Gateway alum Victoria Verlezza is an accomplished, respected educator, consultant, and expert in the fields of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She earned a B.A. in Psychology (Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Genocide Studies) at Clark University, Worcester, Mass.; an M.Ed. (Higher Education Administration and Social Justice Education) at UMass (Amherst); and an M.A. and Ph.D. (Human Development) at Fielding Graduate University (Santa Barbara, Calif.).
She is now an independent diversity, equity and inclusion consultant as well as adjunct faculty at California State University, Monterey Bay. Victoria, now 35, began this remarkable journey as the daughter of working-class parents, neither of whom attended college. In school, she struggled with learning disabilities, including auditory processing and dyslexia. Some high school teachers told her she wouldn’t get into college, a pronouncement that proved true when she wasn’t admitted to her school of choice. Her parents decided it would be best for Victoria to attend Gateway, get an associate degree, and transfer a four-year degree program later.
Gateway turned out to be a good fit for Victoria. “I got involved,” she explains. “I made it what I wanted and needed it to be.” Through sheer determination, she excelled at her studies; becamea member of Gateway’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community colleges; was president of the Student Government Assocation; and served as student speaker at GCC’s 2006 commencement.
‘Gateway gave me confidence … I discovered I could become somebody entirely new.’Victoria Verlezza
At Gateway, she found friends and mentors, as well as understanding and acceptance, especially after she had come out as a lesbian not long before, when she was 17. “I had no gay role models growing up,” she explains, “so I try to be transparent about where I come from and who I am.”
Victoria says community college helped her understand she could do anything. “Gateway gave me confidence to take charge of my education. I discovered I could become somebody entirely new. I want people to look up to me and say, ‘I’d like to do that.’”