Marissa Marquez ’04 is an Assistant City Attorney with the Houston Legal Department’s Office of the Inspector General. She moved to Houston in March 2014 where she had been the Deputy Senior Legal Counsel for the Commissioner Representing Employers at the Texas Workforce Commission in Austin – the first Latina attorney to work for the Office of the Commissioner Representing Employers. In that role, she advocated for employers during the unemployment-claim appeal process; traveled throughout the state to talk to employers about their policy handbooks; and helped produce the Commissioner’s quarterly newsletter, Texas Business Today.
Marissa, who received her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, spends a lot of free time working with foster children, but the list of places where she helps (or has helped) at-risk children and families is staggering. Over the past few years, she has volunteered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; worked with undocumented young people through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; assisted as a Spanish translator at local free legal clinics, and has served as both a Court Appointed Special Advocate and on the board of Strong Start, an Austin non-profit that works to prevent child abuse by assisting at-risk families.
A native of Laredo, TX, Marissa’s maternal grandparents were migrant workers who taught her the value of hard work. She was first exposed to public service at Baylor as the Public Service Chair for the Hispanic Student Association, where she organized regular volunteer trips to a Waco Head Start program. The National Head Start Association honored her in their July 2015 newsletter. She took time last week to answer a few questions from Line Notes.
- What do you do? I investigate allegations of employee misconduct and complaints by city employees for a variety of discrimination types, including age, race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability including violations of other state and federal laws and City policies.
- How did your Baylor experience shape your life? Baylor taught me to be kind and give back. When I was trying to decide where to go to college, people asked why I’d go to Baylor as a Latina since there’s not a huge Latino student population. But it was a great campus, small classroom settings, and you get to know your professors. You’re not just a number. I met some of the nicest people who reminded me about the importance of doing good, about giving back to the community.
- What are you feeling particularly passionate about these days? I’ve always been passionate about foster youth, but I am passionate about helping youth in general. No matter what I get involved with, it always seems to be about youth. Right now, I’ve taken up cycling as my cause to focus on and am a board member of BikeHouston, which is a non-profit uniting people who care to make the greater Houston area bicycle-friendly. Part of my focus as a board member is helping kids live a healthier life and on making streets safer for Houston families by advocating for dedicated bike lanes.
- How do you define success? It sounds corny, but I think that if you make a difference in any cause, do something positive, or change a person’s life for the better – that’s success.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? As bad as things may seem – and sometimes when it rains it pours – don’t ever give up. Everything I’ve ever achieved is because I gave it my all and really worked hard.
- What’s inspiring you right now? I really was inspired by a TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth on a study why some Chicago public school students did better academically than others. I just finished “The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential,” by John C. Maxwell, and I’ve gotten involved in a mentorship program through GovLoop, a social network that connects more than 150,000 federal, state, and local government innovators. They accepted 60 of the 400 applicants nationwide for their mentorship program and I’m learning a lot from my mentor, an attorney who works for the federal government, in Washington, D.C.