Why did you decide to attend UW-Parkside?

I’ve always loved school, and tried my hardest to excel in my studies, but the idea of going to college did not present itself until the summer after graduating high school. As a first-generation student I was very unfamiliar with the process of becoming a college student, but UW-Parkside was very welcoming to me, it was close to home and made my transition to college possible. Sometimes life leads you.

What activities were you involved in at UW-Parkside?

The first club I was part of was the Ranger News, I was formerly Chief and Editor for my HS newspaper so I looked to carry over some of those skills to Parkside. I then joined the Latinos Unidos club on campus in 2008 and served on the e-board as graphic designer. Lastly I helped bring to campus the Greek Organization Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated and became one of nine founders for the Zeta Epsilon Chapter at UW-Parkside.  

How did your UW-Parkside experience impact your professional or personal life?

Going to college opened up many doors for me. It challenged my thinking and helped me build a connections I would not have had otherwise. It created a launching pad to who I am today. I transitioned from college directly to my field of study and from there became very involved with the community, and ultimately led me back to Parkside. 

Tell us about someone who influenced your time at UW-Parkside. 

I had many positive influences during my time at Parkside, some of them were my advisors in Student Support Services. They coached me through my academic journey and were also there when I struggled through challenging courses and semesters. I'm very thankful to have met Alfredo Sandoval, Amy Castelic and Chris Zanowski.  

What has been one of the top highlights of your career?

Being awarded the Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award, by the UW System, and the UW-Parkside Academic Staff Award show me that I am on the right path to change lives and look forward to seeing what else is on the horizon.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I really enjoy thrifting, and spending time with my two Sheltie dogs Benito and Peaches! 


What advice do you have for current UW-Parkside Students?

Everyone's college journey is going to be different, but it is really up to you to make yours memorable. Make the short time you are here worth it, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, you may be surprised to find something great waiting for you if you do.  

Gia Guttierez is a community outreach specialist and leader at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. As a student, Gia was heavily involved, participating in organizations such as Latinos Unidos, Student Support Services, and the Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, before graduating in 2013 with a Bachelor’s in Art. Even as a student, Gia had already begun working to promote unity and cooperation for the advancement of the Hispanic community, leading collaboration efforts between Latinos Unidos and the local League of United Latin American Citizens. Gia returned to Parkside in 2017 to Parkside in 2017 to work in Admissions, before soon becoming assistant to the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Professional Sciences.  

Since returning to Parkside, Gia has become a transformational force for diversity and student representation on campus. She has been instrumental in the creation of a number of programs oriented towards Hispanic and Spanish speaking students. She has transformed the admissions process, developing programs like “Yo Soy Parkside” and “Descubres Parkside,” making the admissions process more welcoming for Spanish speaking students. She also led in the creation of “Universidad para Padres” which provides bilingual college readiness programming in the community. 

Gia has also brought life to Parkside’s Hispanic population through her role as a leader in the development of Hispanic Heritage month at UW Parkside. With Gia’s help, Hispanic Heritage month has become a beacon of cultural enrichment, with numerous, varied programs including national speakers, DACA panels, musical events, a cultural history project, and recognition for community leaders during the “Festejo de Lideres” kick-off event that starts off the month of programming. In a similar effort, Gia has also established a day of culture and institutionalized the Day of the Dead as a continuing cultural program at Parkside. Although Hispanic Heritage month only happens once a year, Gia works continuously to benefit Hispanic students through her work on the Dreamers Support Team at Parkside, where she works with staff and faculty to provide support to student DACA recipients. 

Gia’s impact as community leader extends beyond Parkside; when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region, which has no local radio stations that broadcast in Spanish, Gia stepped forward again to produce “Parkside Presente,” a weekly Spanish podcast which provided news to Spanish speaking community members. Gia helped contribute to cultural history in the whole of Wisconsin, too, working with a Community Based Learning class at Parkside to help document the stories of Hispanic community members for the Wisconsin Latinx History Collective. Gia has done additional work at the state level and beyond, presenting on education and support for Latinx students at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the UW Madison Division of Extension Educators. In addition to her broad and profound work in the Hispanic community in and around Parkside, Gia has worked to serve the Racine and Kenosha communities more generally, organizing town halls and research assistants for a Smart Cities research project that the University conducted in 2023.  

Throughout all of her time at Parkside, Gia has been a unifying force, serving her community and providing cultural representation and enrichment to its Hispanic membership. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2021, Gia was a recipient of both the Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award, awarded by the UW System, and the UW-Parkside Academic Staff Award. Today, Gia serves as an Outreach Program Manager for the College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies. 

Latina woman with large frame glasses in green blazer
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