Institutional News

Creating a Sense of Belonging

In this Q&A, get to know Dr. Alfredo Medina, Jr., Bennington College's Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and College Diversity Officer.

A strategic thought leader, Dr. Medina is a higher education professional with more than 20 years of experience working in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and equity, civic and public engagement, and risk management and compliance.

How did you hear about Bennington? What drew you to working here?

Having worked in a liberal arts environment for more than 14 years, Bennington has always been nationally recognized for its intellectual inquiry in the arts. However, I had no idea how close Bennington was located to New York's Capital Region.
After reading about Bennington’s bold intentions to become an antiracist institution, I decided to apply for the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) position. From what I gathered during my interview process with faculty, staff, and students, Bennington holds tremendous potential as a predominantly white institution (PWI) to become a leader in social justice. I want to play a part in making that happen.

What are you most looking forward to in this upcoming year at Bennington? 

One of the key reasons I joined the Bennington community is to work with students. I look forward to creating and holding space for students, particularly minoritized students, and creating a sense of belonging.  

An initiative that excites me is the We Project, a student-led organization dedicated to facilitating and supporting a network of workshops and affinity spaces to foster a safe and inclusive community committed to antiracism and social justice. I want to amplify all student voices and empower them with the tools and language to challenge systemic racism and bigotry.  

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Delivering keynote speech at the 12th Annual Capital Region YMCA ¡Si, Se Puede! Latino Youth Festival (2019)
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Doctoral hooding ceremony at the University at Albany, SUNY (2021)
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Keynote address at the Capital Region Sponsor-a-Scholar Holiday Alumni Celebration (2019)

What's your favorite spot on campus?

There are many spots on campus to choose from, but my favorite is the End of the World. When time allows, I enjoy walks on campus and taking a moment to decompress and reflect at this location. When I'm simply overwhelmed, staring out at Mount Anthony helps get me centered and puts my mind at ease.  

How does your research in DEI affect the way you view your own identity, and vice versa?

Identity has always played an integral role in my life —personally and professionally. For much of my adult life, I've struggled with negotiating my identity as an AfroLatino. This sense of identity confusion was exacerbated by ahistorical narratives regarding my African heritage and living and working in predominantly white spaces. 

It is emotionally and mentally exhausting to constantly confront systems, policies, and behaviors associated with privilege and power. When a person has been minoritized for most of their life, racial battle fatigue is common and can lead to unconsciously upholding white supremacy.

I use my research on Latinx identity coupled with my DEI training background, particularly using race focused frameworks, and lived experience to help reclaim power—the power to challenge, dismantle, and interrogate all forms of oppression and racial injustices and provide historically victimized people, such as myself, with voice. 

I want to amplify all student voices and empower them with the tools and language to challenge systemic racism and bigotry. 

Dr. Alfredo Medina, Jr.

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Received Proclamation from the New York State Assembly as an inaugural Fellow of the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute (2018)
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Delivering a historical perspective on racism at the 2018 YWCA of the Greater Capital Region Stand Against Racism Symposium (2018)
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Celebrating brotherhood with members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated, a historically African American fraternity founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on January 9, 1914. (2021)

How do you, personally, recognize/celebrate Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month?

I enjoy educating people about the history and experiences of Hispanic/Latinx/Latine groups most often marginalized and not spoken about extensively. For me, I celebrate the Indigenous and African roots of my ancestors by centering historical narratives and experiences over those groups that colonized and enslaved Africans and Indigenous people. 

What would you like the Bennington community to learn about the holiday?

The history often told about Hispanics and Latines is whitewashed and tied to colonization. This month, I'll speak with college students about the complexities and problems associated with Latinidad, a sociopolitical ideology rooted in colonialism that diminishes the legacy, traditions, and practices of African and Indigenous ancestry.

If we're going to celebrate Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, it's important to decolonize our thinking and begin to provide accurate historical accounts, both good and bad, that captures that full spectrum of who we are as a people.