Loyola University Chicago

Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs

Division of Student Development

Staff & Alum: Gaby Ortiz

Title: Administrative Assistant
Office: Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs
Started LUC: 2008
Alma Mater: University of Chicago

I come from Mexico, from the south side of Chicago, from being a first gen student, from theater, from pozole and cochinita pibil, from learning to drive in Chicago, from deep woods and hiking trips, from an alma mater that values gargoyles and the life of the mind, from books and stories, from Indigenous roots and European ones, from long nights studying, from distant travels, from teaching, from creating works of art, from pain and challenges, and from love. 

I grew up in Chicago and have been at Loyola for the past seven years, so this is a hard question to answer since I’ve been here for so long but I’ll give it another shot.

I come from Mertz Hall, from moving my car because of parking restrictions, from making flower arrangements for SDMA’s special events, from greeting students and families during orientation, from amazing colleagues through the Division of Student Development, from walking along the lake by the IC during my lunch, from walking across campus just so I can eat at Engrained Cafe,  from the SDMA team which is my second family, from sending out UID Fund award letters, from the from taking the shuttle to WTC for my SOC grad classes, from the Loyola’s farmer’s market where I once bought the best pumpkin for pie from the LUREC farm, from leading ABI trips to Pilsen and Guatemala, from fireworks and fudge puppies during New Year Festival, from managing budgets, from low ropes courses at LUREC led by Paul from Outdoor Experiential Education, from a sore voice and stinging hands acquired from cheering during the Convocation Tunnel, from meditating in the Medieval Garden, from Syngry classes in Halas with Ben and Ro, from stocking up the SDMA Resource Room with snacks during finals week, from dancing and zip lining during the WTC Block Party, from retreats at LUREC, from watching students grow and stretch themselves over the course of their four years.

Folks often like to come up to me and say “This is going to sound weird/crazy/strange but can you…” It’s usually not something bad and so I will almost always try to help out. Over the years I have gotten all sorts of requests from students and I almost always do what I can to help them except in cases where something is illegal or goes against the community standards.

I think the biggest request I get though is to use my stapler and/or scissors and/or tape. As a result, I have had to replace my stapler at least three times and I lost count of the number of times students lost my scissors so now if they want to borrow something, I will take their ID until I get it back.  

Sometimes, students just want me to look at their school projects or help them proof-read their assignments.  Or sometimes, they want me to be their assignment.  I recently has a group of students from the ESL program stop by my office and ask me all sorts of questions about school uniforms because they were practicing interviewing people.

I think more than anything else, SDMA works to ensure that students feel valued and empowered to pursue their personal, professional, and academic goals.  We do this through advocacy, mentorship, through connecting students with resources, identity development, by meeting students where they are (and also challenging them), and by really supporting their holistic well-being. In other words, we become home and family for students, particularly for underrepresented students.

Students and staff—I think that people here are inspirational and silly.  I love listening to students tell me about their triumphs no matter how small or working together with staff to overcome a challenge.  I think that ah ha moment that we experience when we have achieved something or learned something is a magical moment.  I love it when students share those things with us or share their projects.

I love watching students helping one another. I think of the Magis Scholarship and I am so proud and so impressed with students for making something like that happen. Watching USGA (now SGLC) really take on diversity and social justice issues on an institutional level over the last few years has been wonderful to watch.  It shows that they truly care about equity, justice, and about care for others.  So much has come out of those efforts and I am just so impressed with what they have accomplished.

I also think that Loyola students and staff are playful.  Our department once helped Halas unload a van and afterwards we took turns riding around these tricycles that they were using for an event.

I think this is a very similar question to how I go about helping students.  For me they are one and the same.

Social justice is compassionately working towards equity. It is a journey and a process that begins with yourself. It’s not just about ensuring that there is equity for all people, it’s also about examining your own identity, your own privileges and shifting your own way of thinking so that you can fully be in solidarity with others, so you can work with them (as opposed to trying to save them), so that you can have compassion while challenging injustice.

I think we often think that we have to be angry and we need to shame people who are being unjust or contributing to systemic inequities but the real question is how can we hold them accountable in a compassionate way?  The more you shame someone, the less likely they are to see your side or want to hear your side.

I think that this idea of students working towards justice and excellence is one that I especially love.  I think in many other schools, students are told to be excellent and told to be leaders.  Jesuit education teaches students that they need to be all of these things but that they need to use these abilities to transform the world around them and work to improve it.  Otherwise, the question becomes—who are you excelling for?  Who are you leading? For what purpose are you doing these things?  Jesuit education answers that question—not only are you doing it for God but you are really doing it to improve the conditions around you and to work for social justice.

I see this in the students here at Loyola.  Students here are passionate about the environment, about issues ranging from eliminating poverty to fighting the sex trafficking industry.  Students here protest and stand in solidarity with victims of hate crimes and systemic oppression. There are so many organizations dedicated to helping others to working towards the greater good and it is beautiful to see students wanting to help their communities succeed and transform.  I think watching this, has been transformative for me and has really spoiled me.  It’s hard for me to interact with other folks who don’t hold this view of the world.

The Medieval Garden.  It overlooks the lake and sometimes I like going there to sit and meditate and reflect. For the longest time, I also really loved the Green House tucked up in the seventh floor of Mundelein.  I also really love going to LUREC and wandering around the trails and the farm.  I think maybe I just love nature and since we are in a city, finding those green spaces to reconnect with the earth is really grounding and puts me in a place of peace.

I would say my favorite Loyola story is actually a series of stories—stories from students who share with us their stories of struggle, success, and resilience.  I think of the student whose mother died her sophomore year of college but still had time to connect with her STARS mentees and make them feel like they were cared and supported. All of her mentees became leaders at Loyola and they all shared that she had been the one who inspired them.  I think of the student who struggled at Loyola, left the university, and then returned a year and half later.  He became one of the leaders of The Men’s Project and finished his academic career strong and made a strong impact on the campus community.  Students struggle but they are strong and they are resilient and when you see them grow into their power and into self-efficacy, it’s really inspirational.

Ask questions.  Be willing to admit that you need help and that you are unsure of what questions you should be asking.  I think sometimes folks (not just students), are afraid to ask questions out of fear that they might be asking a stupid question or that by admitting that they don’t know, it means that they are not worthy.  I think the most successful students that have walked through our doors, are the students who ask a million questions.  Those are the students who get the answers from their professors, from staff, and from those around them.  Those are the students who are innovative because they ask why.  Those are the students that are successful because they ask how. Those are the students who are successful because they want to know what is possible and if something is not possible, they keep searching for an answer or a solution until they find one.