Alfredo Dominguez, CC ‘19, does not see what the big fuss is about–he wouldn’t have picked himself as a Campus Character, and does not see why we did. But he is also a newly elected University Senator, an intern with the New York City Department of Education, and an intern at a second job with Congressman Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y. 13th district, so we magazine editors were still confident with our pick.
Dominguez is thoughtful in the way that anyone with his deep immersion in politics would be–he pauses and thinks carefully before answering any questions. His responses, though, are disarmingly casual, peppered with “whatever” and “bro” and the occasional curse word. His style is instantly likeable.
He majors in ethnicity and race studies, but most people do not know that he came to Columbia as a chemical engineering student in SEAS. Growing up in Texas just outside of Houston, chemical engineering was a solid career choice. But after taking “Philosophy of Education,” he began to think differently about his path. Engineering classes, though, he quickly realized were “fucking boring” and “super monotonous.”
Illustration by Jennifer Bi
Coming to Columbia from a high school where 91 percent of the students were Mexican, his early experience on campus was shaped by “having conversations in my freshmen hall, and things being ‘problematic’ and what that meant and the use of that word, thinking of nuances to it. It was the first time in my life having to deal with what being a person of color in a really white space was.” That’s when he made the “big switch” to ethnicity and race studies.
Since then, he has used his involvement with student government to focus on first generation low income students, and campus mental health. He is a co-chair of the Mental Health Task Force, and points to the issue as his biggest concern as he begins his term as senator.
Used to shaping policy in his work on campus, Dominguez tasted another side of politics over the summer. As a congressional intern, he learned “what executing someone else’s mission is like, and how to deal with disagreeing with that, or dealing with differences, and what it means when you’re very much a worker and a part of a larger system, how do you still influence change in that way?”
For him, the answer came in influencing at a hyper-local level: “The people who actually impact people a lot more are your congressman or your city Department of Education,” he says. The experience left him considering pursuing education policy as a career, but not before spending some more time in a classroom as a teacher.
His best quality, in his own opinion?
He suspects his friends would say it is being caring, but that they might call it “badgering and annoying.”
When he isn’t wound up in politics, he’s watching anime, writing short stories or playing video games. Asked what games, he replies, “men of color bro games.”
Dominguez ends neatly with a bit of advice: “Push yourself to critically think about yourself and where you are in the world. So many people at Columbia are bright and smart and surround themselves with people exactly like them, or with the exact same opinions as them. I wish people would push their boundaries more in terms of who they hang out with. That’s something that I think about a lot.”