the role that being an administrator, we play at the institution. We're like, we're not the parents physically, but we're like, I like to think of it in a sense, like we're providing the guidance for providing the advisement, providing the nurturing for the student to develop to where their next metamorphosis is supposed to be. But within all of it. Yeah. I like to think we're open to all folks. And I think that's still like the mission of our center is to be a center for all folks to talk about social justice, racial justice, how are we better allies in our community? How we keep in mind identities and how do we lead them towards liberation? Because once identities are free, we're all free in some way, shape or form.

Daphné Vanessa (32:06): I love that. Um, so Chevelle, unless you have a question I'd like to go into the rapid round.

Shamil Rodriguez (32:14): No, I think that was a phenomenal way to wrap it up there. Thank you, Gary, for sharing that. So Daphne, um, and Gary, we didn't prepare Gary for this. So everyone lays down. We're here to get the most raw answers you're going to get, sorry. And I made the mistake here. You just caught me on that saying ladies and gentlemen. So I apologize everyone, Kings and Queens, right? Thank you, Gary, for helping me there. Um, you know, let's go into the lightning round, Daphne. This is one of my favorite parts because you don't know what the questions going to ask you and the rules are that you have to answer within a few seconds and honestly, and openly.

Gary Santos Mendoza (32:45): And we'll go from there. Lord, here we go. I'm afraid of this. That's your favorite club? My favorite club, uh, my favorite club will always be escalated. It was the first club that I went to when I was, um, during St Johnson's. So it will just be my favorite club.

Daphné Vanessa (33:03): Love it. What's in your back pocket right now?

Gary Santos Mendoza (33:08): Nothing nothing's in my back pocket. Maybe that just fell away in my backpack. What

Daphné Vanessa (33:17): Letter would you send to your student loan servicer? If you could send one letter,

Gary Santos Mendoza (33:25): That's what I was saying. Cancel my student loans. Plus forgive me for all the ad aid. Um, forgive me for all the added interest, take everything out, cancel everything, cancel the interest, cancel everything. And please give me $5,000 for the year of every year that I dealt with you for the fact that I now need to for pain and suffering love age to go to law school, I should have maybe, maybe we should add that as another thing, probably in a couple of years, we'll see this point.

Daphné Vanessa (33:57): What's your final word of advice? Five sentence, five words that you can say. One sentence to president Joe Biden about student loans, five words,

Gary Santos Mendoza (34:15): Student leaders deserve their loans forgiven. I think that'd be the best, the best one. Um, if I, if I may, like, I think the one thing that I added with it, and I have to say this about students. I think this doesn't get said enough, like there's student leaders that are in organizations that do many good works that have all taken student loans and they do the work. Like if there was a way that you can reward students or incentivize them for the work that you do on college campuses, the way that they take the skills that they've learned in the classroom and in the books, and really show that they're doing their thing. That should be a point to forgive some loans, because that means they're using what you have invested in them to really make the change around the world. And sometimes I think that's something that doesn't get acknowledged. So I think I would add that even though they have to be on a five word, I would add that in there and incentivize reward

Daphné Vanessa (35:21): Them. I love that idea. And I think there are definitely ways to make it happen at start new. We reward people for volunteering with non-profits. So I wonder if we started to think about the differences in legal structures for how student organizations are organized. I remember a student government was a corporation at St John's, but maybe we have to talk about different models to incentivize people. That's a great idea

Gary Santos Mendoza (35:48): That, that I give that, that I give because it's like I was thinking about it and I was just like, you know, what is, uh, what is a way that we can advance the opportunities to incentivize students for the things that they do? I think start new has been doing was stayed consistent with doing it. And so I even commend BofI as a, so say when I saw the GMA last week, I was like, oh, but because of the, because of the mission behind it. And I think also with the aspect that, um, students, like, if you give them an opportunity, um, to one pay my student loans through a lot of ways that they get back to the community, like, it's, it's a win-win, it's not just like transactional. It's a win-win because of the fact that like so many students absent. So many student leaders that during this pandemic had been still running organizations virtually and trying to figure out ways on how to engage with like the same populations.

Gary Santos Mendoza (36:39): And I think for that, and some of them are loans. Like I think at the end of it is like, yo, and give these folks some sort of credit, like if you're not going to pay them through like what they're doing, at least for give their, their student loans, because at the end of the using your investment to invest in their communities, which in essence still gives back to the community. And also how, so also those that are young that are going to be given back to the next generation at the same time. So it's like, you know, like my student loans were forgiven right now. I could probably get my house. I'm still waiting to get my house right now. So that that's an income ratio that it becomes a little bit too much to say, yeah, I think you

Shamil Rodriguez (37:20): Hit it right on the head. That's exactly why we're doing what we're do at 30. Thank you for sharing that. And, and, um, you're right. That there needs to be more attention given to students that were creative and figure things out. There are some schools, um, like Langston in Oklahoma, uh, Florida and M actually paid off or canceled account balances for students that are independent dynamic. Right. So, you know, there are some schools that are out there that are trying to do the right thing and we encourage them to applaud them because they should be some recognition for that. And, um, and, and thank you for, for sharing that Gary. Cause I think that's really important to a highlight cause these student leaders are still, uh, trying to develop their skillset so they can help the next generation and that also impacts the community around them. So thank you. Definitely

Gary Santos Mendoza (38:07): Not that I remember as like my sort of says boldly transforming higher education. You have to come in with bold ideas in order to make things better because we're now in quote unquote new normal and new normal does not have to be, can be different normal than what it was pre pandemic. Um, you know, and that's something that I've talked a lot with. My mom, my dad and mother, my sister, and my brother and my father. Um, I love to death because if it wasn't also all of the learning that I've gotten from them, the struggles in the loving, you know, my nieces, nephews, everybody like just understanding that learning from their experience in getting to this space means also getting out of your comfort zone to try new things, but also on top of it being in a space that you are not staying stagnant, that you're not using things in rooted in white supremacy.

Gary Santos Mendoza (39:01): I think keeping in mind that at the end of the day, you need to figure out what are new approaches paradigms in order to do certain things that can make communities of color and communities in general better. And sometimes that means stepping out of the box. Um, big thing in the higher ed every day, how we boldly transforming higher education. I think my association for this, but it's really how we boldly doing it in ways that were bringing equity and social justice to communities of color, our students. Um, but also on top of it, how are we providing new solutions to resolve issues that we're dealing on a day to day? And that's something that is still a life's work that will continue what I'm on longer here. And I think what I mean by that is that it's gonna continue. It's gonna be in a different iteration, but just seeing the advancement of how folks are now taking back their power, um, using what they've learned in different spaces to really change things up. It's just really cool, sweet, inspirational, and just fabulous at the same time. So I'm just like in the back, like just taking it all in and enjoying it. So.

Shamil Rodriguez (40:07): All right. Great. Thank you so much, Gary, for joining the show. Thank you for joining us here on the seat. A little podcast. Definitely. Any final words before we go, that's all.

Speaker 6 (40:21): I think [inaudible], I'm leaving that in the pod

Shamil Rodriguez (40:29): For more information on today's episode, visit the student loan podcast.com forward slash episode 45. That's the student loan podcast.com forward slash episode 45.

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