Senior Stories: The Historian, James Zarsadiaz

When almost 2,000 undergraduate seniors participate in Commencement on the National Mall Sunday they will leave behind their years at GW, but many will not be forgotten. The Hatchet spoke with faculty, staff and students to find 10 seniors who have made a lasting impression during their undergraduate years.

As a freshman, James Zarsadiaz anticipated a career on Capitol Hill. This aspiration quickly dissolved, however, when he realized that policy-making does not interest him.

Though he nixed a political career, Zarsadiaz spent three and a half years working for Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and ranks the experience among his most valuable.

“I learned a lot – not only about myself, but also about working on a team,” said Zarsadiaz, who will attend Northwestern University in September to begin his Ph.D in history.

Zarsadiaz is the son of Filipino immigrants and grew up in Walnut, Calif., a diverse suburb outside of Los Angeles. He has striven to broaden GW’s multicultural identity, and attributes this passion to his upbringing.

“I’ve been very used to a multicultural, heterogeneous environment,” he said. “My high school was majority-minority. More than half of the students were Latino and a big portion were Asian and African-American, with a smaller Caucasian population.”

Last year Zarsadiaz, a Martin Luther King Jr. Award recipient, founded the Multicultural Leadership Council. He described the council as “an ad hoc group” of multicultural leaders on campus. “We talk about multicultural issues and promote each other’s initiatives,” he said.

He also served as president of the Asian Student Alliance last year, restructuring the group, which won the Pyramid Award for Student Organization of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

“The Asian community has tons of different groups and I wanted to make more of an umbrella organization,” he said. “The purpose is to bring together the GW community to teach about Asian traditions and cultures – not just Chinese culture, not just Korean culture, but all Asian groups.”

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