MU Multicultural Center director helped minority students advocate for themselves

Friday, June 21, 2013 | 7:28 p.m. CDT; updated 11:42 a.m. CDT, Saturday, June 22, 2013

COLUMBIA — Pablo Mendoza has changed lives.

For 15 years, he helped minority students learn about their identities, social justice, navigating bureaucracies and advocating for themselves as director of MU's Multicultural Center.

On July 12, Mendoza will leave that role to become the assistant to the president of social equity at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he'll begin in August.

MU junior Alice Lo, the Multicultural Center's student staff coordinator of two years, said she will always remember Mendoza's cat stories and funny pictures, although her memories of her supervisor are countless.

"I will definitely miss his sense of humor and laid-back personality," Lo said. "He can always make people laugh, and he is so easy to work with."

Mendoza wants his successor to ensure that these students are in a place of safety, where they can be themselves culturally and religiously.

"You are the cultural bridge so that majority populations will gain knowledge and, potentially, empathy of other culture and religions," Mendoza would like to say to his successor. "You are going to help majorities understand that majority perspectives and behaviors are not the only way of doing things but one option out of many.

Mendoza has served as campus director of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri and as a member of the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative Equity Council along with the Administrative Leadership Development Program.

Watching student leaders develop their sense of role in social justice and advocacy has been one of Mendoza's favorite MU memories. He also fondly remembers sitting at Honors Convocation and watching his students over the years cross the stage to accept their medallion as a token for their outstanding academic work. 

"Pablo is very caring and always wants his students to succeed," Lo said. "He pushes us to achieve our goals and, whenever we need advice, he is always there to give a few words of wisdom."

Outside of work, Mendoza likes spending time with his cats and gardening with his partner. In addition, Mendoza has practiced and taught Taijiquan at the university and VA hospital for the past 14 years.

"Taijiquan is my primary avocation," Mendoza said. "It is fulfilling."

Mendoza says the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center is his favorite building on campus. He has taught Taijiquan there and used it to facilitate his diversity trainings and student programs.

"It is a great place with a lot of light," Mendoza said. "It is a gem that more people need to know about."

After recently completing his doctoral dissertation, Mendoza said he has done what he can for MU students and that he is ready for another professional challenge.

A 13-member search committee conducted a national search to fill this position, said Michelle Fryling, IUP's executive director of communications and media relations. More than 60 applicants were reviewed. After the selection was narrowed down, Fryling said the final three candidates held open forums on IUP campus with faculty, students and staff. 

"Everyone who went to a forum was able to offer a rating of the candidate back to the search committee, who made the final recommendation to the president," Fryling said.

President Michael Driscoll moved to IUP from the University of Alaska,Anchorage in July 2012 and has asked Mendoza to assist him with his vision of a more inclusive university.

"I sincerely hope that I can help Dr. Driscoll accomplish these tasks over the next few years," Mendoza said.

Mendoza's first responsibility at IUP will be to help shape an inclusive environment for students, faculty and the community. He will also be assisting with the development of hiring and retention efforts for faculty and staff through HR, as well as working with the provost and deans to complete multicultural competency assessments of faculty.

Mendoza said these assessments will help identify cultural competency models that are discipline appropriate. Lastly, Mendoza said he will help IUP's student affairs to develop environmental training for the students to make the campus culture more social justice oriented.

"I feel as though my work has helped another human being achieve a goal and that they are now on their way to change the world," Mendoza said.

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