This year Hamilton welcomed a new director of the Days-Massolo Center. Communications Office student writer Alex Medina ’22 spent time speaking with Paola Lopéz Fincannon about her background and her hopes for the DMC. (Some answers have been edited for length).
Can you tell me about your background in education?
I have worked in higher education for the majority of my career. I started out as an admissions counselor, specifically a Latinx recruiter. I had the wonderful opportunity to travel across the nation to recruit amazing, underrepresented students, and I realized during that time that access and equity were two different things. Anyone can create access to college, but how can you make sure that everyone has an equitable experience once they’re at predominantly white colleges or institutions that haven’t respected and honored the experiences of marginalized communities?
So I decided I needed to find a way to create equity and inclusion in that world. I worked with the University of Oklahoma (OU) to lead the development of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic planning designed to create that equitable space for students. It was a really great experience to work on building equity while diversifying all of the college’s programming.
How did I land in my current position as the DMC Director? Honestly, it really found me. I’m very fortunate that I am able to do what I love while engaging in something I’m very passionate about. When I (visited) Hamilton College, it was really inspiring to see students, faculty, and staff in a space all wanting to do the work to build community. We need someone to help galvanize everyone and create those resources needed to do the work of making sure everyone feels that they are a part of Hamilton. It’s all such an amazing and rare opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, so now I’m here ready and honored to do the work.
What aspirations do you have for the DMC in the future?
I hope to be able to dedicate all of my time and attention into making the DMC an inviting space for all students on campus. I really want to learn who the people of Hamilton are and what everyone is doing. I (aspire) to create a space where everyone comes and leaves feeling transformed. What that transformation looks like (depends) on the people that come through the DMC’s doors. Students get to decide how they use the information they get in this space, how they engage in the critical conversations that will occur in this building, and how different they walk out then when they walked in. This first year is going to be about growth, and I encourage anyone who wants to be a part of that journey to come and walk down that path alongside me and the DMC. Hamilton is ours, Hamilton is the community.
How has your time here been so far?
It’s been really stellar. Students bring such an amazing spirit that gets me excited to do this work. It’s been fun getting to learn all the different spots up here on the Hill. Central New York is definitely a lot different than Oklahoma, which is where I grew up. I love getting to explore the Glen or going down into Clinton ... What I love most about Hamilton is the community. There’s a certain connection that every person on campus has. Everyone here is part of the greater Hamilton family, and it is an amazing thing to be able to say that I am now a part of.
Where is your favorite place on campus?
I really love the DMC. Getting to see students come into the space and make it their own home makes this such an amazing place to work at. We started having community dinners with organizations that are a part of the DMC umbrella, and seeing how hard students are working to create a space for discussion and community-building is just one example of what this building stands for. The conversations that I’ve had with students, even just within my first month of being here has been absolutely inspiring and I look forward to having more as the year progresses.
What role does the DMC play within the Hamilton community?
A lot of times in higher education, there’s a lot of discussion when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, it often becomes a buzzword that’s a nice intention with no long-lasting impact. Here at Hamilton, the DMC has become a physical location for that work to happen in an effective way. It’s not just an initiative or a goal, it is actual work being done here. This campus has taken many steps to make sure everyone has an equitable experience and feels welcomed no matter what background people are coming from.
Everyone needs to know that the DMC is a place where people can have big dreams, be whoever they want to be, and be completely supported ... This space is open for all, so make sure to stop by whenever you need a space that feels like home. The Days-Massolo Center is the cornerstone of diversity and inclusion work on this campus where all facets of this campus intersect.