Charting a Career in Diversity at Boston University

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They are determined to use their experience, influence, and positions to help make their business, organization, and world a more inclusive place. They are breaking barriers—and then reaching back to help those behind them overcome the same hurdles. They are mentoring students or younger colleagues, hiring diverse candidates, offering opportunities, and ensuring that employees succeed and are promoted so that their workplace and their communities reflect the richness and talents of the country’s increasingly diverse population.

Raul Fernandez graduated from the College of Communication with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and quickly found himself working at an agency that handled some of the nation’s largest tech companies. This being the early 2000s, though, that tech bubble burst, and Fernandez (COM’00, Wheelock’16) segued into higher education, teaching public speaking and eventually working in PR for colleges and universities. But he felt something was missing in his career, so when a friend suggested he apply to replace her as assistant director of the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground back at his alma mater on Comm Ave, he decided to try for it.

Now, more than a decade later and with a doctorate in education from BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, Fernandez is associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion and a lecturer at Wheelock.

His passion for change doesn’t stop at the edge of campus. In May 2019, he won a three-way race for a seat on the Brookline, Mass., Select Board, promising to bring new voices and wider representation to the town’s decision-making. His campaign had a little help from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (CAS’11), who had been elected to Congress, representing New York’s 14th Congressional district, in November 2018. The two have been friends since she was a Thurman Center student ambassador.

Fernandez also serves on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Racial Imbalance Advisory Council and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Equity, Inclusion, & Social Justice Division.

Bostonia spoke to Fernandez about diversity in higher ed and doing what’s right even when there may be consequences for speaking up. (read more)

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