A new Multicultural Center Coordinator started June 30.
Stephanie Hernandez Rivera majored in Women’s and Gender Studies, Psychology and Early Childhood Education during her undergraduate career at William Paterson University. She worked at Ramapo College in northern New Jersey while she obtained her master’s in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University.
She said she decided to pursue Women’s and Gender Studies because she felt like she hadn’t been exposed to enough of it.
“I felt like the journey wasn’t over,” Rivera said.
Rivera said she is very excited about working at MU. At Ramapo College, she mentored a student named Yovanna Garcia. Garcia said she is confident in Rivera’s ability to adapt to a new campus, and make a difference.
“I see her fitting in perfectly,” Garcia said. “She does a good job of supporting people.”
Garcia said she also feels that the transition to a larger university will be easy for Rivera.
“At a larger institution, she’ll have more resources,” she said. “She’s such an incredible, passionate person. She does the work of 40 other people.”
Garcia said Rivera’s passion is evident when she talks about her goals as coordinator for the center.
Rivera said her first goal is to not impose her own vision. She said that she’s also extremely excited to hear about the visions held by MU students about the center.
Rivera, however, said she wants the community of MU to have more understanding of multiculturalism and culture in general.
“In a society that is ever changing, people need to know how to adapt and understand,” Rivera said.
Rivera said she believes in the strength of education, and that it can make a huge difference in society’s perspective of the community around them. She said she plans to make education a large component in her mentoring as the MCC coordinator.
“Centers (like the MCC) are really important because they educate communities,” Rivera said.
Garcia said Rivera involved herself deeply in the community at Ramapo College, and that her passion for diversity goes outside of work and doesn’t end when she clocks out.
“She goes to events after hours and takes her work home with her every day,” Garcia said.
Rivera said she works hard for diversity, on whatever college campus she is at, and said that her own personal identity has influenced how she appears in her community.
Rivera hails from New Jersey; however, she said her immediate family lives all over. She said she visited her family in Puerto Rico twice last year and intends to travel there during Christmas.
One of the things Rivera said she has noticed about the Midwest is how things also move a little slower here.
She said she saw many differences between living in New Jersey and living in Missouri.
“People take time with you here,” she said. “People in New Jersey are moving fast.”
However, despite the differences in the two states, Rivera said the challenges are all the same.
“People don’t expect me to be eloquent in my speech or knowledgeable because of my race and gender,” Rivera said. “The world is very gendered and raced.”
Rivera said she wants people at MU to have a better understanding of culture and she feels that education is a way to enact positive change in the world.
Beyond her academic and professional passions, though, Rivera enjoys getting together with friends and seeing her godchildren grow up.
Rivera said she is also an avid organizer and has a healthy enthusiasm for cleanliness. She said that being in Missouri before she started work at the center gave her time to organize and unpack.
“It’s been a great rush organizing everyday,” Rivera said.
She said she plans to use her skills at organization to create an inclusive atmosphere in the center.