If you asked Greg Pardo (B.A. ’05) to sketch a map of where he thought he’d be five years after graduation, it wouldn’t have included places like Bangladesh or Burma, or even Washington, D.C. But that was before he experienced the Marianist spirit that permeates the St. Mary’s campus.
From Making Money to Making a Difference Greg, a native of San Antonio and a first-generation college student, says education was instilled as a priority by family. “My father installed carpet and tile, and my mother worked as a housekeeper. Their goal was for my brother and me to embrace education. My grandfather sparked my interest in politics,” he recalls.
He’s a graduate of Memorial High School – just down the street from St. Mary’s – but hadn’t thought of attending until the University’s student chapter of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) hosted a “Liberation through Education” leadership conference at his school. St. Mary’s students like Gabriel Sanchez (B.A. ’01) impressed Greg with their passionate dedication to helping first-generation college students realize the dream of earning a college degree.
When he first arrived at St. Mary’s, Greg had set his sights on business. “I was an information systems management major… because I wanted to make lots of money,” Greg says. While sitting in a philosophy class during his freshman year, he felt challenged to look outside of himself and to recognize the responsibility he had for other human beings. He changed direction, settling on international relations and political science as majors.
Except for summer visits to Monterrey, Mexico, to see his grandparents, Greg hadn’t traveled much. While attending St. Mary’s, however, he studied in London, and participated in a service immersion trip to Uxpanapa, Mexico. Since graduating, his mission of helping others has taken him around the world, including to Thailand, Burma and Bangladesh. The latter was his most memorable stop, and Bangladesh became a second home during his two years there. It was the place where he confronted the reality of how much one person can do.
Pardo a Model for ‘Intellectual Activism’ “Basic needs are luxuries in Bangladesh; the conditions there are extreme, so poverty came as no surprise to me,” Greg says. “But early one morning I encountered a child tied to a tree while his mentally handicapped mother worked selling water.
I was shocked that a family could be forced into that position; it’s such a stark contrast to what we see in our country. Here I was, a smart college graduate, but I realized that one person can only do so much.” That experience served as motivation for Greg’s subsequent two years. He still had hope.
Citing the experience he gained from serving in St. Mary’s Student Government Association, University Ministry, and the Service Learning Center, Greg says, “I knew how to represent people. I knew what I could do to address issues. So, I worked with a local nongovernmental Marianist organization to help the poorest families avoid risk through micro-credit loans; to establish a small school; and to provide basic health care.”
Back on home turf, Greg’s service continues. He was selected as a U.S. State Department Rangel Fellow and served in Washington as a Legislative Fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Sub-Committee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment. He earned his master’s degree from, and gave the commencement address at, The Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs of The University of Texas at Austin,
where he encouraged fellow graduates to be “intellectual activists” who use their knowledge to benefit those in need. Beginning in Fall 2010, he’ll take his message of service to yet another part of the world after completing training as a Foreign Service Officer in Washington, D.C.