By Taylor Haines (’16)
SPOKANE, Wash. – It was difficult to imagine how Gonzaga University scholar and student leader Caleb Dawson’s life could be more hectic. Then the double major in sociology and economics with a minor in women’s and gender studies – among a dizzying array of other activities – was elected president of the Gonzaga Student Body Association last spring.
The rising senior from Federal Way, Washington, return to campus next week – after attending the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference at Regis University this week – eager to continue making a difference for students. Before the NJSLC, Dawson spent seven weeks at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He was among 100 students nationwide invited to the highly competitive and prestigious Public Policy and International Affairs Program’s Junior Summer Institute (at UM and other universities). The Institute prepares students to enter the nation’s top graduate programs in public policy and international affairs.
An Act Six Scholar, Dawson entered Gonzaga in 2013 as an emerging urban leader chosen to receive a full scholarship based on his leadership, academics, and commitment to service. In his role as GSBA community events chair as a sophomore, Dawson, who works with the division of student development to promote campus diversity, launched the annual Gonzaga Scares Hunger food drive and the monthly Courageous Conversations luncheon.
He was appointed by Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh to serve on the University Council for Equity, Inclusion, and Intercultural Awareness – contributing to efforts to help ensure students, faculty, and staff feel affirmed and valued.
In one recent effort through the Center for Global Engagement, Dawson, who studied in Chile last year, organized a campus project that provides students with opportunities to practice speaking Spanish and French at dinner.
A member of Gonzaga’s three-year Comprehensive Leadership Program, Dawson’s leadership vision is rooted in the possibilities for social and economic justice through education reform and community development.
“I chose to study economics and sociology at Gonzaga because they offer frameworks to critique and reimagine the role of institutions in cultivating equity and empowerment,” Dawson said.
While he plans to attend graduate school, Dawson considers spending a year in the Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program addressing poverty in the context of social inequality. Those fellows are placed in community-based organizations for field experience before doing consulting and policy analysis work in Washington, D.C. He’d also like to gain additional experience in education research, which he began as a research assistant at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.
“I could see myself doing a community engagement fellowship or research that would complement all the head knowledge we get,” says Dawson.
While others are stunned by his relentless energy and depth of involvement, Dawson says he is merely pursuing his passion to help others. He encourages other students to pursue their passions.
“I find inspiration in the perseverance of my family and too many like mine who are accustomed to adversity,” he said. “I find some injustices to be too common, and want to transform the narrative. I hope we can create a society in which the odds are for and not against people, in which the chances are higher for empowerment than close-call subsistence. I stay energetic and motivated in the company of Zags, Act Six Scholars, and PPIA Fellows whose passions remind me that I am not alone and that our collective impact is already transforming the narrative.”