BRIDGET GONZALES '82
Described as "full of life" by friends and colleagues, Bridget Gonzales is a woman who lives fully the Marygrove ideals of competence, compassion and commitment, says Maura Cantor, who describes the day they met 15 years ago. "As I found my way down the hall to my new office (in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), I was introduced to a woman who was larger than life-full of energy, eager to learn, excited to lend a hand, brimming with ideas and ready to work."
Currently Bridget is the Chief of the Office of Legislative, Education and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) in Washington, D.C. According to Agency Director Ronald Langston, Bridget has enhanced the agency and its mission through media and advocacy outreach, including two special sections, inserts in issues FORBES magazine, June 2005 and 2006, which focused on high-growth minority business enterprises. In praising her competence, he said that the FORBES exposure opened financial and contractual opportunities for minority business nationally and locally. She has also worked tirelessly to assist minority business enterprises in the hard-hit Gulf region as a key member of the outreach team. The goal is to re-engage minority business in the Gulf region.
Prior to joining the MBDA, Bridget was a Vice President with Edelman Public Relations, the world's largest independent public relations firm, where she developed communications strategies and issue campaigns. She also worked for Issue Dynamics, Inc., another consumer and public affairs firm, and led its strategic alliances group, which forged working relationships with high-profile national organizations such as the NAACP and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Bridget was Legislative Director for Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow (now Senator). She had responsibility for all legislative matters before the U.S. House of Representatives and the House Science Committee. She supervised legislative assistants, crafted legislation for Representative Stabenow, prepared congressional remarks and coordinated events among myriad responsibilities.
After receiving her Bachelor's of Social Work in 1982, Bridget began her public service career with the Girl Scouts of the USA and held various positions with the Girl Scouts in Detroit, San Diego and New York City through 1988. As the youngest Latina to hold the position of Membership Director for a major metropolitan council, she increased Girl Scout membership in San Diego by four percent.
In the fall of 1994, Bridget also founded and led a Girl Scout troop for financially underprivileged Latina and African American girls in her southwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood. She secured sponsorship of the troop from St. Dominic's Catholic Church and offered girls and their families an American tradition for over four years. Bridget continues her involvement with youth through her leadership on the Children's Committee of Fiesta Italiana at Holy Rosary Church.
A graduate of Detroit's St. Mary's of Redford High School, Bridget was taught the virtue of community service at an early age. She is a founding member of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs and, in February 2006, she was elected Vice President of MANA, a national Latino advocacy organization established in 1974. She has earned a Master's in Public Administration from Baruch College-City University of New York and is an alumna of the National Urban Fellows Program.
Bridget is the proud daughter of the late Mr. Salvador M. Gonzales and Mrs. Helga Anglin; the sister of Mr. Salvador M. Gonzales, II; and the wife of Mr. Sandro Edward Young. She acknowledges them and her wide circle of other family members, teachers, mentors and friends for their guidance, support and inspiration.
Dr. Karen Keljo Tracy, Associate Professor of Psychology, described her as, "One of those exceptional individuals who can intertwine art and science and bring both to bear in untangling an impossible knot or in initiating a creative strategy. She can sort out patterns in many aspects of her work, which lead her to effective ways of organizing and viewing an issue from a different perspective to solve it."
Rita believes in reciprocation. She is a member of the Board of the South Oakland Shelter, where she resided as a client 15 years ago and where she shares her story with homeless people to give them hope. Her personal creed is "Don't allow others to define your failures or your strengths. At the end of the day, you'll walk in your own shoes and you need to have faith in your guiding principles."
She is a member of several professional organizations including the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources, the Society for Human Resources Management, Inforum and the Human Resources Association of Greater Detroit.
Rita gives back in many ways to Marygrove and is Vice President of the Alumni Association Board. "Marygrove greatly contributed to the person that I have become. My education not only gave me knowledge, it also largely rebuilt my shattered self-esteem," she says. Rita's professional insights were invaluable as a member of the Presidential Search Committee. To assist students seeking employment, she presented a workshop on how to write dynamite cover letters.
Rita's husband, Keenan D. Fields, and her son were among the many who wrote glowing tribute letters supporting her nomination as a Distinguished Alumna.