Diversity Center Seeking Assistant Director Specializing in Race and Ethnicity

Naseeb Bhangal on a campus tour with Student Ambassador Yadira Alonzo on May 24.

Cecilia G. Hernandez, Writer

“When was the first time you realized your race?” Alyscia Raines, the Resident Director and Coordinator at Concordia University Chicago, asked the small group of NEIU students, faculty and staff during her open presentation on May 21. Raines shared she was 10 when she first thought about her race after her mother bought her a book of “just black inventors.”

She was working on a biography of an inventor for her class and her mother did not allow her to pick anyone outside of the book. When Raines asked why, her mother said: “It’s really important that you insert yourself into the pages of your textbooks.”

“My story of people who look like me wasn’t seen, and so my mom was making sure that I was being seen – seen in history, and seen in innovation and seen in creativity,” Raines said.

Raines is one of the three candidates for the Assistant Director position of the Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs, along with Naseeb Bhangal and Mark Anthony Florido.

The Assistant Director position requires a candidate who specializes in race and ethnicity and has experience working with students while conducting diversity programming.

Each candidate had one full day packed with activities meant to showcase NEIU. They met with the Pedroso Center’s staff, had lunch with five NEIU students and had a campus tour lead by Enrollment Services’ Student Ambassador Yadira Alonzo.

The three candidates all had to conduct an open presentation to the NEIU community in which they talked about the importance and challenges of race and ethnicity education at an urban, mostly commuter, Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).

“[It’s an] opportunity to work with mostly students of color because HSIs are serving majority students of color who hold multiple forms of marginalizing experiences, and not because they are less-than, but they need encouragement, they need reminders that you bring a lot of capital, you bring a lot of power to our campus,” Naseeb Bhangal said after having lunch with Brandon Blade, Gisella Milla, Cecilia G. Hernandez and Alonzo on May 24.

When asked by the Independent, “Why NEIU?” Bhangal, the Program Coordinator of Women’s Initiatives and Community Outreach at Loyola University Chicago, said the description for the Assistant Director position “couples together the very things I’m very passionate about: leadership development, identity engagement, race and ethnicity, [and] racial justice.”

Bhangal serves as a mentor of the NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) at Loyola to increase the “number of historically disenfranchised and underrepresented professionals in student affairs and higher education,” according to her resume.

Bhangal also taught courses on leadership in 2017 at Loyola, and a course called “Interrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline” (also at Loyola) where she helped her students with resources to “facilitate ongoing critical reflection of individual, cultural and institutional oppressions” from January 2015 until May 2017.

She is currently trying to earn her master’s degree in education from Loyola.

During their presentations, Raines and Florido both focused on Tara J. Yosso’s Cultural Wealth Model in which Yosso argues the six types of capital (and any other capital) can be used to empower students.

“I have a statement that I came up with and it goes like this: I see you, I hear you, you matter,” Raines said. During her presentation, Raines emphasized on the importance of recognizing students’ strengths and helping them find resources they can use to help them in their academic career.

Raines earned her master’s degree in higher education and a certificate in assessment from Loyola University Chicago. While she was an undergraduate student, Raines co-founded the first black student leadership conference at the University of Urbana-Campaign in 2009.

She was the advisor for the Black Student Union at Framingham State University in Massachusetts back in 2013 until July 2014, and published “Experiences of Black Alumnae From PWIs (predominantly white institutions): Did they thrive?” in the NASPA journal in June 2017.

All candidates spoke about the diverse student population NEIU holds, each focusing on different racial groups and how to increase programming that creates an inclusive environment while in an HSI.

Mark Anthony Florido, the Senior Advisor in the Office of First and Second Year Advising at Loyola University Chicago, has a masters in higher education and student affairs from New York University since May 2014.

He was a New Americans Democracy Project Fellow for the Asian American Advancing Justice in Chicago from July to November 2014, where he managed “Get Out The Vote efforts at 14 community organizations,” according to his resume.

Jessie Miller, the Student Success and Retention Coordinator in the Learning Success Center under Title V grant, said Raines, Florido and Bhangal were picked from a pool of “about 60 applicants” to come to the main campus and meet the NEIU community.

“I knew from question one, I really liked these candidates,” Miller said about Raines, Florido and Bhangal. “It was clear that it wouldn’t be just a job for them. We had to sit through 25 more minutes of each of them and I was just like, ‘I’m sold already!’”

Miller said the candidates are not expected to know everything about race and ethnicity, but they do need to be team-oriented.

“They need to be prepared to come in running, wanting to get to know and collaborate with everyone,” Miller said.

After the candidates’ presentation, NEIU students, faculty and staff were given evaluations where they’d give the candidates a score from 1-5 based on the candidates’ knowledge, skills and experience demonstrated throughout the presentation.

When approached by the Independent, the Search Committee refused to comment on the selection process of the three candidates.

The Search Committee looked over the evaluations on May 31. They will compile a list of strengths and weakness of each candidate and will send it to Maria Genao-Homs, Director of the Angelina Pedroso Center, whom will ultimately pick the candidate.

Assistant Director of Student Leadership Development Rae Joyce Baguilat, a member of the Search Committee, said it will be two to three weeks until a candidate is chosen and a few more weeks to announce who the candidate is to the rest of the NEIU community.


*Disclaimer: The writer and reporter of this story, Cecilia G. Hernandez, is a Student Aide of the Angelina Pedroso Center.