Candidate shares strategies to support FSU community members of color
By Nadira Wicaksana
Constanza Cabello, the first candidate for the position of vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, answered questions from the FSU community at two open forums April 22.
Cabello, currently at Stonehill College as the assistant to the president for institutional diversity and director of intercultural affairs, has worked in higher ed for more than a decade. She has worked primarily in diversity efforts for various institutions in New England, including University of Massachusetts Lowell and her alma mater, University of Connecticut.
She has a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies from UConn, a master’s degree in counseling and student development in higher education from Central Connecticut State University, and a doctorate in education from Northeastern University, specializing in organizational leadership studies.
“Being from a Latin immigrant family, it was expected I would become either a doctor, a lawyer, or go into business,” she said.
Cabello’s experiences with a law internship, she said, steered her in a different direction career-wise, but her “experience in law informs a lot of decision-making” in her job.
Cabello cited her background as a first-generation immigrant from Chile and college student as one of the primary reasons she entered her field. Her parents, she said, saw the value of education, but their unfamiliarity with the system in the United States posed obstacles when she applied to schools.
“We stayed in the country because my parents saw the access to higher education as easier [than in Chile],” she said.
But her undergraduate experience was not very diverse, she said. “I saw a lot of Vineyard Vines and North Face,” Cabello joked at the student forum, “and it was a little bit of a culture shock.”
She added she “wanted to see [her]self reflected” in academia. “When I was in college, the only Latinas I saw were working in the dining hall.”
Cabello said one of the things she enjoys about FSU is its commitment to diversity and inclusion. “I feel really connected to the mission of this institution.”
She added one of her goals is to increase the amount of communication between different departments on campus. A problem she said she wants to fix is the culture of “islands of excellence,” in which many departments “operate as silos” and do not interact very much.
As a result, many faculty – especially those who aren’t in the humanities and social sciences – do not end up addressing racial bias and other social issues in their classes, she said.
“People don’t engage because they are afraid they aren’t experienced enough,” she said. To address this problem, Cabello said more support in the form of increased mentorship programs and resources for faculty of color are needed.
She added her leadership style is influenced by her personal and professional backgrounds. She said faculty perform a lot of “invisible labor” she would try to better acknowledge as an administrator.
“I’m not a talk-down leader,” she said. “I do a lot of listening.”
History professor Maria Bollettino asked Cabello what she would do to incorporate “the larger community” – the MetroWest area – in her diversity and inclusion efforts.
Cabello said from her own experiences and taking into account the needs of the student body, she sees “great potential” in FSU to be classified as a Hispanic-serving institution.
She said, “I believe we have an obligation to serve our local community.”
Candidate empathizes with students by retelling personal stories of racial bias
By Cara McCarthy
Moise St. Louis, the second candidate for vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, answered questions from the FSU community at two open forums April 24.
St. Louis is currently the associate dean of students at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, according to his biography on the Framingham State website. During his more than 25-year career in higher education, he has helped to create strategies and policies for addressing diversity and inclusion.
“I realized I could make an impact, one student at a time,” St. Louis said, while discussing his “passion and motivation” for working in student affairs.
He added, “I am committed to making sure that people have what they need to reach their full potential.”
Jon Huibregtse, history professor and director of CELTSS, asked St. Louis to talk about his experience working with faculty concerning issues of diversity and inclusion.
St. Louis said, “You can’t do the work of diversity and inclusion without thinking of the faculty and their impact on the classroom.”
He added he runs most of the faculty training at Saint Michael’s College.
During the open forum in DPAC, St. Louis said he had a message to share with the students in attendance.
He opened up to the audience about his experience during his first year as an undergraduate student at UMass Amherst, where he said a racial slur was written on his friend’s door in feces.
St. Louis said, “I know what it’s like to not feel safe in the places you are supposed to focus and get an education.”
He added, “I get it – I’ve lived it.”
St. Louis said when those incidents happen, he hopes the response will not come from the people who have been targeted, but that it will come from “the rest of us.”
He added, “We can’t just claim community – we have to actualize it.”
Virginia Rutter, sociology professor, asked St. Louis for specific examples of how he could get his upper-level colleagues and the rest of the campus community to understand and work in response to the concept of racism and other forms of structural bias. St. Louis said it is not thinking about “the cabinet” as a whole, but rather understanding the individual and trying to build a relationship of trust within the cabinet.
“It’s not just that we don’t buy it – we just don’t see it,” he added.
Maria Bollettino, history professor, asked St. Louis about his ideas for building the community, stating that students have “a lot on their plates,” and so community is something they are “yearning” for, but they don’t find it on campus.
St. Louis said, “When they [the students] have a need, they need to know where to access that need and where the support is.”
At the beginning of the student forum, St. Louis had the students in attendance form a circle instead of sitting in the rows that were set up in the Alumni Room. He said he likes to decrease the distance between himself and students.
A student asked St. Louis what he believes FSU needs to work on.
St. Louis said he remembers when Framingham State was not as diverse.
He added, “We don’t have a choice. If you want the institution to be valuable, you have no choice but to adapt to a changing environment.”