Finding Community and Connections at the UO

Perla Alvarez

Perla Alvarez Lucio graduated in 2017 with a BA in ethnic studies. She now works as the executive Director of Oregon Voice in Portland, Oregon.

Before she arrived at the University of Oregon, Perla Medina Alvarez Lucio did not know what she wanted as her major. So she joined a Freshman Interest Group (FIG) to find out.

First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs) are for students who only want a fall term experience and they are intentionally small to maximize the connections between students, faculty, and the peer mentor, with each FIG being limited to 20 students.

Each FIG is unique and tailored to explore an exciting academic theme—that is where Alvarez Lucio took her first ethnic studies class—and fell in love with the major.

“That class blew my mind, and I was like, that’s exactly what I want to do.”

Aside from her ethnic studies classes, Alvarez Lucio made friends and got involved early at the university. She made many of her first friends through her dorm.

“I went into Carson [dorm], the 4th floor specifically, because it was the gender-inclusive floor,” says Alvarez Lucio. “In the Carson building, the second floor was dedicated to the Diversity Excellence scholars . . . that was really cool that even though I was not a diversity scholar, I was interacting with people on that floor. So I would hang out with people on both floors. That’s where I met my first friends at the University of Oregon.”

Aside from her dorm, Alvarez Lucio made friends through many organizations and clubs. She was involved with ASUO, the student government at UO; MECHA, a club that promotes Chicanx unity through political action; and the Coalition Against Environmental Racism. She also worked as a student assistant for the Division for Equity and Inclusion and the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence.

During her time at UO, Alvarez Lucio  won the P.A.T.O.S. award, which stands for Patos Avanzando Tradiciones Orgullosamente y Sobresaliendo. P.A.T.O.S. is awarded to Latinx students who advance their culture with pride.

Now, Alvarez Lucio lives in Portland and is the executive director for a nonprofit organization called Oregon Voice. Oregon Voice is involved in civic engagement around Oregon. Alvarez Lucio says that Oregon Voice helps raise the shared power of organizations that work in civic engagement and helps build leadership within those organizations.

 Alvarez Lucio explained that she learned the skills needed to be a community organizer at the UO.

“I am a community organizer, and I learned a lot of those skills through the Oregon Student Association [a nonprofit group that represents students in Oregon]. The University of Oregon is part of that organization.”

She also says that the ethnic studies major, helped her understand the history of migration, the history of BIPOC communities in Oregon, and why it is so important to be involved in community organizing. She wants to make education more affordable and accessible for students and promote student organizing.

“The key is meeting a lot of people,” says Alvarez, when asked what advice she would give to students. “Introduce yourself to a lot of people and get involved on campus to build community. There are so many things on campus that cater to different needs, so take advantage of it. Also, hit me up if you have any questions.”