Gustavus Alum Named to Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs

Julio Zelaya, a political science major who graduated in 2012, was recently appointed by Governor Mark Dayton.
Posted on July 10th, 2017 by

Gustavus Adolphus College alumnus Julio Zelaya ’12 was recently appointed to serve on the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs by Governor Mark Dayton. In his role on the council, he will help advise the legislature and executive branch on the effects of laws and policy on the Latina/o population in Minnesota’s First Congressional District.

Julio Zelaya ’12

“It’s an honor to be named to the council,” said Zelaya, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in St. James, Minn. “The average age of a Latino in Minnesota is 26, so it’s a young population that I’ll be representing and I hope to see their voice reflected in policy.”

A political science major at Gustavus, Zelaya also dabbled in peace studies and theatre before teaching in Minneapolis and working with the state Department of Education after graduation. The experiences galvanized his desire to serve underrepresented populations, a dream that was further inspired by a year he spent teaching English in Colombia from 2015-16. Now, Zelaya uses the skills he developed at Gustavus and through his teaching experiences to serve others as the Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project Coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota.

“We educate both individuals and institutions about the rights set forth by our Constitution,” Zelaya said. “Everyone in this country has rights and one must know how to enforce them – this is why the ACLU is so important.”

In his current role with the ACLU, Zelaya is based in Mankato and works as a legal advocate for communities that are especially vulnerable to civil rights violations, including immigrants and people of color. His day-to-day work focuses on education, advocacy, legislative updates, and leading workshops for the communities that he serves. Though the conversations can be challenging at times, Zelaya’s time in the political science department at Gustavus helped set the stage for his early professional success.

“My education at Gustavus was a pivotal experience in my life,” he explained. “Before I go into a difficult professional setting where I need to choose my words carefully, I think, ‘How would I say this to my professors?’”

“It’s important to take advantage of the resources you have on campus,” Zelaya continued. “I learned a lot both inside and outside the classroom and I’ve been able to use those experiences to work within the system to help others and challenge powerful institutions.”

To learn more about political science at Gustavus, visit the departmental website.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


One Comment

  1. Phyllis Kuhlman says:

    Congratulations Julio!