After two years as at Northwest, Adam Gonzales is looking for a change of scenery as a result of isolating experiences in Maryville.
Gonzales, who served as the coordinator of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, left Northwest Sept. 14, eager to start as a senior student recruitment specialist at UMKC. Gonzales described his experience at Northwest as anything but dull.
“It’s been dynamic,” Gonzales said. “The University has reworked its strategic objects. It was never boring. It was also never just easy.”
Gonzales left his mark on Northwest as a person promoting inclusivity. At his final presentation on intersectionality Sept. 14, Gonzales discussed institutional biases that he experienced in the Maryville community.
Because he didn’t have many ties to the community as a gay, Latino man not from Maryville, he said he only felt tolerated due to his tie to Northwest. One of many qualities that set Gonzales apart are identities he possesses according to his understanding of intersectionality.
Intersectionality is the idea that “who we are shifts depending on where we are and when we are,” he said.
Different identities such as sexual orientation and race show up differently in different situations. Gonzales explained how assumptions about a minority’s place of origin polarizes those who don’t fit the mold of a typical Maryville citizen.
“Because there were things that I experienced here that even my affiliation with Northwest didn’t protect me from, my goal was always to keep pushing us closer to becoming a more inclusive environment, because some of the things I experienced in Maryville I didn’t want anyone to experience,” Gonzales said.
Despite trying to overcome racial adversity, Gonzales has chosen to take the position at UMKC to achieve objectives of diversity on a larger, more urbanized scale. There was a time when Gonzales moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and commuted to Maryville most days to avoid a lack of socialization outside of work.
For him, it was easier to commute and maintain connections with people like him in Kansas City than to have the convenience of living in Maryville.
Gonzales said he’s looking forward to helping more students obtain an education and feel appreciated on and off campus. His new position is focused on recruiting marginalized students. While he is eager to see change as a result of his work in Kansas City, he said he’s still hopeful Northwest will grow without him.
“I hope that the University can recognize and really cherish those who are on the fringes. I hope that it can be different for others than it was for me,” Gonzales said.
During his Sept. 14 presentation on intersectionality, Gonzales showed a video about LGBTQIA+ students who explained their needs in regards to safety and acceptance. At the end, he asked what the take away for the audience was. Associate Provost Justin Mallett agreed underrepresented voices should be valued instead of disregarded.
“When assimilation is impossible, underrepresented people can’t blend in, so you make yourself small. The opposite should be happening,” Mallet said. “You should be louder and not conform.”
Gonzales said his relationships with Northwest faculty will be remembered as interactions that helped him grow personally and professionally. Mallet and Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator N’ninah Freelon said they will miss Gonzales’ passion, energy and outgoingness.
“One thing Adam has taught me is to be who I am and not be apologetic about it,” Freelon said.
Gonzales dedicates his work to the idea that differences have significance beyond the surface. Not only do races look different, they see the world differently.
“I hope that there’s a greater appreciation of the variety that having a diverse population brings,” Gonzales. “The variety of ideas and outlooks on life and on the work we do. I hope that as a community Northwest can really start to value that and really celebrate it."