With additional reporting from Elijah Jones.
“Social Justice is a process,” says Jose Moreno, the new head of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion. “It happens through education and giving students open access to information and giving them a freedom to speak up.”
Moreno, who has over ten years of experience working in higher education, was hired by McDaniel over the summer to focus on multicultural affairs here on campus. Coming from a Puerto Rican family and growing up in a small Massachusetts town, he knows the difficulties that many students here on campus go through. His plan is to tackle those issues and much more.
Moreno received his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Framingham State University in 2005, with the initial plan of being a Spanish teacher. His career, however, took a very different turn from where he thought he would wind up. During college, Moreno had several jobs, but his position as an orientation mentor was the one that stuck with him. He was able to meet all sorts of students and get close with many of them.
Through these students, and with the help of his mentor in supporting underrepresented groups, David Baldwin, he began to hear of the many issues they had. This position is what guided him to higher education—and to working in support of minority groups, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. He later became a bilingual special education tutor, further deepening his interactions with marginalized students, then a resident director at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.
After his time at Stonehill, Moreno realized he wanted to work with underprivileged students. He went back to school at Shepherd University in Virginia and received a master’s degree in College Student Development and Administration in 2013. He worked there as the Assistant Dean of Student Conduct and Greek Affairs until he was hired by McDaniel.
McDaniel stuck out to Moreno because of the attention that was put into the name change of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, which was until recently called the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. To him, the name change doesn’t alienate any students; it includes everyone who may feel they need representation on campus.
Moreno has a lot of plans for the school, many of which come from his own personal mission and the mission of the office as a whole. He believes in creating a place where compassionate accountability is heavily practiced: a safe environment in which differing opinions will be discussed and where students will be able to understand each other in a civil setting. One of Moreno’s goals is for students to learn “how to appreciate differences and not tolerate.”
He hopes to “start a place for social change to be concrete here—that when people come here they’ll know that this is what McDaniel is about.” Sparking a change on campus and having the support of students is a tall order, but Moreno is confident that it is something he can achieve.
One success story so far is the Muslim Student Association receiving their own prayer room, a huge step for the Muslim community on campus. Moreno has also created the Diversity Empowerment & Education Peers, or DEEP. These peers are student leaders that aid Moreno and other staff members in creating an inclusive environment for all students and faculty.
Many of these plans are in their infancy, and Moreno’s time here has only just begun. We as the McDaniel community can only be happy to have him at the helm of multicultural affairs. We can expect new ideas to influence the interconnectedness of our campus—new ideas that are sure to bring a smile to everyone’s faces.