Minerva Muñoz hired as new Dean for Institutional Equity


New Dean of Institutional Equity Minerva Muñoz. Photo courtesy of Muñoz

Mandy Week, News Editor

On Wednesday, March 15, Minerva Muñoz began her work at Macalester as the new Dean for Institutional Equity. According to a Mac Daily announcement from Thursday, March 2, Muñoz previously served as the director of two TRIO programs at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She has also worked as an independent consultant to conduct equity audits and program assessments in equity and social justice education with St. Olaf College and the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. Now, at Macalester, her work centers community-building through education and service. 

Assistant Director of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center for Social Justice (LSC) Mads Clark reflected on their role as one of the co-chairs of the search committee — composed of students, faculty and staff — for the new dean and what the committee looked for in a candidate.

“[We] were keen on seeking candidates who had experience within higher education directly supporting historically underrepresented students within similar offices or departments to that of the LSC and Institutional Equity,” Clark wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “As well as someone who was a change maker and has led visionary growth of teams in creative, meaningful ways … Additionally, a strong candidate had passion to create new programming and spaces for a campus community to partake in while also making room for their own learning and growth of entering a new institution.”

Vice President for Institutional Equity Alina Wong weighed in on what she sees as some of the primary responsibilities and work within the role. In an email sent to Macalester community members on Friday, March 10, they highlighted three main initiatives: “developing a bias response program, creating equity education programs with campus partners, and establishing equity consulting teams that will support departments to embed equity principles across the college.” 

Further, Wong emphasized that the work of the dean and division of Institutional Equity as a whole is rooted in collaboration and conversation, with goals changing based on community needs and interest.

Building on this, Clark also discussed the “reimagining” of the position alongside the recent renaming of the LSC and how the role reflects that intentionality.

“Now that the Division of Institutional Equity has found its footing in terms of contextual and historical understandings on-campus, we can utilize our own team to be doing equity work across campus more effectively with this Dean role being crucial in that planning,” Clark wrote. 

They added that though some of the work will look similar to that of the former dean, who served as what was then known as the Dean for Multicultural Life, they anticipated and looked forward to new ideas being integrated into Institutional Equity’s approach of developing partnerships and programming across campus.

Muñoz expanded on where her efforts will be concentrated throughout the remaining weeks of the semester and going into the fall, including hiring an equity specialist — whose work will focus on organizing different heritage month celebrations at Macalester — and filling other vacant positions in the division. She also plans to cultivate a deeper understanding of the college’s organizational structure by connecting with others. 

“We’re going to really need to spend a lot of time to get to know each other, understand each other’s hearts and where our strengths are, so that we can fully form these strategies that we want to implement by fall,” Muñoz said.

Muñoz also detailed her background as a Latina and a low-income, first-generation college student and how her personal experiences and identities translate to her goal of creating programs and structures to support students who share these identities.

“I come from what I call abject poverty,” Muñoz said. “I was born in New York and education for me was the light: not only was it … a way for me to get out myself but [also to] help my family, … so I do this work intentionally. My goal is to really help what I consider my communities and make sure that they’re successful in whichever way success is defined in their brains. I want to be there to help support that.

“I see education for so many marginalized groups as being the vehicle that opens their eyes in a lot of ways to what is possible. And I want more people from low-income backgrounds and people of color and first-gen students and international students who may not always have access to things that we get in the U.S. to have these experiences.”

Muñoz explained that a central focus of the LSC’s work this year has been the further development of programming to support first-generation and low-income students, something that she hopes to continue strengthening.

Both Wong and Clark expressed excitement about Muñoz’s hire and what this means for Institutional Equity moving forward.

“It has already begun to feel like a wave of support has come to shore for us to be able to begin to think even further on what work has already been happening,” Clark wrote. “This role has long been impactful to have on-campus in its previous titles and with the wonderful legacy of people who have filled it and to have Minerva be able to step into the new version of it with its different features but with the same intention as previous Deans has been wonderful to see.”

Muñoz shared that though she is still settling into her role at the new institution and has only just begun connecting with those in the community, she feels “joyful and hopeful” in her time here thus far.

“I don’t know that I always got [this sort of connection] in my former career,” Muñoz said. “I really feel like what I’m learning about Macalester is that people are here for the right reasons. People really want to see students do great work, and the students here want to change the world … This is it: this is why I wanted higher education myself in the first place, this is the work that I’ve been aspiring to.”

Looking ahead, she is enthusiastic about continuing her work to instill meaningful change within the Macalester community and working towards creating an institution that better serves marginalized students.

“Why I came here is because, in a lot of ways, a lot of the work that I had been doing at the University of Minnesota was trying to fight against an institution to do the right thing for students,” Muñoz said. “What I loved about what I saw here was that the institution is already thinking about that, even in creating a position that’s not just focused on ‘let’s fix students.’ It’s ‘let’s fix the institution’ so that the students don’t have to jump through so many barriers, and I can ride with that every day.” 


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