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Achieving Greatness Beyond Comfort Zones with Julie Aleman and Wendy Perez
Episode 2127th February 2023 • Our Roots Say That We're Sisters • Marquette University
00:00:00 00:45:35

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Sheena interviews Julie Aleman and Wendy Perez. They both come from Latino and Mexican American backgrounds, respectively. Julie's goal was to help her family back home understand that limitations can be overcome with determination, while Wendy wanted to set an example for other people coming from underrepresented communities. In 2021, as freshmen, they started "Community. Books. You", a free textbook lending program at Marquette University which has since collected 400 books through donation drives as well as donations by faculty members and peers on campus.

They share how the mural resonates with them because it shows representation for women of color like themselves. It also serves as a reminder that cultures can be appreciated even when abroad or overseas studying or interning and that they can achieve great things with hard work and determination no matter their background or culture.

Tune in to hear more about the impact of Marquette University on women of color and discover how each woman's sense of self-worth has been impacted by being part of the community at Marquette due to support systems such as first-gen resources or words from affirmation from peers on campus. Listen to their powerful stories that inspire others to break out of their comfort zone and visualize the future they want.

Episode Highlights

11:48 - Seeing the mural really shows a lot of representation. Also, I see myself in the women that are there in the picture and in the painting. I really like how they all come from different backgrounds, yet we're all united. We're all one. We're all here on Marquette's campus and making a difference, and just how empowering they are, too. I think learning about different cultures is really important to me.

17:48 - I feel like there's more open spaces or safe spaces for minorities to talk. We all could improve. We just need that, and then just understanding each other, respecting and proudly taking decisions where nobody will be hurt just because they're saying how they feel, no matter how they say it.

22:54 - Having that support system really serves as an inspiration for me because I want to be that support system for other people, and just checking in with people to make sure that they are okay.


What stories would you like to share with us today?

01:48 - My little story is that when I came here, I came with just a goal, and I'm almost finishing with a lot more. But I initially wanted to help my Puerto Rican family to understand that limitations are just those that are in your head.

03:22 - I took a class in high school that was an intro to business class, and I really loved it. But I was a little bit intimidated about going into the field, just due to the stigma of business people. And so, that kind of made me hesitant a little bit, but I knew business was the route that I eventually wanted to go into.

How did you meet and become friends?

04:19 - Wendy complimented my shirt or I complimented her shirt. And then I noticed she speaks Spanish and I was like, "Are you Latina? Do you speak Spanish?" Because I was really looking for people to speak Spanish because my English was really limited at that moment.

04:40 - I think I complimented your shirt in the bathroom, and from there, it just sparked and I think you mentioned that we should get to know each other more in the basement of O'Donnell.

How have your identities informed the choices that you've made thus far?

05:46 - Everything that I do mostly is driven because I want to help people. And I do it just because that's my sort of happiness. I feel good doing it. The decision that I made just coming here came from that because I wanted to be an example for other students to learn.

06:58 - I realized that I wanted to set an example and represent my community, but also show other people that are from underrepresented communities that anything is possible and working hard, you can definitely get there. Also, being first gen has influenced a lot of our choices, I'd say for both of us.

How long have you been doing "Community. Books. You"?

08:35 - We launched it – I didn't know, when you guys launched the podcast in 2021. It's been a process.

08:45 - We competed in the Brewed Ideas Challenge, which was a Shark Tank-style competition that is held at Marquette University.

How has the mural resonated for you?

11:11 - Looking at this mural, it just feels like I'm not the only one person or woman of color.

11:52 - I see myself in the women that are there in the picture and in the painting. And I really like how they all come from different backgrounds.

What has been Marquette's impact on women of color

14:33 - I feel, what I can say for facts, we still need more diversity. But we also need the resources that come from not just the diversity. I feel that when we do that, we will be able to connect with these different people.

15:51 - I think Marquette has impacted the lives of other women of color in leadership roles. And a lot of women of color at Marquette that I've met are very passionate about certain topics, and I really enjoy that community. I think, for sure, having that community of women of color on campus really empowers these women of color to continue striving for more.

Being at Marquette, how has that impacted your sense of self-worth?

18:29 - It has improved my self-worth coming to Marquette, being first gen as we touched on, is just very challenging on navigating the different roles and obstacles that come up. But having a support system, personally for me, and resonating with other people that are students of color on campus has increased my self-image, too.

21:09 - Having those kinds of supports really make me think about myself and see how worthy I am, how much society needs me, not because of my journey, but because of the things that I'm discovering about myself that I can use to contribute to society to represent women of color, people of color, but also Latinos.

What women of color have served as inspirations for you?

22:36 - I would say my mom, because she's just very hardworking. She's caring. She always calls me about how my homework is doing, just like very small details on how life is going. So, I really appreciate that and having that support system really serves as an inspiration for me because I want to be that support system for other people.

24:46 - It will be my grandma. She passed away like four years ago. And even when I didn't grow up close to her because I used to live in Puerto Rico and she in Dominican Republic. I feel like every time that I went over there, she always had something good to say.

On self-care and wellness, what are some of the challenges for you in terms of addressing those for yourself and what are some of the things that you do?

26:59 - I work two jobs. I work at Comms Vice-President. I also work at the desk. Having meetings are really time-consuming plus classes, which is fine. I feel like I'm used to it already. I can read faster, type faster, and ask faster, too. And I feel really confident about that.

28:42 - For me, time management and the aspect of, especially last year was a really busy year for me, having a job, internships, classes, building "Community. Books. You," and also trying to be involved on campus with different organizations. Managing that was a challenge but I overcame that with learning the skills that I have learned throughout college and also being first gen, just how you always have to be on your feet. You have to think quick.

What impact do you hope to have on women of color, both on Marquett's campus and once you're out there in the world?

32:56 - I just want to share my story by just keep going and see how this will affect or impact women of color as a student, as a person, and also as a professional.

34:46 - Also, impacting women of color through my story and sharing my story, resonating with women of color. I hope to impact them. And with that, showing that it really starts from within and from your environment, that you have to know yourself from within and really get comfortable with yourself.

What do you hope for the future of Marquette as well as your own future?

38:41 - Especially resources if we are bringing more people from different backgrounds, so everyone can feel included and spaces where everyone can talk. Leaders that represent.

41:09 - I do believe that there are a good amount of resources at Marquette that target first generation students and students of color, but there is a lack of awareness, and especially for the students to learn about these resources and coming into college, too, so making sure that these resources are really pushed out there.

What do you want the Marquette community to know about you and your journey?

42:01 - I want Marquette to know that they make a strong woman of color that will represent and will be a great leader.

43:27 - One message that I would want to display is that for Marquette students to use campus and college as a safety net in a way, and that this is a place where you might feel challenged at first, but that's good, and finding a community to help you feel at home or just feel more comfortable. But taking those strides of discomfort and just really trying a lot during college because there's so many organizations out there. There's so many resources. The professors are very welcoming and supportive if you ask them for help and really knowing how to ask for help, too, is important in college and using your networking, opportunities, getting involved, and using your resources.

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The Our Roots Say That We're Sisters Podcast series was recorded and produced by Podcast Town (





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