Basketball All-Star DJ Gay Credits SDSU Women’s Studies With Helping Him Recognize His Greatest Strength — Bringing People Together
As a coach, DJ Gay relies on lessons learned at SDSU
By Leslie L.J. Reilly
He shot 37.2 % from behind the 3-point arc, the 17th-best single-season percentage in school history and the 5th-best among freshmen in Division I basketball (2007-2008), but at that time, he was unsure what major to choose. All-star DJ Gay, the 26th member of SDSU’s 1,000-point club on the men’s basketball team, discovered a surprising area of study when he decided that the women’s studies path was the right choice.
Gay is currently the coach of boys’ basketball at La Jolla Country Day School.
Here, he describes his experiences as an SDSU women’s studies major.
What inspired you to choose women’s studies as your major?
Going into college I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to major in. I spent most of my freshman year trying to figure it out. When it came time to pick a major I thought long and hard about all the previous classes I had taken as a freshman and what I had learned.
I found women studies by far to be the most interesting and the class that I learned the most in. It forced me to change my way of thinking and the approach of how I spoke and saw the world. Being a man in women-dominant classes allowed me to understand seeing the world under a different lens. I didn’t know what I would do after getting my degree in women’s studies, but I knew if I can see and understand people of different races, genders, and backgrounds, I’ll always have a chance to connect with them which can open other doors.
How did the women’s studies courses shape your viewpoint or perspectives?
Women’s studies shaped both my viewpoint and perspective by forcing me out of my comfort zone. Not everything I’ve been told or thought was true about people from different backgrounds. My biggest take away is to think before I speak, and to think before I react — and always try to see both sides before responding.
Can you share a transformative moment?
There were many great classes and professors. I definitely remember a transformative moment: we were discussing the different types of abuse, physical, emotional, mental, etc. Many of my classmates shared their story, most of them about their significant others or parents. Up until then I really only understood physical abuse and maybe just the surface of emotional abuse.
After listening to the stories, I was in shock because I have gone through similar things and I had no idea that it was a type of abuse. I’ve seen my friends say things to their partner that I didn’t understand at the time was mental or emotional abuse. It completely changed for me after hearing the stories and how it made them feel, what kind of damage it had caused. It definitely woke me up and changed my life and gave me the understanding that some things I thought were normal were completely not okay.
What student organizations were you involved in, and how did they shape your life?
One of my biggest regrets is not getting involved in an organization, it was hard to find the time between class and basketball.
As a basketball all-star, how did you balance academics and sports?
It was tough, but our coaches did a great job with the mandatory study hall several times a week. And it’s so much easier to get your work done when you’re loving your classes.
What would you say to someone considering the women’s studies major?
I would say go for it, if you want a life-changing experience this is a major that will do so. The world is changing daily, people are changing constantly, the way we view others and new ideas are coming constantly, some will accept it, some won’t, but this is an opportunity to understand the changes and differences, and how to communicate your thoughts and connect with others that will take you a long way.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I’m constantly asked, “How did you use your women’s studies degree? Do you regret it? How does this help you get a job?”
I have run the largest youth program in Southern California with more than 350 kids in my program including boys and girls. I decided on going the entrepreneur route, but my success and how I was able to build consensus comes from my degree. Everyday I would speak with kids, parents, and my employees that came from different backgrounds. Because I was able to communicate, accept and understand the person across from me, it became so much easier to develop trust and relationships.
Because I have learned how to think before I speak or act, it has saved many and built many great relationships. I credit my success to being a women’s studies major, it is because of that major my biggest strength has become bringing families from everywhere together and spreading my message to them. No matter your age, race, height, beliefs, gender, we are one family.
Thank you to all the professors that I had and are at SDSU that continue to force students to think outside the box. I wouldn’t be who I am without you.