This Shout Out goes out to Dr. Angela Batista, Champlain’s Vice President of Student Affairs and Institutional Diversity & Inclusion, who was just named the 2019 Board Chair Elect of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. NASPA is over 100 years old and is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession.
Home. It’s a quiet word, filled with emotion. It’s an idea we carry with us as we journey through life. For Dr. Batista, home means a small rural village in the Dominican Republic, the crowded and sometimes violent streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn, the refuge of public school guidance offices, the diverse communities of colleges across the United States, and the countries she has visited to promote student affairs, social justice, diversity and inclusion, and thriving cultures. Dr. Batista’s mission in these places of higher learning—and through her leadership roles in national organizations like NASPA—has been to build pathways for students to succeed in college and beyond.
Dr. Batista’s story begins in the Dominican Republic where, as a child, she lived in a house without electricity, running water, television, or books. Her mother was a seamstress with a fifth grade education, her father a farmer who left school after the third grade (he later worked as a night janitor in Brooklyn). When Dr. Batista was nine, her mother left for the United States as an undocumented worker. “I remember vividly the day she left. I didn’t know when or if I was ever going to see her again.” Dr. Batista and her two younger brothers moved in with their grandparents and remained in the DR for the next three years.
At the age of 12, Dr. Batista joined her mother in the United States in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She enrolled in a bilingual program at Eastern District High School in Williamsburg (Professor Van Dora Williams, Barry Manilow, and Mel Brooks are also alums). She took a part-time job to help support her family, and worked so hard in school she skipped junior year. During this time, she built a home away from home through volunteering. “I volunteered in the school’s Foreign Language Department to avoid the cafeteria, which terrified me with its daily fights. My status as a recent immigrant who barely spoke English made me a huge target for bullies.”
Dr. Batista didn’t think of going to college until an English teacher, Anthony Calister, convinced her to pursue teaching. “It was the first time someone made me feel smart,” she says.
After high school, Dr. Batista had hoped to attend one of the City University of New York (CUNY) colleges, but she also applied to New York University (NYU) on the advice of one of her counselors, an NYU grad. To her great delight, she was admitted to NYU as well as a couple of CUNY schools.
“I waited patiently for NYU to send a communication telling me what I needed to do next,” she explains. “On July 5th, I received a letter from the school informing me I had been awarded a full four-year scholarship as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Program.”
Unfortunately, the letter also said to report to the summer program office on the morning of July 5th—that very day—or her admission and scholarship would be forfeited.
“As soon as I read the letter, I borrowed a neighbor’s phone to call and say I would be there the next morning,” she says, “But I was told it was too late.” Dr. Batista didn’t question the administrator’s decision, she simply assumed she had no other option.
“I was also admitted to my second choice, Brooklyn College, where I completed my bachelor’s degree, graduating Cum Laude, though it took me nine years while I worked full time and completed many developmental courses to catch up. I commuted three to four hours daily and went to campus only to attend classes or tutoring sessions. I didn’t join any groups or clubs, or participate in any student activities during those years.” Though she values her undergraduate experience, Dr. Batista wonders what her life would have looked like had she advocated for herself and challenged NYU’s decision.
That one experience gets to the heart of what access to education is all about: knowing how to navigate the system, taking advantage of everything a school offers, being empowered to ask questions and speak up for oneself, and feeling at home in educational settings.
Dr. Batista went on to complete her Master’s in Counseling and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. But Dr. Batista’s educational journey was by no means an easy one. Her setbacks transformed her, informing how she thinks of student affairs.
“I take a developmental and holistic approach to student experience. To create access and remove obstacles for our students, we need to understand where they are coming from—whether they’re students of color, first-generation students, single parents, or privileged students living far from home for the first time.”
“Without a roadmap, my educational and professional journeys have been deeply shaped by a willingness to experiment, leaps of faith, and a strong reliance on mentors and role models to help me find my way,” says Dr. Batista. “I’ve worked at six different institutions, including the University of Vermont, Lynn University, Mills College, the University of Southern Indiana, Oregon State University, and Champlain College, and pursued professional development strategies to keep learning and fill the gaps I encountered as a first-generation Latinx professional.”
Dr. Batista was the lead co-editor and contributor to the book Latinx/a/os in Higher Education: Exploring Identity, Pathways, and Success. She serves as a national and international consultant and has held leadership roles in organizations like the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education. At NASPA, she’s been the national Vice Chair and Chair for the Latinx/a/o Knowledge Community and a member of their Equity and Inclusion Commission and National Conference Leadership and Planning Team. In addition to teaching at the Dungy Leadership Institute and Escaleras Latinx/a/o Professional Institute (she was its Co-Director in 2018), she has supported the development of the NASPA Latin American and Caribbean Division, which includes 41 countries.
Dr. Batista has received several honors and has been recognized nationally for her work in student affairs, diversity, equity, and social justice. She is the recipient of the 2017 NASPA Latinx/a/o Knowledge Community (LKC) Service Award and the 2013 NASPA LKC Administrator of the Year Award. In 1999, the University of Vermont established the Angela Batista Social Justice Award which has been awarded to an undergraduate student every year since.
At Champlain, Dr. Batista and her Student Affairs Diversity & Inclusion team provide all of the services, programs, and resources students need to learn and grow outside of the classroom. The team is responsible for some of the most critical work at the college, including crisis and emergency response and public safety.
“We have a very dedicated division; our staff works to make sure students have all of the essential things they need to live and move about safely. We also offer ways for them to experience community, feel valued and included, supported, and encouraged to explore new things,” she explains.
“Our strengths-based approach to student affairs helps Champlain students discover who they are, what they value, and what moves them so they can make a difference in the world,” says Dr. Batista.
As the 2019 NASPA Board Chair-Elect, Dr. Batista believes that her educational journey and her successful experience bridging student affairs and diversity, equity, and inclusion work as a queer woman of color at historically white institutions across the United States, will help lead change and innovation in the student affairs profession around the world.
“My work is driven by my personal and professional journey,” says Dr. Batista. “I want students to experience the same kind of transformation through education that happened to me.”
Photos courtesy of Dr. Batista.