This story is a part of our “A Day in the Life” series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. From mid-September to mid-October, we’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and featuring members of TuGente, one of the company’s six business resource networks (BRNs).
“As corny as it might sound, education has represented hope for a better future for me and my loved ones,” Steven Chavez-Gordy (Gordy, for short) says. “Education has also expanded my knowledge about my cultural roots and allowed me to accept all parts of myself, unconditionally.”
Born and raised in Colorado, Gordy comes from a large Mexican-American family. He’s the youngest of approximately 40 first-generation cousins—and the first to have earned an advanced degree. “My family understood the transformative power of education long before I did and supported me in achieving my goals because they wanted my younger cousins, nephews, and nieces to have an example of a new path in life—one that was not historically available for us,” he says. “In learning about the struggles and successes of the past, I’ve been motivated to persist and continue the work for equity for myself and my community.”
Gordy and members of his family
Prior to joining 2U, Gordy was supporting both on-campus and online students at the University of Denver (DU). In 2018, DU partnered with 2U to launch its online Master of Social Work degree program, which provided Gordy the opportunity to work alongside 2U’s Student Success team. He had a chance to quickly learn the company’s mission—and before long, Gordy was applying for a job at 2U. After two and a half years in Student Success, Gordy transitioned into Partner Operations. Today, he’s a program management analyst as well as an active member of TuGente, 2U’s business resource network (BRN) for Latinx employees and allies.
“Gordy has worked tirelessly to carry out the work and initiatives of our BRN,” says Andres Rocha, TuGente’s global chair. “As one of our inaugural co-treasures, he’s been able to refine our structure, create strategic plans for long-term growth, and ultimately help make positive strides within TuGente. Gordy's commitment to service, helping others, and believing that change is possible exemplifies what we look for in our leaders.”
Read on to hear more of Gordy’s story, in his own words.
Gordy on graduation day after earning his Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from the University of Denver
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
As a first-generation college student who has had his fair share of trials and tribulations, I learned how important access to resources and education was in determining life outcomes. I entered 2U because I believed in its ability to increase access for all students and to challenge notions of what “traditional” students are in comparison to “non-traditional.” During my time as a student success advisor, I loved to hear the stories of students who raised a family and then decided they wanted to come back to school decades later because it was a dream of theirs, which may have not been an option without the flexibility of an online platform. 2U’s ability to level the playing field aligned well with my own values of promoting equity and inclusion.
How would you describe your role as a program management analyst at 2U?
At the risk of oversimplifying, I would describe my role as a “creative problem-solver.” I essentially work as a project manager across all degree offerings, and more recently in supporting our boot camp portfolio as well. When working with these many offerings and stakeholders, one has to be able to adapt to diverse needs and ways of thinking. As members of the partner support team, we pride ourselves in our ability to find solutions to challenges that are the first of their kind—and to anticipate challenges that may not even be identified yet.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
The most rewarding part of my role is having the ability to work and learn across so many different areas of the business. I’ve been able to work with and learn from some of the most creative minds at 2U.
Gordy having fun on Zoom with some of his colleagues on the University Services team
Why did you join TuGente and how have you been involved so far?
While I wasn’t able to join TuGente as early as I would have liked, I officially stepped into my leadership role as co-treasurer in May 2021. I felt a need to do this because I wasn’t finding many colleagues who looked like me or shared my experiences in the office. I missed having a community in which I could debate where Denver’s best street tacos are or join a Zoom room with Celia Cruz’s music welcoming me. I needed to reconnect with my roots and feel connected to something larger than myself, which is what TuGente has provided me.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? How do you plan on observing it this year?
In all honesty, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Hispanic Heritage Month. On one hand, I’ve never understood why any culture should be reduced to 30 days (give or take), as opposed to celebrating its beauty every day. But on the other hand, I also acknowledge the work and sacrifice that has gone into “creating” a month that highlights the diversity of our community. I do embrace this month and use it as an opportunity to continue to educate myself and others in the pursuit of further advancement for our people and allies. It’s a reminder to all that we are here and we are proud!
This year, I kicked off the month with my annual watching of the Selena (not to be confused with Gomez!) biopic. I’ve also been listening to our shared TuGente Spotify playlist, and hopefully I’ll be able to get some dancing in at one of Denver’s Latin clubs, “La Rumba!” Oh, and food…lots of food!
TuGente’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month this year is “Juntos,” which means “together.” How does this theme specifically resonate in your work at 2U?
When I think of my time at 2U, whether in Student Engagement or University Services, I think about how interconnected my roles have been with others. Regardless of backgrounds and beliefs, 2Utes must come together and collaborate to complete tasks. A large part of my current role is understanding the unique strengths of stakeholders and finding a way to leverage everyone’s strengths to meet shared goals.
Gordy taking a leap of faith with his adventurous spirit
As one of the inaugural co-treasurers of TuGente, what would you say are the greatest rewards of being a part of TuGente leadership?
The most rewarding part of being on the leadership team is being able to connect with 2U leaders from across the organization, where we have the opportunity to advocate and offer perspectives that may not have been considered otherwise. In my opinion, this diversity of thought is how we continue to push for systemic change.
Out of everything you’ve done at 2U so far, what are you most proud of?
One reason that I was attracted to 2U was that I knew there could be an opportunity for career growth. Prior to entering the company, I moved my way up as an advisor and then eventually transitioned into a business operations role, which I was able to do in a very competitive environment. To have done this within three years is one of my proudest professional accomplishments. Shoutout to all of my mentors, colleagues, and friends at 2U that supported me in this collective effort!
What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U? How about someone considering getting involved with TuGente?
Be your authentic self! In my experience, working in a fast-paced corporate environment can sometimes be intimidating and can invoke feelings associated with imposter syndrome, resulting in employees (especially those of color) feeling as though they have to assimilate to the majority. While code-switching is a survival mechanism for many of us, it can be stressful and even start to cause identity issues. I would tell a new employee to always find a way to present their true self in interactions and to find a community that supports this.
For anyone considering TuGente, we welcome you with open arms and are committed to your growth at 2U and beyond, so feel free to reach out to anyone on the leadership team to learn more and maybe even consider taking on a role yourself in the future. We’d love to work with you!
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