Learn more about Dora's background, as well as her vision for the school and her favorite parts of life at Harris.
Harris Student Government (HSG) President Dora Gonzalez

What made you want to run for President?

I came back to grad school after working for five years as a Policy and Legislative Analyst for both the Mayor and City Council Offices in the City of San Jose, California. I was entrenched in local politics and government. While there, I saw first-hand how the most effective ways to improve communities happened at the local level through effective leadership. 

Like I did in the previous five years, during my first year at Harris, I wanted to quickly integrate into our school community and make a positive impact. I started attending Harris focus groups, as well as providing constructive feedback to internal stakeholders to help improve student life at Harris.

As the school year progressed, I wanted to take a more defined leadership role at Harris and so I decided to run for Harris Student Government (HSG) President. In my platform, I outlined ideas to continue improving the student experience based on what I witnessed and through conversations I engaged in with my classmates. I see Harris as my new home surrounded by endless supportive structures. That is why I wanted to take on a position to help aid its success.

What are you most eager to accomplish over the next year?

Luis Recalde, the newly-elected HSG Vice-President, and I ran on a platform largely focused on inclusivity, and I promise to do everything I can with this position to help improve that experience for students. 

Sometimes I think that we here at Harris and across society focus like a laser on the diversity part, which is extremely important, but forget that there is another step within building community and that is inclusivity. The concepts work hand-in-hand, but I want to make sure that inclusivity is not forgotten as we move forward and Harris keeps expanding. 

Harris has students from all over the globe. Although sometimes it may feel more comfortable or easy to befriend people who look like you or have similar life experiences as you, I also want to challenge that a bit and help the student body make connections and foster friendships with someone that they may not necessarily think they have much in common with at first glance.

Now, how do we do that from a practical programming standpoint? To me that means leveraging structures and programming efforts that already exist in a more creative way while also thinking of new events or programming efforts that can foster student interaction. That means Harris After Hours, quarterly Harris Signature Events, and partnerships with the Graduate Council and the larger UChicago network, but so much more as well. 

There are also some other targeted efforts I want to improve this year, such as creating on-going TA trainings to help the student experience, working to ensure curriculum consistency during the Core, accessible resources and support for students with families and significant others, and enhanced Student Affairs–led programming relating to students’ health and wellness.

How has your experience at Harris so far prepared you for this important role?

If you can make it through the Core, you can make it through anything else at Harris. The quarter system is very fast, so you have to be very organized, have great time management skills, work well in teams, effectively write and communicate, and foster relationships with staff, faculty, and your peers…all while trying to code and maintain some sort of social life and well-being. 

It’s a huge adjustment, whether you are coming here straight from undergrad or returning to school after being out in the workforce,as I did. I’m very proud to have been able to find that balance while keeping in mind that I have to make time for myself. Don’t get me wrong: it is still a daily battle at times. But you find a groove and have to trust that it is going to be okay. Successfully being able to navigate that has given me the confidence that I am prepared to serve as President of HSG. 

How do you plan on interacting with the Harris student body?

There are so many communication platforms used at Harris – things like WhatsApp, GroupMe, WeChat, and more – that I have to admit it can be a bit overwhelming and hard to know what the best platform is. I’m hoping to most utilize the incoming 2018 and 2019 Facebook groups and the Harris Student Government newsletter to disseminate important information officially related to the student body. For things outside of that, I’m usually around the Keller Center and hope folks know they can approach me about anything or even just say hi. I also plan to continue working for Student Affairs, actively attend HSO efforts, and play intramural innertube Water Polo again in the Spring (any one interested in playing, please let me know!), so those will be some other opportunities for interaction.

Is there anything that you’re excited to start working on now?

One of our biggest HSG events, which does require some serious coordination and forward planning during the summer to make sure it all goes smoothly for the fall, is… Follies! (For the newcomers, Follies is Harris’ annual comedy sketch show, written, produced, and performed by our very our students, staff, and faculty.) Last year’s show was great, so we have big shoes to fill and we’ve been working on making this year even better. I’m also excited to help the Academic and Student Affairs team welcome the incoming class of 2019 through our various communication platforms and then in person during Jumpstart, Math Camp, the Day One Address, and orientation week.

What else can we look forward to hearing about or seeing from you?

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to being able to say that I am a Harris Master’s graduate fully employed (hopefully) by the time I walk that stage in June 2020! I also recently started interning for the Pritzker Traubert Foundation this summer and am looking forward to helping them develop some innovative philanthropic efforts throughout Chicago. Additionally, I’m hoping the internship opportunity brings a wealth of applied policy experience, knowledge, and networking opportunities.

In my role as President of the Harris Student Government, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to become a resource for returning and incoming students, especially in moments of frustration, anxiety, and other difficulties that come with being a graduate student. I want students to feel that I and the rest of HSG have their backs. For many of us, this education opportunity came with a lot of sacrifice, and we are building our new community of support from the ground up. I am hoping everyone constantly sees me play a very active role in and out of the classroom as an advocate and friend during my time here.

What is the greatest strength of the Harris student body?

The brain trust that makes up the Harris student body is incredible! We have a student body that has served some of the highest levels of government, worked for world organizations, helped develop innovative strategies in the private sector, and contributed to amazing social justice and equity projects all over the world. 

Additionally, Harris folks are some of the most caring individuals. I would say we are all “helpers” by nature and are here to further develop our skills to help solve problems we saw out in the world affecting the communities we were in. In addition to the robust talent pool we have domestically, almost 50% of the Harris student body is international, which further enriches Harris academically and socially. That’s the true strength: the cross-cultural bonds you can make with someone from the other side of the world is beautiful.

When you're not studying, working or leading the Harris student body, what are your favorite things to do in Chicago?

I moved my dog, Buddy Gonzalez, to Chicago over the Fourthof July weekend so all my extra time will basically go towards taking care of my “furbaby”; we have a lotof catching up to do because he had to stay in California this past year. I’m looking forward to exploring some hiking trails and dog parks with him. 

I’m also obsessed with NBC’s “Chicago” series; they started with Chicago Fire and have since made spin-offs with Chicago PD and Chicago Med. Once you are invested in one series, you have to follow the rest because they are all intertwined. It’s like the best soap opera ever, and I have to watch! 

When I can, I also love attending music concerts around the City. Chicago has some of the coolest music venues and theaters with some great architecture that are always a blast to get to enjoy.