Now in her senior year, GSBA President Athena Sok has learned the ins and outs of Gonzaga University. She is majoring in history and secondary education with an additional endorsement of teaching English to speakers of other languages.
She looks to her year in this new student government position with excitement and eagerness.
Sok has always cared for the betterment and stability of her communities, she said. A Washington native, she grew up on the east side of Tacoma.
“My favorite thing about home is the food,” she said. “Food encompasses love and passion from your family and also coming from Tacoma, there are so many great family-owned restaurants there. That’s what I really love about Tacoma and home.”
GU has served to be another home for her.
Since Freshman year, Sok has been involved in countless co-curricular programs on campus. She participated in Filipino American Student Union, helped create Asian American Union in her sophomore year, was a resident assistant for two years, worked at the Center for Cura Personalis
for two years, worked at the Center for Cura Personalis for a few years, and was in GSBA last year as the campus inclusivity coordinator.
“The campus inclusivity position opened my eyes to different identities on campus, especially identities that were overlooked or did not have enough programming toward," Sok said. "That brought my attention towards international students and students with disabilities. With the role I have this year, I want to focus on those populations because sometimes they don’t have the resources to make programs or initiatives that will support them.”
Gonzaga Bulletin: How would you describe yourself in three words?
Athena Sok: Compassionate, dedicated, humble.
GB: What’s your favorite place on campus? Why?
AS: My favorite place changes all the time. Sometimes I’ll say College Hall 101 is my favorite place because that’s where FASU meetings were. It reminds me of family and the fun meetings we had. The GSBA office is also my favorite place to be. That’s where all my co-workers are and where we get stuff done but have fun while we do it. I would also say UMEC is my favorite space too. There is such an amazing community of support there. All the staff are super relatable and it’s a space where students meet up and hang out. Yeah, those are my top three.
GB: Which annual event or tradition at GU do you look forward to the most?
AS: I definitely look forward to orientation weekend just because it’s so exciting to meet the new students. Meeting them and receiving their energy is so empowering and still so impactful for me.
GB: What’s the foundation of your position? What do you hope to represent in your role as president?
AS: Being the first Asian American, female president is a huge legacy to live up to. I hope to represent first generation college students, people of color, international students, and students with disabilities. I want to continue supporting first generation college students with the Professional Development Grant.
GB: At GU, how have you lived out your passions?
AS: I think I’m just now starting to live them out. I want to make the most of my term. With the roles I’ve had at Gonzaga, I have always had a passion for serving people and advocating for them. I’ve done the work but I also feel like I’m just starting because I have this position and role where I can do greater things.
GB: What goals do you have for Gonzaga University, this upcoming school year? How do you see yourself a part of making those plans a reality?
AS: There are some projects I’m working on right now. We’re hoping to revamp GSBA internally – One of the projects is adding in diversity and inclusion centers and that’s something we’ve been talking about in GSBA for a couple years. We’re also planning on revamping the Senate. And, we’re also working on inclusive dining options like kosher and halal plans.
GB: What is the most important thing you’ve experienced at GU for your own personal growth?
AS: I struggled a lot with mental health. It wasn’t until last year where I actually sought help with that. There is a stigma within Asian Americans around mental health. I really couldn’t find that vulnerability in myself and I kind of shut it out for the first few years at Gonzaga. But this past year, I was at such a low point of my life that I couldn’t ignore my issues anymore especially if I’m trying to advocate for other people and watch out for other people. I didn’t learn more about myself until I was honest about my health.
GB: What drew you into GU?
AS: The sense of community at Gonzaga drew me in. I loved the fact that everyone opened doors for people and said hello. But, there were moments I didn’t feel that sense of community because of things I struggled with internally. What still brought me back is the community that found me. I’ve always had friends and faculty members that looked out for me when I couldn’t look out for myself. That really made me stay here and enjoy being here.
GB: What does Gonzaga offer its students?
AS: Gonzaga is such a magical place that it offers something different to each person. Gonzaga has so many opportunities and outlets for people to find what’s best for them.
GB: What should students take advantage of on GU's campus?
AS: Students should get involved but not too involved. They should take the opportunity to join a club and attend events because they can meet their best friend or find their community in that way. I would encourage them to utilize the support, networks and resources on campus.
GB: Coming into your final year, what advice do you have for the incoming freshman class members who are about to take on their first year of transitions, growth, and knowledge?
AS: Just be true to yourself. Be your most authentic self and don’t ever compromise any parts of yourself to fit in or to find a community because your community will find you eventually.
Melina Benjamin is a staff writer.