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Carlos Chairez: Delmer Dewey/Julia McCulloch Smith Award winner 2019

Q&A with one of the Delmer Dewey/Julia McCulloch Smith Award Winners 2019

Bailey Thompson | News Editor

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I’m a first-generation student from Hood River, Oregon. I have three older siblings, and I’m the first in my family to graduate … My parents migrated from Culiacán and Jalisco, Mexico. And growing up with Mexican and American culture is like two different worlds colliding all the time … I’m a business major, too, graduating with a concentration of management … and I’ve been working here as a Multicultural Representative Coordinator here since my freshman year.

How do you feel about having been chosen for the Delmer Dewey/Julia McCulloch Smith Award?

Honestly just surprised … I honestly never saw myself as a distinguished leader like that. I always saw myself as someone who wanted to see others go beyond what I feel like I could ever reach. I’ve always had self-esteem issues, and if I know if I can’t do it, I hope others can do it … So even being nominated, I was just surprised … It’s just an honor for me, coming from where I come from, because not many Latinos have gotten this award. I see all these Honors students constantly getting this award … and I started getting the imposter syndrome a little bit. I thought other people deserve it more than I do … but getting this and having it is just amazing. And I hope that it inspires other people that, regardless of where you come from, you can get this award if you put the time and dedication in.

Can you tell me a bit about what your experience has been like at Western in general?

I’ve transformed in so many ways. Looking back, it’s like “I don’t know that person” … I went through a big self-identity crisis and had fallen into depression a little bit, suicidal tendencies and stuff like that, because in my culture — having also come out as LGBTQ and bisexual — where I came from, it was hard to grasp at. I was raised in a Catholic environment … so the topic was never brought up … And, coming here, it seemed kind of taboo to me. Also, when I go back home, hearing constantly in the Latino culture ‘gay’ and ‘fag’ is just in their vocabulary all the time in a derogatory way … So, I would just go to class and fly by them and put on my headphones. Then I would just go home and sleep or watch TV, and that’s it.  And that was freshman year for me … But having this job gave me purpose in a way. And I blossomed up when I started connecting with other people and finding my place here … So, I’m so grateful that Western was so inclusive and so welcoming like that.

What are some of the ways that you have been involved here at Western?

I got the Diversity Commitment Scholarship … Then I became an MCR coordinator, and that’s where my whole leadership journey started. Then I got into PLUS+ Team … I was an interim ambassador, so I helped during the summer doing tours when no one was around. And I was also a part of the Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Conference, so I help with that annually … I was in the Tuition and Fees Advisory Committee this year … and that was really cool because my major is business, but I haven’t gotten that much experience with business, so this was cool, and I loved it … I was in the Multicultural Student Union, and I was on the Student Activities Board for a little while. And my first club that I joined here was the Running Club … I was nominated for Wolf Royalty this year and won that, too.

What is the thing that you are most proud of during your time at Western?

Finding myself — just having the courage to be like, “Hey, I’m bisexual. And I’m proud of it.” Even just saying that, and how easy it is, is an accomplishment for me. Before, I couldn’t even think about it. So, looking back on what I went through, that alone is an accomplishment … I can represent people more, and I can give a voice to something that some people don’t ever think about. So, just empowering students in general to feel comfortable and proud of who they are.

If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?

I should’ve talked to someone sooner … I always felt alone, and I wish that I had reached out. I should’ve gone to the Student Health and Counseling Center or talked to my Peer Mentor. So, that’s my biggest regret is just isolating myself.

What advice do you have for underclassmen at Western?

During New Student Week, a lot of the speakers say to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that’s definitely the best advice that I could give … This is where you make mistakes and improve on your deficiencies and weaknesses. Do stuff that you’ve never done before and join stuff that you’ve always wanted to join. And if you don’t like it — okay, let’s move on. Let’s find something that you want to do. Get acclimated and integrated with the university. There are so many opportunities here, and all the staff and administrators want to see you succeed. I think a lot of first-years are just scared to fail, and honestly college is the best time to fail, learn from it, reflect and then try it again.

What are you going to miss most about your time here?

I’m going to miss all of the administrators, staff and faculty here … I know Western isn’t the most extravagant … but the people here make it. And that’s who I’m going to miss the most. I’m going to miss the people who’ve helped me find myself and who’ve empowered me, and … all of my friends, too.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation I’m moving to Beaverton — that’s where my brother is. I went from Hood River, which is a small town, to Monmouth, which is a smaller town, and I want to try the city a little bit. I was very caught up in (deciding) whether to take a gap year or going to get my MBA … and right now I’m being really picky about where I put my time into. So, after this, I’ll be moving, finding a job, figuring out what I want to do. And, after a year, I’m going to get my MBA.

Contact the author at howlnews@wou.edu