Maria Carolina Gonzalez-Prats, a Ph.D student at the Portland State School of Social Work, became the new student trustee for the PSU Board of Trustees on Dec. 12, 2014. The board is comprised of fifteen members including one student representative. PSU President Wim Wiewel serves on the board as a non-voting member.
Gonzalez-Prats noted that her work with the Veterans Resource Center and the Women’s Resource Center has connected her with the PSU community and inspired her to continue serving the university.
“I’ve been pretty involved in the Veterans Resource Center,” Gonzalez-Prats said. “That was my niche when I first got here. I served in the Army from ’98–04, so as a returning, non-traditional student coming back from the workforce, it was a good entry for me to connect with other veterans, and learn more about my GI bill.”
Gonzalez-Prats said she also worked with the Women’s Resource Center on several projects related to her doctoral research.
“My research is around military sexual trauma; that is the term for sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military,” said Gonzalez-Prats. “I’m really looking at the impact of gender exclusionary policies, like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, as well as combat exclusion [for women in direct combat roles] to see what kind of culture that creates.”
Gonzalez-Prats declined to state her position on specific campus issues, including the resolution to create an armed police force.
“At the moment I’m not prepared [to comment], I’m still literally being on-boarded,” Gonzalez-Prats said. “I’ve gone to several of the meetings—and I’ve been impressed by both the supporters and the opponents of the change. Rigorous debate is healthy and lends itself to a more engaged student body. I hope that continues.”
Gonzalez-Prats is the second student to serve as trustee. She replaced Pamela Campos-Palma, who graduated from PSU and is now a graduate student at New York University.
Associated Students of PSU President Eric Noll explained that Gonzalez-Prats was chosen through a rigorous selection process that included an application and interview conducted by ASPSU, followed by approval by the Governor’s Office and the Senate Rules Committee.
Noll said that only four applications were submitted, but they were all of high quality.
“Because the selection process had to fall within the course of the Governor’s timeline, applicants had to complete a lengthy application in a three-week window,” Noll said.
This included seven short essays discussing applicants’ policy experience, experience working with marginalized communities and shared governance, among other topics.
Noll explained that ASPSU is working to create a relationship in which it provides support to the student trustee while the student trustee maintains independence from student government.
This separation, Noll said, will enable ASPSU to serve as a true advocacy body when engaging with the board.
“Moving forward, we’re going to be doing extensive work with [Gonzalez-Prats] to on-board her to the position and to build a relationship between the student trustee and ASPSU, so they don’t have to do all of the research on their own,” Noll said.