Sandra Vazquez is not afraid of a challenge. She started out as a student at Brockport and became an intern for the Hazen Center of Integrated Care. Later she became a graduate counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program. Now her career has really come full circle as she tries to implement policy changes across the college in her new position in the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Vazquez is the Diversity Recruiter and Retention Specialist for faculty and staff.
Dr. Vazquez has been a role model for women and men of color here at the college for a few years now. She has been a member of the college for 11 years total.
“I graduated from Brockport in the E.O.P. program which really allowed me to dabble in this kind of arena of helping students because somebody helped me,” says Vazquez. “I had the privilege of having Dan Askey, who is still here, be my counselor after I graduated. He really was an influencer to me and told me that no matter what skills I didn’t have, and no matter what background I didn’t have, that I could still make it.”
One of her co-workers from E.O.P. who had the chance to see Vazquez’s skills in action is Counselor, Kevon London-Hill.
“She is a strong willed woman who has taught me valuable life lessons about building relationships and professionalism that is transferrable to any life situation. I am thankful for her passion and authenticity,” Says London Hill. “It has helped me model some of my own methods in working with students and how I can be a confidant, mentor, adviser, and much more for the students we serve.”
Along with being a role model and a confidant for students and staff she is also putting in a lot of work outside of the school as well. She has worked in various areas of mental health practice, and has completed her certification to be a trauma counselor for survivors of sexual assault.
“When I was working towards my masters I actually wanted to be a clinical psychologist. At the time I was working at Hillside in the city,” said Vazquez. “I dealt with a lot of dually diagnosed students but also within an educational capacity. It was a school of 36 students that were dually diagnosed. I really tried to find my way through that.”
She did not like that line of work because according to Vazquez there was too much testing and that did not allow her to really get to know the students for who they were. This led her to come back to Brockport as a graduate councilor.
“I ended up working as an Assistant Director side by side with the other Assistant Director which was Dan Askey, who supported me through my years as a student. That in itself was coming full circle for me,” says Vazquez.
Eventually Vazquez wanted to make a greater impact at the college in terms of policy. The Diversity Recruiter and Retention Specialist job opened up and she applied for the position.
“I did not know that I was going to get the position. I don’t have experience with recruitment. I do have the passion to recruit. I understand what it means to retain. I have been a person of color at this college for 11 years,” says Vazquez. “So I needed to talk to other faculty and staff about what it would take to do that here, and the importance of being part of this change.”
One of the people she reached out to about what would be expected of her was Dr. Cephas Archie.
“I think [her background] is a critical asset of hers and what separates her from the rest of the pack. What I have appreciated is the acknowledgment that here at the college, she is probably the highest-ranking Hispanic female in the institution. She has earned that title,” says Archie.
She does not only work to support students of color either, she works to support students from all backgrounds and cultures as well.
“It’s a give and take from both sides. It’s about addressing the barriers on both sides of the argument and reaching an understanding about what keeps us from being able to integrate and really have these conversations that we have to have,” says Vazquez.
According to Vazquez, in order for the college to be diverse and form healthy connections to all cultures, we must have healthy dialogues about each other’s history so that there can be a mutual understanding and togetherness.
“She has worked and demonstrated her skill sets as an employee and as an advocate for students. Specifically for students that are from underrepresented communities,” says Archie. “I can also say that in general I have seen her be a champion of the needs of students, period. Those who are both represented and underrepresented.”
In the end Vazquez’s goals are very simple. She simply wants to lead by example for her students and her family.
“Personally for me it’s always about the students. I also have a family who I have broken the cycle for, and for whom I feel very responsible for as I attempt to help them navigate the educational system,” says Vazquez. “To provide to them the same confidence and motivation that I have, but also to give them the tools and the capacity to really function and really flourish within a society that hasn’t really embraced diversity and inclusion.”