Renata Urbina De la Flor
2020, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, BS
I think the biggest lesson I learned was not to silence the way you feel or the way that [other] people feel.
— Renata Urbina De la Flor, Honors College alumna with a Conflict Analysis and Resolution, B.S.
Renata Urbina De la Flor has focused much of her time at Mason on highlighting the voices of those who are often silenced. Exploring the history that goes unwritten drew her to major in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Mason.
“History is written by the winners, and you always hear their side of it,” said Urbina De la Flor. “[Here], you learn about the people and the history in the eyes of the people who lost history.”
This outlook was exemplified when one of Urbina De la Flor’s professors made it a point to “decolonize the classroom” by structuring the course around books written by those from suppressed communities.
“It showed me the possibilities of education [when] professors are willing to teach the voices and spread the voices of other individuals that are usually left silenced,” said Urbina De la Flor. “If I’m going to be presenting material to somebody, whatever I do, I want to make sure that I’m using [those silenced voices].”
Urbina De la Flor’s passion for the subject matter inspired her to become an ambassador for the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), which will soon be named the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. The alumna cites the close-knit feel of the school in allowing students to shape the experiences it provides.
Urbina De la Flor has taken her knowledge from the classroom and applied it to her roles in multiple campus organizations. She served as the Education Chairperson for the Honors College Multicultural Alliance her sophomore year, educating the community on topics related to diversity and race. More recently, Urbina De la Flor was the president of Patriots for Peace. The student organization grew out of resources provided by the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., continuing the teachings of S-CAR beyond the classroom. Patriots for Peace informs students on how conflict is mitigated across the globe, and Urbina De la Flor is now a board advisor for the group to ensure its continued success.
Beyond discussing these topics in the classroom and in student organizations, Urbina De la Flor discovered her love of researching these issues while taking a class on law and justice. When the question came up of how legislation can work against those who are poor, Urbina De la Flor wanted to explore the topic further on her own. She then joined the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program with the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR) to investigate “the impact of healthcare and education costs on poverty.”
“I focused on a specific legal case in the ‘70s [that] was on discrimination against the poor, and [I analyzed] how the U.S. treats poor people,” explained Urbina De la Flor. Since then, she has enjoyed legal research, particularly the impacts of legislation on culture.
Urbina De la Flor further pondered how legislation operates in society during her Honors College courses. The scholar cites her HNRS 353: Clean Coal and Culture class with Honors College Director of Communications and professor Richard Todd Stafford for invoking these legal questions in tandem with climate change.
“I was introduced to so many students passionate about climate change and the environment. I don’t think I ever would’ve met those students if it hadn’t been for that class,” said Urbina De la Flor. “It just reminded me that there’s so much that can be done with improving legislation and who writes policy in order to benefit different groups.”
The multiple perspectives that Urbina De la Flor learned from while in the Honors College has been a favorite part of her tenure here. With her sights set on law school, she recognizes the value in people learning to understand and empathize with each other.
“My field is very social [in] understanding humans and patterns,” said Urbina De la Flor. “We have to be able to listen to people’s perspectives, even if they differ.”
Urbina De la Flor offers much advice to students who are still continuing their college journeys: do not procrastinate, plan essays out, and maintain a healthy social life. Beyond those, though, she suggests a trait that she has had to learn for herself: reach out to others for help and guidance.
“Speak to people who are doing what you want to do,” said Urbina De la Flor, acknowledging how quickly college can go by.
One lesson that Urbina De la Flor will carry with her long after her time at Mason is to not be afraid of expressing herself. “I think the biggest lesson I learned was not to silence the way you feel or the way that [other] people feel,” the recent graduate said, internalizing the importance of hearing those voices often silenced.
Written by Zaria Talley