My day job is vice president for equity, inclusion and community engagement at Madison College. This is a new position at the College and was created to examine equity issues for students and staff and to ensure we’re engaging with the community, understanding where disparities exist and creating interventions to eliminate them.
Students are the center of our universe. We’re constantly asking ourselves, “Are they succeeding?” “Are they completing their studies?” “ What obstacles and barriers do they experience and how can we help overcome them?”
There’s been a huge call to action in these areas at community and technical colleges across the country. Because we provide open access for all students—unlike the application process of many other schools—we’ve become the education resource of choice for many. We’re examining data related to race, ethnicity and gender and employing established best practices to address barriers and find solutions.
My most memorable caffeine is the coffee that I called “Cafa”—which was simply my three-year-old pronunciation of café (coffee) I got from my favorite “Abuela” (grandma), my mother’s mom. I was born in Cuba and the standard breakfast was a cup of café con leche (coffee with milk) and a piece of bread to dip in it. “Cafa” was one of my first words!
My current caffeine of choice is a dark roast. A favorite is Maya Super Dark from Just Coffee. I usually have a cup or two in the morning—I used to drink it all day but I don’t do that any more. I don’t like flavored coffee. Coffee has the perfect smell and taste—don’t mess with it! If I’m having a Cuban coffee, I’ll take it black with sugar.
My favorite place for caffeine is often Cargo Coffee on E. Wash because it’s convenient, it’s easy to park and the owner’s kids go to school with mine. I prefer to support local coffee shops.
The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is my Abuela Carmen who died when I was just three years old. She was born in Spain and migrated to Cuba. She spent some part of her life in the convent, where she learned how to create beautiful white-on-white embroidery. I have very few memories of her and would love a chance to wit with her.
I’d also like to have coffee with Fidel Castro. My family left Cuba in 1965 and I’d like to meet the man who had such a huge impact on my country and my life.
Other people I’d love to meet include Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson. I’m fascinated by women writers of that era—the very few opportunities available to women of that time and how these writers felt about that. To that list I’d add Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, a 17th century nun who was an early feminist, wrote books and poetry and studied music, philosophy and natural science.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Ensuring that every African American child could read proficiently by the third grade. This proficiency is the foundation of academic success: math, social studies, science and more are all based on one’s ability to read and comprehend. The Race to Equity report captures the gaps in this area and the many factors that contribute to it. The ability to read impacts everything else and would make a critical difference to these children’s success.