Francisco Velazquez, MSU StratCom graduate, recently received the Distinguished Mentor Award from Rueda Latin@ at the Latinx Achievement Gala put on by the Culturas de las Razas Unidas (C.R.U.) organization for displaying exceptional leadership in mentorship.
C.R.U. houses and supports many of the Chicano/Latino organizations on campus for political, social, cultural, and academic issues that address the Chicano/Latino student community at the university.
Years later after being part of the organization as an undergraduate student, Velazquez became involved as a mentor.
“I know what it’s like to be a first generation Latinx student,” said Velazquez. “So, I wanted to help provide the type of mentorship that I needed myself back when I was an undergraduate student here in the mid 2000’s.”
Rueda Latin@ is a professional organization based in the College of Education for Latinx graduate students, faculty, and staff.
Velazquez graduated from MSU’s Communications Arts and Sciences College in 2008 with a degree in journalism. During his time in undergrad, he was active in C.R.U. as it offered support, guidance and community with individuals experiencing the same type of newness and challenges that a big university brings.
“Coming from a small high school outside of Grand Rapids, there were pros and cons to attending a big college and it felt like a person like me could easily get lost at a big school,” said Velazquez. “The Latinx organizations on campus were really a great resource so that we felt capable and supported.”
Completing the digital media track of the StratCom program in 2.5 years, Velazquez says getting a master’s degree wasn’t in his plans originally, and as a first-generation student there were psychological hurdles to overcome.
“I’m the first in my family to get a master’s degree and it was definitely a lot of work, but I wanted my niece to see someone putting in the extra work,” he said.
Velazquez was promoted to Communications Specialist within MSU’s College of Human Medicine during the end of his time in the StratCom program, and now he has a hand in leading the DEI strategy for the college.
“Jason’s class was the first that I took in the program, and it made me think beyond simply prioritizing targeted messaging, which was a lot of what I did in my role when talking to prospective medical students from all sorts of backgrounds,” said Velazquez. “His class gave me the skillset to use narratives not only as a way to offer information, but to go even further and provide an immersive storytelling environment for audiences, so that they can get a good understanding of what medical school would look like for them.”
Velazquez hopes to continue pushing MSU’s DEI movements forward by improving student narratives, challenging stigmas, and offering support to student groups.
“I was emotional about receiving this award,” he said. “I’m proud of myself for taking the initiative to get plugged in again. In my own mind it was something I had to do. I wish there would have been more for me back in the day, so since I’m still active at the university, I felt it was important to be more for someone else.”
By Claire Dippel