The Sociology Department was honored to host an alumna in the spring semester as a Wilson Program Practitioner. While on campus, Alice Gates talked with a number of classes, including Kent McClelland’s “Conflict and Conflict Management” course and Chris Hunter’s “Organizing for Social Good” seminar. She also spoke in a public session on career issues in community organizing and bridging the activist/academic divide.
Alice graduated from Grinnell in 1997 with a major in sociology and a Gender and Women’s Studies concentration. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, and she received the Lori Schwab Memorial Prize for contributions to community service. Alice also was the one student in her graduating class to be awarded the President’s Medal for outstanding scholarship and leadership.
While a student, Alice studied abroad in the Center for Global Education’s Program on Women and Development, which took her to Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. She became intrigued by her class readings on liberation theology and by her experiences with Christian-based communities organized by local residents in which they discussed their own struggles and the Bible, and by Zapatista communities, which were being organized in opposition to neo-liberal economic forces.
After graduating, Alice was able to return to Guatemala as a Human Rights Observer, working for a year with returned refugees. She then returned to the United States to continue her activism, spending seven years in the Portland, Oregon area helping to organize disenfranchised people, including migrant farm workers, recent immigrants, and low-income mothers trying to improve their kids’ schools.
Currently, Alice is enrolled as a graduate student in the joint Sociology Ph.D. and Masters of Social Work program at the University of Michigan. In her “spare” time, Alice also has become involved in a new nonprofit organization, the Washtenaw County Worker Center, which wants to provide a safe space for low-wage immigrant workers to organize for improved labor conditions.