When Michelle Rosa Martins interviewed on campus last fall, word started to spread among students that the former associate director of the Office of Multicultural Education (OME) was back on The Hill. “All day long we had students coming to the office and trying to get a glimpse of her,” says Michelle Bata, associate dean for student engagement.
Rosa Martins, who most recently served as director of postsecondary success and alumni engagement at The College Crusade of Rhode Island, always suspected she would feel the pull back to Holy Cross. “I felt like my work [here] wasn’t done,” she says.
She was right. In February, she returned to campus as the newly hired director of OME, following the retirement of Mable Millner. Michele Murray, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, says the division feels “incredibly fortunate” to have Rosa Martins in place to continue “the legacy she was part of building” and chart new paths for the office.
Rosa Martins says one of the aspects she loves about Holy Cross is that the community isn’t afraid to ask big questions, such as: How can OME best serve and respond to the needs of all students, especially those from historically marginalized backgrounds? Through outreach, brainstorming sessions and surveys, she and her colleagues want to bring students, faculty and staff together to provide answers.
“As a leader, I don’t like to create a narrative for folks,” she says. “My goal is to help staff and faculty across campus see us as partners in the work, so when they’re engaging any population on campus around any type of difference, we can be useful in that conversation from a place of identity building and identity development.”
The office will continue to support many of its successful initiatives, including multicultural student organizations, the Multicultural Peer program, lecture series, diversity trainings and the first-year Odyssey summer program — just to name a few. “We’re adding to that, not erasing the history of what came before us,” says Rosa Martins, citing her gratitude for Millner’s nearly 20 years of work creating the foundation that allows for OME’s evolution. “It’s a continuum.”
A top priority for the office is creating a space within OME dedicated to LGBTQIA+ students and their success. “Staff in student affairs have been welcoming and supportive, but we’ve not had a landing place for LGBTQIA+ students in the division,” Murray says. The vision moving forward includes “enhanced resources and services for LGBTQIA+ students,” Bata shares.
To that end, Amie Archambault, former Holy Cross community development coordinator in residential life and housing, has been hired for OME’s newly created role of assistant director – LGBTQIA+ specialist.
“The fact that Amie’s role has LGBTQ in the title is huge and is really going to move us forward in creating transparent services for students,” says Rosa Martins, who envisions the position serving as a hub for the many existing campuswide supports for LGBTQIA+ students. Archambault will focus on first-generation college student success, as well.
“What’s important is hearing directly from our students what they need from us for the future of the programs and services provided by our office,” Archambault says. “I’m so privileged to be in a position where I get to be a voice and help to create [the future of OME]. We don’t all get to have an experience in our careers where we feel like we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.”
Another office priority is expanding support for first-generation college students and their families, building off the success of HCF1RST Scholars — a first-generation and/or low-income college student initiative Rosa Martins spearheaded during her years as OME associate director. “That support system has been able to reach students, staff and faculty throughout the academic year in a way we want to see other future programs do the same,”Rosa Martins says.
Rosa Martins moderates a screening of the new documentary “Race to the Start,” the history of the College’s Black Student Union.
Another new-but-familiar face in the office this spring is OME Assistant Director Chris Campbell ’15.
He joins OME from Amherst College, where he was assistant director of residential life for education and engagement. Since graduating from Holy Cross, he has maintained a pulse on campus as an active alumni member of the Bishop Healy Committee. Whether through his job, volunteering or mentorship, Campbell says he always sought and found ways to engage in diversity, equity and inclusion work: “That’s my calling, and that has always been my true passion.”
Within the office, he will spearhead success initiatives for students of color. “I see it as a moment to return home and to do meaningful work — to continue the legacy of folks who paved the path for me while I was at Holy Cross,” he notes.
Rosa Martins, Archambault and Campbell share a common message, excited to be part of this team and doing this work. “Their strengths and their gifts really complement each other … we’re so thrilled,” says Bata, who can’t wait to connect the team’s work with what’s happening across campus, fostering a more unified student experience. “The campus is ready and well-positioned to receive new approaches and new ideas.”
While the OME team members may have dedicated areas of focus, all are prepared and eager to work at the intersection of identities — an intentional message to students about the importance of caring for the whole person. “Each of us is complex,” Murray notes. “The different aspects of our identity intersect and inform who we are, and that’s ripe for exploration and understanding. It’s about engaging the whole person, which is true to our Ignatian heritage. This is where our students are, and it also reflects the reality of the human condition and the human experience. Increasing our capacity to respond to this reality is very exciting.”
St. Ignatius’ call to care for the marginalized through social justice is ultimately what defines the work, adds Rosa Martins: “That’s the easiest part of walking into this role. The mission is what we do.”
Written by Meredith Fidrocki for the Spring 2020 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.
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