It was in 1989 when he first arrived at CSUN.
Five years after he graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in geography, Roberto Quiroz II, a U.S. diplomat, returned to the classrooms where he once learned foreign policy and world geography.
Confused about his future career path at the age of 18, Quiroz began attending college knowing only that his major had to be related to politics.
Quiroz visited different political science classes last week under the Hometown Diplomat Project to share with students his experience as a diplomat for the United States Department of State.
The Hometown Diplomat program, Quiroz said, is “to explain what our department does, to explain diplomacy, establish a bond and (an) ongoing relationship (with) the university, (and) to be able to talk to (students about) what we do.
In 1989, there were two classes that interested Quiroz the most.
As he remembered taking a world geography class with Professor Antonia Hussey, chair of the Geography Department, he said she opened his eyes to the world.
“It was fascinating; almost like traveling to those countries as she narrated their history and geography,” Quiroz said. “I fell in love with the world then and there.”
He said he came to CSUN because it had a good reputation and was an affordable school.
Professors, including Hussey, influenced his way of thinking, causing him to look at the world differently, he said.
Hussey said she remembers Quiroz graduating in 1994, and he already became her friend.
He kept in touch with her periodically for 12 years, she said.
“He would call from Korea, to wish me a merry Christmas,” Hussey said.
During his junior and senior years, he took geography classes in South Asia and China, Hussey said.
“By the time (he was) junior, he had matured and he had a direction,” she said.
Hussey remembers how he passionately talked about politics. He always loved politics, especially Latin American politics.
“He was always a contributor at the class. He asked questions. He was curious,” Hussey said. “He was a self scholar.”
He was not an outstanding at CSUN, but he later became outstanding for CSUN with his success, she said.
“I was always inspired by the Kennedys,” Quiroz said in regard to his interest in politics.
Quiroz’s expectations were broadened when he enrolled in a Model United Nations course in 1994.
The course consisted of a group of 25 CSUN students who attended an event in New York City as part of a class project.
Over 1,000 students from colleges nationwide and around the world participated. Quiroz said that was one of the greatest experiences he had.
“CSUN represented Morocco and as part of the project we visited the Moroccan Ambassador at the UN,” Quiroz said. “I never imagined then that I would be a diplomat myself.”
During his years at CSUN, he got involved with the ROTC program, because he considered pursuing the Air Force to become a higher officer rank. When he graduated from CSUN, he went into the Air Force for eight years, serving different positions from low-entry positions to becoming the Captain, Quiroz said. After serving, he decided to apply for the U.S. Department of State as a diplomat.
Quiroz felt motivated by former Secretary of the State Collin Powell to join the Department of the State.
“He was a minority, had gone to a state university,” Quiroz said. “He was part of the ROTC Program. He is not from the elite military academy.”
Quiroz said he temporarily worked for U.S. embassies in Central America and Panama.
His responsibilities as a diplomat included promoting various U.S. policies.
He said he felt like a minority at CSUN because he did not see many Latino students at the time.
Born to a Puerto Rican mother and Mexican-American father, Quiroz was born in New York but raised in Puerto Rico until the age of 15. Afterward, he moved to Southern California.
During his college years, he had tremendous support from his father, who paid his college tuition to attend college.
“I worked part time in a yogurt shop, (a) movie theater in Century City, (at the) Sheriff’s department as student and ROTC,” Quiroz said.
Quiroz is proud of how far Latinos have progressed, and the recent changes of more Latinos in politics.
“My grandparents were from Mexico and Puerto Rico, (and) out of love for my culture I hold great love and hopes for Latin America,” Quiroz said.
“Villaraigosa signifies to many Latinos the coming of age of our political power in California, although he wonderfully represents all Angelinos,” Quiroz said. “It’s belated. The Cuban Americans in Miami had achieved political power (a) long time ago, (but) in (California) ? we might be a majority, but it took long time to take power.”
Ram Roy, political science professor, said he always encouraged his fellow students to consider the U.S. State Department as an option in their future careers.
“I am fortunate to have students all over the world,” Roy said. “I am delighted that Roberto is one of those students (who) made it to the State Department.”
The next step for Quiroz would be to serve for a two-year diplomacy as the political economic officer at the U.S. embassy, in Dili, East Timor, which he would begin in the summer of 2007.
“(I) try to make this a better world,” Quiroz said, “based on what (my professors) taught us in the classroom.”