Name: Sebastián González
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Major: Physics (Concentration: Astrophysics)
Activities: Cipactli Latinx Honor Society (Chair), Penn Symphony Orchestra, Society of Physics Students, Penn First (Internal Outreach Chair)
Street: How did you get involved in the Cipactli Latinx Honor Society?
Sebastián González: The nice thing is that I had a lot of friends and people who I looked up to in Latinx that I thought were doing really great things in lots of spaces. And kind of I just had the idea that that would be really cool for me to do and follow in their footsteps, sort of speak. The next thing is that it used to be a tapped process, someone would recommend you, and encourage you to be in the society. That happened to me, fortunately, and I went through the process. And now here I am. I guess I should also add that I am chair of the society, now, which is really cool.
Street: Wow! What do you do as chair of the society?
SG: It’s kind of more overseeing things, like planning and how we do recruitment. And, also once we get beyond recruitment and work with our general membership, planning [general body meetings], leading GBMs, and being a part of the actual board that plans fun social events. That is one of the nice things of Cipactli as well, we are all Latinx and focus on Latinx issues, but people do other things, too, so it’s nice to bring people together and meet someone that they might not have otherwise met. And, to be chair, and be the facilitator of bringing everyone together is really cool.
Street: Is Sphinx similar in that regard? Or, what is Sphinx like?
SG: Yeah, it’s kind of more traditional, more general Penn rather than just one specialized group. And, there are thirty of us, it’s similar in that it’s more on the social side of things. It’s just a space for all of us to get together and get to know each other and interact with one another. The nice thing about Sphinx is that a lot of us are also advocates for a lot of different communities, whether that be the [Undergraduate Assembly] or etc. So, being all in one space facilitates more conversations and reaching out to each other and that naturally leads to collaboration and things like that. It’s very similar but also a bit more broad in a sense.
Street: When you say that people within the society are advocates for other groups, as well, is that something you do, too?
SG: I got into it through my involvement with Penn First. Her name is Anaya, she’s done great things, she was the Penn First person in Sphinx. Because that Sphinx is a little weird in that we are all representing a particular group, in my case Penn First. It’s also similar in that there is a tap process so she tapped me.
Street: So, what is Penn First?
SG: It's a student group that started—I think now it’s five years ago—it’s a group for the first–generation, low–income community which we like to abbreviate as FGLI. And, broadly speaking it has two different missions. One is to provide a social space because it can easily feel as if you are alone in a lot of different spaces on campus, whether that be class or other groups that you might be a part of. So it’s nice to have a group that is organizing a lot of social events or just general get togethers and study hours where everyone there is either FGLI or cares about FGLI issues. So, it’s very reaffirming in that sense. And, the other is more advocacy. So that is what I was involved with the most, as well as Louis which he talked about in his interview, as far as meeting with administrators, whether that be in student financial services or the Provost Office in order to facilitate conversations about different policies or programs that could be enacted, created, or improved upon. Basically a mission to improve the lives of FGLI students here. The way I always thought about it is to remove any unnecessary barriers that FGLI students may find themselves up against, that really could be solved with an easy solution or program or initiative that would allow FGLI students to be just as likely to succeed as other students here.
Street: What was your favorite advocacy project that you were a part of?
SG: The first one that comes to mind, because it is the one that is currently being in the works, is Penn First Plus, which is more the university’s efforts for the FGLI community. Where it’s like a centralized area that students can go to, basically an open space, and a centralized space where all these resources are available and people can find out about them as opposed to scouring the web. Maybe you’re lucky enough to end up at a particular webpage that lists everything, this would be like a central space where you can just ask a person who is there and knows everything and they can point you in the right direction.
Other things, I mean one thing that particularly stood out to me during my time was the changes that we had made with Student Financial Services for how they assist students who stay over during breaks. For particularly Thanksgiving Break, Spring Break, and even Christmas Break for international students, people stay here for various reasons. I know I stayed for a little while, for Thanksgiving in particular because it’s only a few days. And, if you want to travel early then you have to miss class. Often times people travel early because it’s cheaper, but maybe you have a midterm or other obligations so you just can’t leave, it’s a little too expensive. So, some students stay but a lot of dining halls close, so if you’re on a meal plan you can’t use that. Also, a lot of offices close so people won’t be able to work, if they have work–study jobs that were paid to help pay for groceries and stuff like that. So, in the past what they had done was have boxed meals from  Commons, sometimes you could heat it up or just cook it up, but then you have to have access to a kitchen. So, kind of what they have done recently is give students who are staying a little gift card, basically, that you can use to buy groceries or eat out or buy food through that route. And that’s nice because it’s more of a personalized thing, so you can use it for whatever purposes. And it’s a lot easier, like for Christmas Break you had to go every week to the Sheraton to get your boxed meals. It was just a hassle so this is a lot easier and more streamlined. So it was really great to be a part of that.
Street: What is astrophysics like?
SG: It’s fun, it’s a lot of classes, it’s a pretty big major, like twenty credits. But, that being said it’s a really enjoyable major, lots of cool classes, learning a lot about really cool things. Kind of what I’ve come to appreciate the most about it is, through physics, you pick up a lot of skills that are easily transferable to another. A lot of math and different kinds of math, and tools in math, lots of computer stuff. And just general problem solving. One professor told me to follow the rabbit wherever it goes, whatever tools you need to solve it, you just have to follow it wherever it goes. So just that general approach and mindset is something that I came to really value with my experience in the major.
Street: What would you like to do with astrophysics?
SG: One of the reasons I really like all the skills I’ve picked up is because I’m not necessarily going to do something in astrophysics. Kind of what the plan is right now is to just generally get into data science and data analytics, with the ultimate goal to be working for a sports team because I am a really big sports fan and have been for a while.
Street: What type of sports do you like?
SG: Well, my favorite is football. Just because that was the first thing I fell in love with. I really love baseball, too, I connect with it because there are a lot of Latinx players in baseball and they are all really good. And basketball, I really enjoy, too. I don’t have a particular team in basketball, that’s why I don’t like it as much as the other two. But, it’s really fun to watch, and I also like soccer a little bit, especially during the World Cup when Mexico and the United States are playing. I’ll get a little into it but, yeah, baseball and football.
Street: What’s it like being a tuba player in the [Penn Symphony] Orchestra?
SG: It’s fun. It’s funny in that sometimes I find myself just sitting there, because when you play tuba you only play in select parts, like the big, exciting parts. So, sometimes that can translate to sitting there. But, apart from that, it’s been a really great experience. In particular because we play a lot of cool music, not obscure, weird stuff. We play the classics. And I really valued that part of the experience, because our Conductor wants us to get a really good sense of what it is like to be a musician, like for example being in the Philly Orchestra, playing legit music. And everybody does a really great job with that, so it’s a really cool thing. And, I always enjoy going to rehearsals and stuff, it’s a really like break because it’s so different. I’ve done it for four years now so I’m going to finish soon and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Street: What is the last song you listened to?
SG: Well, I really like podcasts. So, the last podcast I listened to was the Dan Le Batard Shown. It's a podcast from ESPN.
Street: What was your favorite class at Penn?
SG: Physics 171 and Physics 360
Street: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
SG: Traveling wherever I want in time while being able to speak whatever the language is of where I end up.
Street: What is something people wouldn't guess about you?
SG: I guess that I play the tuba. Just because I'm a smaller person who plays a large instrument.
Street: Favorite food truck?
SG: Don Memo
Street: There are two types of people at Penn.
SG: One would be people who kind of aware of the space that they are occupying and the privilege they have to be here at this institution. And people who still have to learn that.