The ALANA (African American/Black Latino Asian/Asian American Native American) Center has been a valuable resource for Vassar’s students of color for many years, but the center’s new director says it has plenty of “untapped potential.”
Luz Burgos-Lopez was appointed to the position last week, and she says she’s already developing a three-year strategic plan to enhance the center’s programs and services. “I’ve already spoken to many students, faculty and administrators here, and a lot of them view the ALANA Center as a safe place that provides valuable resources,” Burgos-Lopez says. “But there are also students who barely know the ALANA Center’s mission, and I’d like to change that.”
Specifically, Burgos-Lopez plans to create two advisory boards, one composed of faculty and administrators and another composed of students, to provide feedback and suggestions. She says she also plans to beef up the ALANA Center’s relationship with faculty, departments, other student groups and organizations on campus. “There has been some collaboration with these groups in the past, but I’d like to make it more formal and institutionalized,” she says.
A 2009 graduate of Wesleyan University, Burgos-Lopez recently received her master’s degree in counseling education with a specialization in student development from Central Connecticut State University. While attending graduate school, she worked as a hall director for the Housing and Residential Life Office at Eastern Connecticut State University. Prior to working in housing, she worked in the Intercultural and Women’s centers at Eastern Connecticut State. She has also worked as a union organizer for janitorial and health care workers. “I’ve always had a passion for social justice – from an early age I learned I sometimes had to be my own advocate,” Burgos-Lopez says.
A native of Puerto Rico, Burgos-Lopez spoke only Spanish when her family immigrated to Hartford, CT, when she was a child. When she was in second grade, she was told she had failed a test that would have enabled her to move into an all-English-speaking class in the third grade. But when she showed up for school the following fall, she and another Latina friend marched into an English-speaking class. “We told the teacher we belonged there, and we succeeded,” she says.
Burgos-Lopez says that experience taught her about the barriers her family and other people of color often face. She says she’s looking forward to learning more about the challenges facing students of color at Vassar. “The students here are outspoken, and they’ll let me know what’s working and what’s not working.”
Edward Pittman, associate dean of the college for campus life and diversity, said he was “thrilled to have Luz lead the ALANA Center. She brings extraordinary vision and knowledge to support our students and take the center to new heights.”
Photo © Vassar College-Buck Lewis