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April 18, 2024

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Faculty member gives students voice

Ray+Plaza+is+co-chair+of+Not+in+Our+Town%2C+an+organization+that+targets+community-based+racism.+He+is+also+the+faculty+advisor+for+the+Latino+Student+Union.
Eric Burgasser

Ray Plaza is co-chair of Not in Our Town, an organization that targets community-based racism. He is also the faculty advisor for the Latino Student Union.

Raymond Plaza wears several hats both within the University and in the Bowling Green community.

Plaza came to the University in November of 2012 for a job opening with Not in Our Town after spending 14 years in a similar position at Virginia Tech. The Miami, Fla., native quickly began juggling several positions as he also took on the roles of marketing and public relations with Not in Our Town. In July, Plaza took the role of campus co-chair for the organization.

In his position as co-chair, Plaza is responsible for working closely with the University, as well as the community co-chair to ensure that communications between the University and city are made effectively.

Plaza is also an advisor to the Latino Student Union on campus and is involved in the Collective, a round table of student organization leaders. He also works in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and is Associate Director of the Falcon Watch Initiative, a program designed to help mostly multicultural students stay on track at the University. With all of his positions, Plaza has made several connections with students on campus.

Senior Adriana Darris has worked with Plaza through Not in Our Town, the Latino Student Union and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Darris said through Not in Our Town, she has seen Plaza consistently make sure every voice on campus is heard.

“Ray has done a good job of getting in contact and making sure that other people are at the table,” Darris said. “Regardless of what you identify as, if Ray thinks he can do something about it, he will. I think that has a big role when you know that this person isn’t just helping you because you identify as some certain way or because you don’t, but rather because you need his help and he thinks he can help you.”

Plaza made it one of his missions to strengthen the tie between Not in Our Town and Call to Action.

“Initially there was, I think, this distance between both Not In Our Town and Call to Action,” Plaza said. “It was seen as competition, but in many ways we see ourselves as complimenting the work that we do. We are not against each other, we are working on different things and we can support each other in those ways. That moment in time of student skepticism was a catalyst for us to help grow this movement and where we are today.”

Juan Pimiento has worked with Plaza through the Latino Student Union and also through Call

to Action.

Pimiento said the connection between the two groups that Plaza helped create is instrumental for the success of Call to Action.

“It’s really valuable because we are a student movement and the demands that we have pertain directly to administrative staff and the fact that we have such strong allies, like Ray, it means a lot,” he said. “He’s a resource from the administrative side, he speaks the language, he knows the ins and outs of the admin side. It gives us a whole new perspective that can get us even closer to meeting the demands.”

Not only does Plaza build professional relationships with student leaders on campus, he also emphasizes building personal relationships with students as well.

Pimiento recalled the Latino Student Union volunteer trip to Cedar Point this past year when his car broke down in Sandusky. Without any other place to turn, Pimiento called Plaza to see if there was any way he could help. Plaza drove to Sandusky at 1 a.m. to pick up the students in Pimiento’s car and drove them back to Bowling Green. Pimiento said that’s the epitome of the person Plaza is.

“He goes out of his way to not only provide the professional support, but also the emotional support,” Pimiento said. “That’s something he stresses a lot about him being someone you can go to with anything, his office being a safe zone where you can talk about anything and that’s something that you don’t really get with staff and faculty. I think that’s something that speaks to his character as well.”

Though Plaza is too modest of a person to take the recognition he deserves, he still has earned recognition, Pimiento said.

“He doesn’t like to put the spotlight on himself a lot. He’s a very modest person in that way, but I think that us as a University and community need to recognize what he does,” Pimiento said. “A lot of it does go unnoticed because it’s behind the scenes, but it’s so valuable. It makes such a difference that only a few of us truly know how important his job is. I wish people knew that because somebody that does what he does doesn’t get the appreciation that he deserves.”

Darris said Plaza is always willing to offer whatever time or money it takes to make sure what he is passionate about does well.

“I think one of his passions must be helping others because it’s just evident,” Darris said. “It’s hard for us to find ways to give back to him in the ways that he’s given to us. He’s an amazing person, we’re so lucky to have him.”

Plaza said he has always been highly involved throughout high school and college and that involvement has rolled over into his professional field. As someone who has experienced discrimination and unfairness in his life, he is about everyone having equal opportunities.

“I think for me, there’s an inherent passion to make a difference in these issues,” Plaza said. “I think it’s about giving to others. I think people have often said you need to be more selfish, but I think it’s about being there to support others, to give back; what are the things we need to do to make a difference for our students and for our community? I think those are the things that drive me.”

Pimiento said having Plaza represent the Latino community on campus is huge for the group.

“We’re about 4 percent of the student body, the Latinos,” he said. “Having someone like him in his position is great because he can help. Not only he can relate obviously, but he can help us spread the word within the Latino community and outside. You can’t quantify that. And not only just a voice, but a voice like his, it’s invaluable, it’s a blessing.”

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