June 16, 2024
scattered clouds Clouds 50 °F

Two Binghamton leaders named fellows of Hispanic Leadership Institute

Program supports Hispanic/Latinx faculty and staff in the SUNY system

Diana Castellanos and Giovanna Montenegro have been nominated to SUNY's Hispanic Leadership Institute, which supports Hispanic/Latinx faculty and staff in the SUNY system. Diana Castellanos and Giovanna Montenegro have been nominated to SUNY's Hispanic Leadership Institute, which supports Hispanic/Latinx faculty and staff in the SUNY system.
Diana Castellanos and Giovanna Montenegro have been nominated to SUNY's Hispanic Leadership Institute, which supports Hispanic/Latinx faculty and staff in the SUNY system. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

Two of Binghamton University’s faculty and staff have been nominated and are working as fellows for SUNY’s 2024 Hispanic Leadership Institute. 11 members from the SUNY system have been selected, with Binghamton being the only institution to have two representatives.

The two fellows are Diana Castellanos, a talent acquisition specialist and divisional diversity officer for Student Affairs; and Giovanna Montenegro, associate professor of comparative literature and director of the Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies Program.

Established in 2017, the leadership program provides extensive training and assistance to fellows to support growth within their positions and allow Hispanic/Latinx faculty and staff to flourish. During this six-month hybrid program, fellows attend scheduled meetings, sessions, webinars and leadership retreats. The program concludes with an individual capstone project.

“It’s an honor to have been nominated and selected to a program whose focus is to increase the leadership pipeline among Latinx/e staff and faculty within the SUNY system,” Castellanos said. “It shows a commitment and investment from SUNY in making sure they are developing the next generation of diverse leaders. It’s a great feeling to be a part of a cohort who have similar backgrounds and experiences. You don’t get that very often as a staff member.”

Castellanos and Montenegro both see the great importance of increasing POC (person of color) voices within academic institutions.

“As part of the program, we have to seek mentors. I had to do a bit of cold calling and cold emailing Latine people in higher ed,” Montenegro said. “It was hard to find Latine leaders, and especially a woman… I’m one of around 3 percent of Latina faculty who are tenured.”

Due to their backgrounds, it was crucial for Castellanos and Montenegro to continue embracing their culture and advocating for representation.

“My own experience of navigating a college campus as a first-gen Latina who had no formal support system in place and feeling like I didn’t belong has driven my purpose,” Castellanos said. “I know that we have great resources at Binghamton to allow for any student to succeed; we just need to be able to help connect students with those resources.”

Montenegro finds great joy in her work specializing in unraveling the history of Spanish colonization. “I went to an elementary school in Caracas that was a bilingual, Italian and Spanish school that celebrated a narrative of exploration and colonization without really celebrating any of the heroes of the indigenous resistance, and also of the many enslaved and trafficked Africans that would form part of Venezuelan culture.” This ultimately inspired Montenegro to push for a change in the narrative.

One of Castellanos’ favorite parts of being a talent acquisition specialist is ensuring that they are recruiting a diverse pool of candidates for a variety of positions that will be interfacing with students.

“It’s important that our students see themselves in our staff,” she said.

Castellanos and Montenegro hope to inspire other faculty, staff, and students with their journey through the Hispanic Leadership fellowship. And eventually, as Montenegro said, “break down some of those barriers between the faculty, students, community and University.”

Posted in: Campus News, Harpur