Sept 8, 2015Vol. 46, Issue 1

Returning to Her Roots

A first-generation college graduate, new labor relations manager Gloria Godinez has roots in Chico which she says profoundly shaped her journey to Brown University and eventually, law school. 

In a geographical sense, Gloria Godinez’s return to Chico in April as Chico State’s new labor relations manager and deputy Title IX coordinator is a full-circle experience. It is a return to her hometown roots, an exchange of Sacramento’s commuter-filled freeways for the familiar bike paths of Bidwell Park.

But in a metaphorical sense, Godinez’s homecoming is a return to the beginning of a different path entirely—a path to higher education that, as a first-generation college graduate and Ivy League-educated attorney, Godinez had to carve out largely for herself. 

Godinez and her family moved to Chico from a rough neighborhood in east Palo Alto when she was 11, a shift in her journey she considers pivotal. 

“Moving to Chico was a godsend for my family,” Godinez says. “My siblings and I wouldn’t have been able to focus on school and education if we hadn’t moved here at such a young age.”

A self-described bookworm, she was already taking college-level courses as a senior at Chico High School through the College Connection program at Butte College. She enjoyed learning simply for the sake of learning, regardless of the subject.

Godinez credits close family mentors, like the Chico chapter of the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, with instilling in her the drive to seek out a college education. It was this group that first connected Godinez with a campus tour of Brown University, one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and the place she would call home for the next four years.

“It was a culture shock, for sure,” she says. “In a way, I had been pretty isolated all through high school. But at the same time, I knew that there was more out there. There were people at Brown who had been born with the Ivy Leagues on their minds, but there were also a lot of people like me—first generation college students who didn't even really think about going to college until their senior year of high school.” 

After graduating from Brown, Godinez made a much-desired return to California, although not to the familiarity of the North State. She attended law school at UCLA, a decision that she says was fueled by her desire to serve those in need, especially those whose voices are rarely heard. After passing the bar exam, she moved to Sacramento where she would work for the next nine years at the law firm Anwyl, Scoffield & Stepp, LLP, defending insurance company clients, and another 18 months at the California state attorney general’s office defending state agencies from workplace discrimination lawsuits. 

Godinez’s goal is for these conversations—on proper sexual consent and bystander intervention—to become commonplace throughout the University.

She credits the partners at Anwyl, Scoffield & Stepp, LLP with guiding her through her first years as a lawyer. 

“They taught me how to practice law the right way: be ethical, have integrity, and be quick to compromise,” Godinez says. “There’s no need to make someone’s life more difficult just for the sake of making it difficult.”

Six months into her position as labor relations manager, Godinez says that her experiences as a defense lawyer have given her a greater understanding and appreciation for her new role as a mediator between staff, faculty, and the University. She is excited to work “on the ground” with university employees, helping to resolve conflicts before they escalate into lawsuits and court appearances, ensuring a better outcome for all involved.

She has also been enjoying her important role as an advocate for victims and potential victims of sexual assault. Godinez and her colleagues are currently working on implementing several campus-wide programs addressing issues of sexual violence and discrimination, including a new mandatory online training course for first-year freshman and transfer students titled “Not Anymore,” and peer-driven sexual assault and harassment workshops for Greek students and student-athletes.

Ultimately, Godinez’s goal is for these advocacy conversations—on proper sexual consent and bystander intervention, for example—to become commonplace throughout the University and even incorporated directly into classroom curriculum. With the help of willing and passionate faculty and staff, Godinez hopes that these open discussions on sexual misconduct and healthy relationships will become engrained in CSU, Chico’s campus culture.

Regarding her return to Chico, Godinez says that working for an institution of higher education in her hometown—the place where she first discovered her passion for learning—has special meaning to her as a first-generation college graduate.

“I’ve always believed higher education is important. It’s not necessarily about getting a high-paying job—higher education opens doors and allows you to pursue the career path that you want.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the doors that higher education opened for me.” 



Retired WREC staff Wayne Murray was the recipient of the 2014 Staff Safety Award. Plus, faculty and staff achievements since spring 2015. Read more.



We asked our social media followers how they've been molded by Chico State as part of a Forbes’ campaign. Here are a few of our favorites. See Storify.