San Marcos,
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#MeToo Internship Inspires Communication Student

By Eric Breier

Gabby Garcia was part of a small group of Cal State San Marcos students selected to attend an intimate meeting with Tarana Burke before the founder of the #MeToo movement spoke at an Arts and Lectures event in February 2019.

“I was so excited to meet her,” Garcia said. “She’s just a great person who has so much wisdom and so much knowledge.”

The inspirational encounter led to a life-changing internship for Garcia with the #MeToo movement.

“It was nice because I’ve never worked with women who looked like me and thought like me,” Garcia said. “So, when I saw women of color doing amazing work, I thought that I, too, could do amazing work. I didn’t understand the importance to this extent of representation in the work that we do until I had my internship.”

Garcia is no stranger to unique experiences. She attended school in Germany from sixth grade through high school while her father, now retired from the Marines, was stationed there. After graduation, her family moved to Virginia and Garcia applied primarily to universities on the East Coast. But she decided to apply to CSUSM, too, because she was familiar with the area from living in Oceanside when her father was stationed at Camp Pendleton.

Attracted by the prospect of an affordable education (good weather didn’t hurt, either), Garcia chose CSUSM over multiple East Coast private schools. Although she attended elementary school in Oceanside, Garcia had never been to CSUSM and watched YouTube videos to get a feel for university life.

“The first time I ever stepped foot on campus was orientation,” she said.

Garcia’s first year proved challenging. She wasn’t just adjusting to college, she was adjusting to life in the United States after seven years abroad.

Even now, as she nears the end of her senior year at CSUSM, her friends still love to quiz her on California culture.

“I came here and all of my friends were like, ‘Do you even know what animal-style fries are?’ ” said Garcia, referring to the popular off-menu item at In-N-Out Burger.

She didn’t.

“My friends still quiz me,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘Do you know the secret menu?’ And I'm like, ‘There's a secret menu?’ ”

Garcia is still prone to using the German danke to thank people and she doesn’t have a driver’s license after becoming accustomed to Europe’s readily available public transportation.

But the doubts Garcia felt during her first year at CSUSM are long gone. She immersed herself in campus life, from participating in track and field for two years to working as a referee for campus rec to serving as ASI’s student at large representative for diversity and inclusion.

“Gabby is a dynamic, ambitious leader, and I am impressed with her every time that we work together,” said Ariel Stevenson, assistant director of programs for the Office of Inclusive Excellence. “She leans into challenges and is unafraid. Her parents have raised her very well.

“When she sees a problem, she is thoughtful and methodical as to how she can approach it and what it takes to solve it.”

Garcia used that type of approach to secure her internship last year. She needed to land a summer internship before her senior year, and she knew she was already behind in her search.

After meeting Burke, she thought about how great it would be to work for the #MeToo movement. She scoured the organization’s website, but couldn’t find any information about internships. With encouragement from a friend, she went to the “Contact Us” portion of the website and wrote an email explaining the impact that meeting Burke had and how intrigued she was about the possibility of an internship.

“I only applied for that one,” she said. “And I technically didn’t apply. I just emailed them and said, ‘Hello, I’m looking for an internship.’ ”

Garcia soon learned that she didn’t find information about internships because the organization had never had an intern. But, to Garcia’s surprise and delight, she received a response asking her to send a résumé. A phone interview followed, and then a second phone interview.

During the second interview, she learned she had landed the position.

“Every week I was pinching myself because I didn’t think it was real,” Garcia said. “I was just in awe of everything that happened.”

Since the #MeToo movement hadn’t employed an intern before, it was a learning experience for both sides. Garcia worked remotely from her home in Virginia for 15 hours each week last summer, helping with email communications and providing feedback on projects.

Garcia returned to campus last fall for her final year at CSUSM before she graduates next month with a bachelor’s in communication and a minor in women’s gender and sexuality studies. Though she is back in Virginia with her family following CSUSM’s transition to virtual learning as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Garcia is continuing her studies and beginning her search for a full-time job.

The #MeToo internship has inspired Garcia to pursue a job with a nonprofit organization, and she plans to attend graduate school after gaining more work experience.

“Gabby truly cares about the work of inclusion and educational equity,” Stevenson said, “and I am confident she has developed the knowledge and skills that will make CSUSM proud to say she is our alumna.”

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist | Office: 760-750-7314