Producing Outstanding Leadership
Eric Mendoza '21 is an economics major and master's student in finance. Mr. Mendoza is the Texas A&M University Student Body President. The Office for Diversity interviewed Mr. Mendoza about his leadership role within the university community, his inspiration, and how his background informs his service.
What you would like to share about your background and how it influences
I am a second-generation Aggie. My mom, my dad, and my sister, all four members of my family are former students, and now we all have our Aggie rings and that is a really special thing for me. I am a Hispanic student. I relate to that aspect of my own experiences on campus.
I didn't fully realize that I was the first Hispanic student body president until I got elected. This wasn't something that came across my mind, which is why I say diversity found me. I often say that diversity and inclusion is an issue that found me, because I think that being in a leadership position, you try to be more empathetic, and more relatable. How can I think critically about others that look like me and how could they rise in student government, for example?
How did you become interested in the Student Government Association (SGA)?
What do you like to do in your free time?
I started to get involved with Texas A&M’s Student Government Association because of a strong desire to serve A&M and a love for this institution. I attended a lot of informationals, and one of them was the one for student government. I was immediately intrigued by how passionate people were about their own work in these groups. This was the first time I ever heard of the Student Senate. I ran fall semester freshman year for Student Senate and I loved it. I fell in love with that work, and I met some incredible friends in that process. I continued and served three terms in the Senate, two as chair, and as Speaker of the Senate in the last session. Last year I worked really closely with the person in my role and a number of other former student body presidents and saw the impact they could have. I understood that the potential for the person in this position to make an impact on campus and students’ lives. I wanted to use my experiences to do that in the following year.
What are some of the most surprising things that you've learned in your position and during the time that you've served as student body president?
We have over 70,000 students on our campus, and they look at a certain organization or a certain person for support. One thing that I quickly learned is that we have a number of subsets around campus. Whether it's the engineering school, Memorial Student Center (MSC), the Corps of Cadets, or Greek life, they all have incredible leadership and they all do incredible work. I learned that we have so many assets on this campus that do different things.
Leadership and service looks different across campus. I learned that all of those pieces are what makes this place run. We always express how proud we are of our student experience and the Aggie experience. We have so many staff members, faculty, and administrators that also do their job to make this large institution run in a way that makes us all feel like it's natural. I am really grateful for the kind of the ecosystem we work within.
What is the inspiration for the Don’t Pass it Back Campaign? How did you become interested in this area?
Pass it back is a term of Aggie vocabulary that you hear at Midnight Yell practice or a football game. You could use it, for example, to signal what yell you're going to do, and Aggies know the term very well. Once COVID started, the university very smartly changed it to Don't Pass It Back to associate a familiar term with safety measures on campus.
I worked on a number of videos and shared the student perspective and voice--what students are thinking about. For example, how can we communicate why we are requiring smaller groups? Why are we requiring a mask? Why are we requiring or requesting testing in certain places? It's hard because students want to be social.
We're really excited to work with the university to market how best to serve students and help them get the questions answered that we're all wondering about. It was really important to me, based on what I was hearing from students, to ensure that we could have as many in person or hybrid components as possible, while complying with the rules that are out there.
I am an introvert that has extroverted hobbies. I am from Houston. I love all Houston sports. I am a big Texans, Astros, and Rockets fan. I am an Aggie football fan and an Aggie sports fan in general. This year, especially given COVID and the quarantine, I have spent a lot of time outside. I live by a park and I love going outside and going for long walks. Throughout the day, I often bring my roommates, and we go on walks and talk about our day. I love podcasts -- I am a news junkie in general. I have three or four podcasts that I listen to that all provide the same news, but I like to hear the news from different perspectives.
What would you like readers to know that we have not talked about yet?
I'm really just pleased and proud of our cabinet. While what I might have run on pre-COVID is a bit different, we continued the three pillars for communication, collaboration, and continuity. We have 12 plus members on cabinet, and they all have people on their teams who have worked this entire year and over the summer, nonstop for our students. I am really pleased with that and always want to highlight that work.
We also have an 80-member Student Senate body; we have over 1200 members in total in student government. There are a lot of people that pour their hearts and souls into all that happens on our campus. I just want to highlight them and the work of our 13 committees within student government, who have worked so hard this year to have that sense of normalcy towards traditions.
I would emphasize moving forward, please engage with Texas A&M ‘s Student Government Association, and know that we are here to serve you. We want to know exactly what issues you care about, and try and connect them for you. Thank you to our student body for making the best of a challenging year. It’s because of the sacrifices made by our students that Texas A&M was able to flourish.
Crystal S. Carter