Community Spotlight: Q&A with Pam Campos-Palma
Who are you?
My name is Pam Campos-Palma and I am a full-time political science and civic leadership undergraduate student at Portland State. I currently work at PSU’s Veterans Resource Center, which just opened this past fall, and I dedicate a lot of my time as the director of Las Mujeres, a Latina/women’s empowerment organization that serves the campus and community. Most recently I was confirmed by the Oregon Senate as the sole student-voting member on PSU’s newly established Institutional Governing Board of Trustees. Outside of my PSU responsibilities I have worked as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Air Force (both active duty and currently as a reservist) for the last seven years.
What are you working on right now?
I’m busy working on several projects. As the inaugural student on the new Board of Trustees, I am familiarizing myself to the seat. I’m also working on establishing a concrete foundation and standard for my position that will hopefully set future student trustees up for success.
With Las Mujeres, we recently concluded our 2nd Annual Latin Night (a grand scale cultural and educational community event) with 500 attendees. We’re working on events and initiatives for the next two terms focusing on creating spaces for Latinas to have solid support and empowerment while also inviting our allies to collaborate. This next week I will be leading several Las Mujeres members in mentoring middle and high school Latinas on campus, discussing cultural stigmas of higher education. Lastly, with a large number of Mujeres members graduating this spring, I am working on recognition letters for our current student leaders, and structuring leadership development plans for continuing members.
This term I will also be working on initiatives with the Veteran’s Resource Center around outreach and how to better serve our large and valuable veteran population at PSU.
Outside of PSU, I’m also involved in political and community organizing efforts, primarily around issues impacting the immigrant community.
What’s the one thing you want the sustainability community to know about what you’re doing?
I am extremely passionate about social sustainability. As is evidenced by my work, I am also passionate about social justice issues, especially those pertaining to race and gender. This past fall term I was inspired and deeply impacted by two of my instructors, Roberta Hunte and Sally Eck. Since then I have facilitated “Interrupting Oppression” workshops for faculty, administrators, and high school and college students. The workshops are aimed at addressing how oppression is present in our everyday lives and more importantly how to interrupt it. It’s ironic that such heavy and very real "isms" (racism, cisgenderism, ableism, etc.) are also often desensitized and unrecognized. To truly maintain long-term well-being as a community, we must cultivate better models of self-care and consciousness, and really care for one another to destruct the harmful norms that plague our society.
What’s a personal goal you have that you’d like others to share?
One personal goal of mine that I’d like others to share is to live more intentionally and in doing so cultivate a raised consciousness. Too often words are thrown around regardless of their weight, and we are socialized to many destructive behaviors or tendencies. What’s most harmful is how we ourselves, our friends, our children internalize these harmful messages that destruct our potential for a more positive coexistence. Taking small moments to be authentically kind to one other and ourselves can make enormous ripples of positive change.
Who is one person that inspires you to do the work that you do? Why?
The primary person who is the motivator for the work I do is the strongest and hardest-working woman I’ve known, my mother. A Honduran immigrant and single mother, she is my biggest inspiration. At a young age, she instilled my core values of integrity, resilience, and compassion, and exemplified hard work and empathy despite facing enormous challenges. A distinct memory I have is being very young and witnessing my mother being harassed and racialized for her Spanish accent and even more often for not speaking English in public. Being young, I would get angry, often caught in the crosshairs, but I would always marvel at her composure in the face of such hurtful ignorance. I was also always amazed at her selflessness in helping others, even when she had little to give. Before coming to the United States, she was drafted at a young age to play professional basketball in Honduras and Guatemala and still holds records today as a prodigal point guard, despite her 5'1" stature. She is my ever-reminder that, with heart, anything is possible.