May 12, 2006

Vazquez shares what matters to her

Like most first-years at the University of Chicago, Ana Vázquez, the new director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA), has had to get used to a certain pace of life over the past year.

Vázquez discussed the importance of balancing work and personal responsibilities in Rockefeller Chapel’s continuing brown-bag series, “What Matters to Me and Why,” Thursday in the Reynolds Club.

That task, Vázquez said, has been especially hard for her in her first year because she feel passionate about her job. She spoke of her friends’ complaints that she is harder to reach than President Bush and recounted her shock when a professor told her to “stop being an overachiever.”

“I realized that you have to decide when you are going to stop and devote time to yourself,” she said.

Vázquez cited her working-class background as a driving influence on her work. Her mother encouraged her to expand her options through education. With her mother’s help, Vázquez became the first person on each side of her family to earn a Ph.D.

“I exceeded my mother’s vision,” she said.

With such a strong appreciation for learning, Vázquez decided to combat social injustice in the field of education. For the past 15 years, she has worked in education and community affairs.

Vázquez described her reaction to the state of affairs in some of the city’s schools: “I wondered why there weren’t more kids dropping out,” she said.

Vázquez was appalled that teachers denied students opportunities. She recounted an incident where a guidance counselor would not give a free financial aid form to a student that she didn’t think could make it in college.

Vázquez recently served on a Blue Ribbon Commission for the Chicago Public Schools. She was charged with the task of ensuring the continuing diversity of magnet and high-achievement schools, since a court mandate ordering diversity will soon end.

Vázquez defined her career pattern after her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees: “After every degree I’ve gone back to the community,” she said.