ALANA welcomes new staffer

Coral Santos has already created ties with students in her short time here, and hopes to continue building a bias-free safe space for all identities. Pictured above, a student attends an ALANA event. Photo courtesy of Vassar College
Coral Santos has already created ties with students in her short time here, and hopes to continue building a bias-free safe space for all identities. Pictured above, a student attends an ALANA event. Photo courtesy of Vassar College
Coral Santos has already created ties with students in her short time here, and hopes to continue building a bias-free safe space for all identities. Pictured above, a student attends an ALANA event. Photo courtesy of Vassar College

There is a new face at Vassar’s AL­ANA Center. Coral Santos was hired in September as a part-time ad­ministrative assistant to the center’s interim director, Wendy Maragh Tay­lor. Santos is in the office every day from Monday to Friday, but her hours are flexible. This allows the Taylor to employ Santos when the ALANA Center really needs her, especially when there are events on the week­ends like student leader brunches. In short, Santos is essentially Taylor’s right hand. She takes phone calls, greets visitors to the center, looks over the center’s budget, keeps track of Taylor’s calendar and generally makes sure everything is running smoothly in one of Vassar’s most im­portant campus resource facilities.

Santos grew up in Poughkeepsie, and studied political science and busi­ness administration at the University of Albany. Before coming to Vassar, Santos worked as an administrator in multiple departments at the Univer­sity of Albany, including its student center and residential life office.

Santos reports that she has enjoyed her work at the ALANA Center thus far. She noted that she was aware of Vassar’s outreach programs while growing up in Pough­keepsie, and is thrilled to be working for the College now: “I really enjoy Vassar. Everyone in general is extremely friendly and welcoming, which is one thing I hope that I can recipro­cate as well … Vassar is spoken of very high­ly around here, and since I’ve come here I can say the same … I know that Vassar’s involved with Poughkeepsie high school, which I didn’t attend, but I have many family members who did. I have a friend that, through the program that Vassar has with Poughkeepsie, graduated from Poughkeepsie High School and decided to come here when she was accepted.”

Although she has only been here for a short time, Santos has already begun creating bonds with Vassar students, “I’ve been very welcom­ing with students. Students are usually busy so if they need any extra help with anything at the ALANA Center in general, I help alleviate some of the stress. Some kids will just come in when they need help with some flyers, I can get some creative juices flowing. I’ve been making a lot of posters, signs and flyers [for them].”

There were over 20 applicants to the position Santos now occupies. According to Taylor, San­tos stood out because of her warm personality and administrative experience. “I think Coral brings an incredible amount of experience in terms of the work she’s done previous to this. The kind of teamwork she’s done, the kind of social justice work she’s done, her support of young people and of students in particular, and of groups that have had experiences with bias and oppression,” Taylor noted. “Also, her ad­ministrative skills are also phenomenal.”

The ALANA Center’s final test before hiring someone new is a group interview with student interns, which Santos passed with flying colors. “Students also really enjoyed talking with her and meeting her during that group interview. They felt really good about her presence and how she would represent the office being that welcoming person,” said Taylor.

She also stressed that the center focused on Santos’s experience and temperament during the hiring process, but acknowledged the ad­vantages of having an administrative assistant who is a Poughkeepsie native: “[Santos] being from Poughkeepsie absolutely adds to [her val­ue] because we certainly have students here who are really interested in continuing to en­gage with the Poughkeepsie community. So [Santos is] able to be a resource, if needed, to see what kind of connections she has in the community for some sort of social justice work that students want to do. And [she] just sort of has a sense of what the concerns are in the com­munity.”

Santos has since affirmed that her connec­tions to Poughkeepsie have given her a distinct edge when helping students. “I would say it helps that I know some local areas or places that community service initiatives could be taking place in,” she remarked. “I [also] speak Spanish so I can bridge that in the community. There have been times when I’ve had to make some phone calls in Spanish so [people] feel more comfortable.”

Taylor is herself also a new addition to the Vassar faculty; she joined the campus commu­nity in August. Immediately upon her arrival, Taylor entreated Dean of the College Christo­pher Roellke to let her hire an assistant. Ac­cording to Taylor, Roellke agreed, but only to a part-time position. The ALANA Center has gone without an administrative assistant for al­most 10 years, since the most recent one retired during an era of budget cuts. Taylor hopes to eventually bump this new position to full-time status, however. She explained, “It would be great to have an administrative assistant who was full time. This is a center, right? So in addi­tion to [managing] things that are much more about programming; answering phones, work­ing on documents for us, welcoming anyone who comes into the center, there’s also just the business of managing the actual building! So some of the things that our administrative as­sistant is helping with are things like the water in the bathroom downstairs isn’t turning on. So someone who’s following up on that … I have found that Facilities Operations have been very responsive, but for them to respond you need to have someone who has the time to keep put­ting in those requests…it would be wonderful to have someone who could work more hours, and we hope to get there.”

For now, Taylor’s main focus is Vassar students. She’s taken with how bright and hard-working students are, and she knows that hiring Santos will allow her to focus her ener­gy on the more impactful parts of her job, like meeting with students one on one and helping them facilitate events. She also noted, “I’m also protective of making sure [the interns] get to be students. It’s important to be that their work as interns is around leadership and building lead­ership skills and being involved in program­ming and not doing administrative tasks.”

With any luck, the ALANA Center will soon have a full time administrative assistant. Per­haps there will one day be room in the Vassar budget for additional administrators like coor­dinators and assistant directors. That’s what Santos and Taylor are working towards. Ulti­mately, their goal is simply to let “students be students.”

One Comment

  1. Good Afternoon:
    In response to ALANA welcomes new staffer, By JAKOB ECKSTEIN on November 9, 2016, I feel a need to clarify that I said and consider Coral the administrative assistant for the ALANA Center, not “my” administrative assistant. The difference may seem a simple matter. However, it’s important, especially given her part-time status, to note that Coral’s focus is not on keeping me coordinated, maintaining my calendar or navigating tasks for me. Instead, her energy and time are spent on managing the details of the ALANA center so students can be well supported through its work. Thank you for the feature article. WMT

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