By Nora Fitzgerald
From a young age, Felicia Lundquist learned the value in advocating for yourself when there is no one there to advocate for you. Even as a teenager, she embodied what it means to be a resilient, capable, hard-working woman.
During her senior year at Mahar Regional High School in Orange, Mass., Lundquist took it upon herself to navigate the college application process as a first-generation college student.
While her high school guidance counselor attempted to steer her more towards the community college route, she leaned on people who really cared about her for assistance and ended up applying to three, four-year institutions.
Ultimately, Lundquist chose to attend UMass-Amherst and was rewarded a substantial scholarship by the Worcester Community Foundation because of her local activism. She would eventually return to UMass and earn her Master’s in Education.
As a graduate student, Lundquist reflected on her own college experience in order to understand how she can improve the experience for others.
“When I went back to grad school, it was more like, ‘Okay, what worked for me? What can I give back to others, and how can I do that?’” Lundquist said.
This translates directly into her work here at Springfield as the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Lundquist’s career at Springfield College may have only begun six years ago, but she already has plenty to show for it.
Within the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Lundquist has led many projects and initiatives that contribute to building a more equitable student experience.
During the fall semester, Springfield College hosted a week-long “SEAT at the Table” event that consisted of many different speakers and discussions focused on combating racism. This program is now being nationally recognized by the IMPACT Conference as Advocacy Program of the Year.
Lundquist has also been instrumental in getting two proposals accepted to be presented at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) and the National IMPACT Conference. These platforms have seen presentations from big names including Kimberly Crenshaw and Tim Wise, two highly respected scholars in the field of social justice education.
“The fact that our proposal got accepted this year was super exciting for me,” Lundquist said. “You could even call it a life dream.”
In addition to her role as an administrator, Lundquist also teaches multicultural education classes. The best part of her job, she says: “Learning about students and learning from students.”
She believes that it is important to have empathy for others, and that there is always something to learn from other people’s perspectives.
Lundquist often reflects back on what her mentors did for her, and tries to model her leadership after them. One of whom she met while working during her undergraduate degree at UMass. Ximena Zuniga is a leader in the world of social justice education, and Lundquist feels lucky to have worked with such an inspiring individual.
“I know the importance of having someone in your life who cares, and who looks like you, who’s able to provide some foundation and tools to be able to guide you,” Lundquist said.
It is her hope that she can help students find their path, the same way her mentors helped her find hers.
This sense of compassion and action-oriented attitude is something that Lundquist models after her late mother. When Lundquist was growing up, her mother struggled with addiction and alcoholism. Five years after getting clean, Lundquist’s mother was diagnosed with HIV.
While some might see this as a reason to give up, Lundquist’s mother used her experience to advocate for those impacted by HIV and AIDS by lobbying in Washington D.C.
“I thought she was kick-ass, and did all this stuff in Washington on the front lines protesting,” she said. It is no surprise that Lundquist lives her life with the same empathy and drive that her mother showed in her own life.
“There’s power in your narrative,” says Lundquist. “We all hold power, even coming from marginalized groups. As a woman of color, I still have power.”
Lundquist intends to continue using her power to create an equitable, inclusive environment here at Springfield College.
Photo: Springfield College