Oglethorpe alumna Irasema Gonzalez Vargas ’08 will compete in this year’s “Miss International Grand Latina,” a pageant that provides scholarships and community service opportunities to Latinx women.
While working for DeKalb County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs in Bilingual Communications, Diversity, Inclusion and International Outreach, Gonzalez Vargas was looking for a way to connect with Metro Atlanta’s diverse communities. Through her search, she was introduced to the Miss International Grand Latina pageant, a unique competition for Latinx women ages 10-55 that encourages individual growth, grants scholarships, and empowers participants to achieve personal and professional goals. Often, participants have little to no traditional pageant experience.
Gonzalez Vargas describes herself as “a network builder and information liaison—a passionate person who seeks to connect different cultures and points of view.” Competing in this pageant was an opportunity to not only develop relationships with the Atlanta Latinx community, but to continue building her own confidence.
“It’s been years of work and making progress in lifting myself,” she recalls. “This pageant is an extra tool that helps me learn more about myself in a creative, professional, personal, and spiritual way.”
This year, the pageant will be held on Nov. 12-14, in Buford, Georgia. Each contestant is judged in three categories: Interview, Fun Fashion and Evening Gown. After a round of cuts, semi-finalists move on to the final interview portion of the competition. Ultimately, Miss International Grand Latina is an inclusive and celebratory event where all contestants have an opportunity to shine on stage.
As an undergraduate at Oglethorpe, Gonzalez Vargas worked as a production intern at CNN and in OU’s study abroad office. She earned a degree in communication and rhetoric studies with a minor in politics, which helped to launch her career as a liaison and guide for people all over the world.
“I had great experiences while developing my career skills at OU,” says Gonzalez Vargas, “To this day, I am so grateful for all the experience I had after my first internship—being surrounded by subjects like healthcare, ways and means, agriculture, and so forth. My deepest thanks to career services and the alumni members who made this possible.”
Currently, Gonzalez is a linguistic advisor for the Department of Defense, as well as other U.S. government agencies and organizations, including the National Language Service Corps, Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, and Department of Justice. Her experience in this professional field has even allowed her to work as a medical interpreter for thousands of people.
“OU gave me strong guidelines on how to do research,” says Gonzalez Vargas, “As a Linguistic Advisor, having the responsibility to connect with different audiences, colleagues, agencies, and organizations to always be diligent in doing research has made this an important skill.”
Certainly, she has come a long way in her career, and Miss International Grand Latina is an excellent way for her to celebrate her own accomplishments, while encouraging other women like her to do the same. Follow along with the Miss International Grand Latina pageant on Instagram.
Recently, Gonzalez Vargas spoke to Oglethorpe students as part of a panel of alumni working in communications. View the recording here.