AIC Welcomes New Assistant Director of Diversity Education

Bianca Figueroa- Santana, the new Assistant Director of Diversity Education at AIC.

Ave Mullen

Bianca Figueroa- Santana, the new Assistant Director of Diversity Education at AIC.

Avé Mullen, Staff Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts – AIC has a new Assistant Director of Diversity Education, and her name is Bianca Figueroa-Santana. Originally from South Deerfield, Massachusetts, Figueroa-Santana relocated to Springfield to be closer to family. She  is now also a huge party of the AIC family.

Graduating from Brown University with her bachelor’s degree in international relations, Figueroa-Santana is passionate about advocating for and supporting students with diverse backgrounds.

Right before coming to AIC, Figueroa-Santana worked for a huge law firm in New York where she continued to work on immigration cases pro bono. Coming to Springfield and working at AIC in diversity education is a big change, but her position allows her to use the skills she acquired through law school (along with her knowledge of international studies and her passion of helping others) to creatively support and engage with the diverse AIC student body. Figueroa-Santana is good at spotting issues, addressing those issues, and finding solutions, which makes her a promising advocate and an important resource for students.

Figueroa-Santana, who has been at AIC for a few months now, commented on her favorite thing about our community so far. “It has to be the students,” she said. “If you’re working in higher [education] and you don’t like working with students, then you’re probably in the wrong spot. But I think that the students have been very friendly. Very welcoming. And it’s clear that they take their education seriously and want support in pursuing their education, so I appreciate that.”

Bianca Figueroa- Santana, the new Assistant Director of Diversity Education at AIC. (Ave Mullen)

After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Figueroa-Santana began work as a seventh-grade teacher in San Francisco, where she was assigned to help “newcomer” students, which are students who have been living in the United States no longer than six months. These students, or sometimes even their parents, faced immigration issues and language barriers. Figueroa-Santana provided education and support for those who needed it.

This experience inspired Figueroa-Santana to pursue a law degree at Columbia University, where she studied immigration law. She continued to work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU), which helped asylum seekers find refuge through impact litigation that challenged immigration law on a Constitutional basis.

Figueroa-Santana has only been here for two months, but she is already working with the student body on scheduling programs and events for the spring calendar. Students and staff can look forward to Dinner & Dialogue programs and the beloved Let’s Get Real series. Figueroa-Santana is also working with students to create support groups for first-generation students and for students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color–or BIPOC. There is a new BIPOC lounge located in the Center for Student Engagement, which serves as a safe space for any student needing a break.

The BIPOC Lounge, located in the Center for Student Engagement. (Ave Mullen)

“I like the lounge,” shared Ananda Burnard, a junior communication major at AIC. “It’s a safe space. I like to come here in between classes to recharge and study outside of my room and still be around peers.”

Figueroa-Santana loves to provide support to students because she also faced difficult challenges and adversities throughout her education and work experience. She suffered with imposter syndrome and not feeling confident enough in a big corporate world. To combat this, she relied on mentors and her community to motivate her to achieve her goals. Even the brightest and most successful students struggle sometimes.

Figueroa-Santana is also working on starting a peer mentor program at AIC, where students can offer support to one another, and enhance our sense of community on campus. In the end, Figueroa-Santana hopes to build great relations with the students and to help them achieve their goals.

To get involved, visit the Center for Student Engagement located on the second floor of the Campus Center, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. And be sure to say hi to Bianca if you see her!