Dr. Patricia Márquez is making big plans for her new position


Dr. Márquez hopes to bring more students into the Peace and Justice Studies minor.

Dr. Márquez hopes to bring more students into the Peace and Justice Studies minor.

On Sept. 18, University of San Diego celebrated Dr. Patricia Márquez’s appointment as the third dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. Márquez, the former director of USD’s Changemaker Hub, is planning to revamp the school’s programs and to get students excited about their role in working toward a more peaceful future.

Márquez said she moved to San Diego in 2007 to offer a better life to her son after fearing violence and kidnapping in her hometown of Caracas, Venezuela. That decision, she said, was not an easy one to make.

“That was a very painful decision,” Márquez said. “There was fear. I felt like I needed to give my son new opportunities to grow and to thrive in a different context.”

Having made that difficult journey to get here, Márquez said she takes her new post as dean very seriously.

“It’s very personal,” Márquez said. “Because if we’re able to build more peaceful and just societies perhaps I would [still] be in my country of origin.”

In an interview with The Vista, Márquez spoke about her past experiences, her plans for the future of the Kroc School of Peace Studies and how she unwinds after working to change the world.

The Vista: Why do you think students should study peace and justice?

Dr. Patricia Márquez: You have to think big, because look at the world. We have a responsibility and a moral obligation to do for others, because the world is completely interconnected. I find that fascinating. Every morning I wake up ready to come and see how we can all work together, students, faculty and staff, to really take this seriously and to the next level. Because the world is asking for this from us.

V: How did your previous position as director of the Changemaker Hub prepare you for being dean of the Kroc School of Peace Studies?

M: It gave me a lot of practice in learning how to connect and enhance what already existed and also to see the opportunities. So when the current provost presented the possibility of becoming dean of this school, what was there to think about? This is a great opportunity; it’s a school with amazing potential, just look at the state of the world. It also has a lot of challenges. But to me, I love challenges, and I was just really excited that I had this new opportunity to continue to build within the university but also within the space of higher education in the United States. There are so few schools of peace and justice. This is something that is really significant for this country as well as for the world.

V: Students can currently minor in Peace and Justice Studies. What is the benefit of electing this minor?

M: You can be pre-med, you can be pre-law, you can be an engineer, you can be in business; you can be anywhere in liberal arts education with a minor in peace and justice. What that means is that it gives you additional capabilities, concepts and knowledge to go out into the world and to transform it in whatever you’re doing. The minor is not [set up so that] your only option is the Peace Corps. If you want to do that then great. But you could even end up being a dentist. But you’re thinking, ‘How do I perform my job in a way that it’s giving to communities and giving to societies?’ So that’s the focus of the minor that is going to be revamped. I find that very exciting.

V: As you revamp the Peace and Justice Studies minor, what are your hopes for the future of this program?

M: As we [revamp the minor] we’re also going to be proposing a major in peace and justice studies. Imagine: right now we have a few students in the minor. My vision is to have 200 or 300 [students]. We have 6,000 undergraduates! And if you see the state of the world, you’d imagine that we’re dying to take courses in these programs. Because, who is going to do it for us? Who is going to solve all these problems? Government? Who is government? We are government. We are corporations. We are people who are going to be in all spheres and sectors of life, in all kinds of organizations.

V: What inspires you to teach?

M: I think it’s in some way I will never waste an opportunity to inspire students to action, because you are the new generation. I want my life to be in the hands of a new generation of well prepared, caring leaders: people who have the compassion to think beyond ourselves. That’s the center of my life. Do you know how they say those who cannot do, teach? I think it’s the opposite. I think I teach because I can do. Who says that teaching is not doing? It’s my life’s mission to teach, to enable, to empower and to inspire others who are going to have different interests than me. So I hope I do a good job with that, as a teacher and as dean.

V: What do you do for fun?

M: I had always wanted to learn how to do tango dancing. Obviously, I come from Venezuela, which is very Caribbean, so we do merengue and we do salsa. That’s the natural thing, so at every party everyone dances merengue and salsa. We look at the tip of South America as a completely foreign area, even though it’s only Argentina and it’s still part of the region. I always saw tango and it just sounded very different and unique and hard to learn how to master. So I did it. Three years ago I found a private instructor, and now I do it every Thursday afternoon. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve done. Because once the music starts I can’t think about work, I can’t think about anything else; I just become a tango dancer.