Alumni of Color Network members give professional advice during Homecoming

(Left to right: Tyrone Foster, Barbara Pierre, Pricilla Bartley and Fernando Rodriguez. By Cesareo Contreras)

Shortly after graduating FSU in the spring of 2016, Fernando Rodriguez felt lost.

Venturing out into the working world, Rodriguez found himself missing the support networks he had at FSU – the student clubs and the financial aid office, he said.

Once he graduated, he was looking for a similar network to turn to to help him traverse life post-graduation, he said.

A member of FSU’s recently-formed Alumni of Color Network – a group aimed at connecting FSU graduates with established alums of color – Rodriguez was able to form a list of contacts that could be of professional value.

But Rodriguez knew the network could do more.

While he appreciated connecting with those alumni during the group’s inaugural event during Homecoming Weekend last fall, he couldn’t help but wonder, how did they achieve that level of success?  What are their stories?

For this year’s Alumni of Color Homecoming event, Rodriguez invited four alums to share their stories prior to the group’s reception. In doing this, Rodriguez said he hoped the panelists would provide insight on working in the professional world and share what they accomplished during their time at Framingham State. 

Comprised of Tyrone Foster, ‘13, Barbara Pierre, ‘11 and Priscilla Bartley, ‘09, the panel for the most part reflected the audience it was speaking to – they are all recent college graduates.

Coming in as a freshman transfer student from New Jersey, Foster said his first semester at FSU was tough since he didn’t know anyone.

As the semesters rolled by, Foster started becoming more involved and in addition to becoming a resident assistant, started writing regularly for The Gatepost and began cohosting on WDJM, Framingham State’s radio station.

Graduating from FSU with a bachelor of arts in sociology, Foster said he was interested in understanding the intersection between sociology and sports. Coming from a primarily white preparatory high school, Foster said he noticed sports served as a racial unifier.

A year after graduating from FSU, Foster went on to get his master’s degree at Northeastern University in Sports Leadership, according to his LinkedIn page.   

Rodriguez said Foster now works part time as a program assistant at Good Sports, a Quincy-based national nonprofit organization that “donates brand new athletic equipment to youth sports organizations.”

Foster said in every new venture, he always makes sure to ask questions and establish lasting relationships.

While at Northeastern University, Foster sat down with the school’s athletic director, who happens to also be a man of color, and asked him for advice.

“It’s actually through him that I got this long list – that I actually still have – of all these nonprofits that were aligned” with sports and sociology, he said.      

Foster said it’s important students tell their story and tell people what they want to do professionally.

“You never know what that’s going to do for you,” he said.

In high school, Pierre said she was “high-achieving.”

“I did a lot of clubs,” she said. “I was never home because I always wanted to be in school doing clubs. I get home at like 6 p.m.”

While Pierre initially wanted to go to Berklee College of Music, once she was accepted and saw the price, she realized she couldn’t afford it.

Pierre’s mother suggested she apply to FSU, so she did.

Pierre had a “hard time” during her first semester, but second semester, she attended a SUAB meeting where she found out about Black Student Union (BSU). Soon after, Pierre became involved with the Hilltop Players, landing a leading role in one of its productions in her freshman year.

“I had wanted Berklee so much and I was really looking for a connection to music and performance. I understand the enormity of the financial responsibility I was putting on my mother and myself, so being here, I got involved.”

Pierre went on to become a resident assistant, a tour guide, and even served as the designated person to sing the national anthem “at the basketball games and other keynoted events,” she said. 

Graduating from FSU with a bachelor of arts in communication arts and a minor in music, Pierre went on to get her master’s degree in higher education and student affairs at Salem State University. Today, she works as a Field Education Specialist at Wheelock College. Pierre also works as a theater adjudicator and regularly performs in musical productions in the MetroWest area, Rodriguez said.

In terms of utilizing her network, Pierre said it’s all about staying connected with important contacts.

“We are in the day of Facebook,” she said. “When we say to use your network, it may not be that formal email we are talking about, but it’s staying connected with that one friend that you know works at a financial complex … It’s really trying to stay in contact with those individuals who you shared experiences with at Framingham State,” she said.

Bartley’s decision to come to FSU was mainly predicated on the fact that the University provided her with the most scholarship money.

Coming from a primarily white high school, Bartley said she was looking to connect to her culture, so she decided to join BSU.

Eventually, Bartley served as BSU’s president. Her main mission as president, she said, was to emphasize the point that BSU “wasn’t about being black. It was about celebrating black culture.”

As an education major, Bartley thought it was her mission to educate the FSU community about other cultures, she said.

Bartley graduated FSU with a bachelor of science in elementary education and went on to pursue her master’s in special education at UMass Boston. Today, she works as a teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School in Newton Massachusetts. 

The group also took the opportunity to discuss the recent hate crime investigations going on at FSU.

Pierre said while she certainly experienced racism while on campus, it was never so blatant.

She said it’s all about calling people out for their racist behavior, because if people don’t, it is just going to “fester.”

Bartley recommended the audience read the book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race.”

Rodiguez said as an alum, he is still part of the FSU community and still needs to be an active member in it.

He said, “Though we left maybe five, six or seven years ago, we’re accountable for what is going on on this campus.”

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