Dean of Students Helps Foster Sense of Belonging
MCPHS Dean of Students Jacinda Félix Haro uses decades of experience in Student Affairs to get students comfortable and involved on campus.
Dean of Students and Senior Student Affairs Officer Jacinda Félix Haro, MAT, PhD candidate, has been a dedicated Student Affairs administrator at MCPHS for the past six-plus years. With more than 20 years of experience in higher education, it may be surprising to learn that her career path did not begin in education. A first-generation college student, Félix Haro studied communications and media with a minor in Black Studies. She says that her educational background has informed a lot of her current work, and adds, “social justice has always been near and dear to my heart,” having grown up in the Bronx in a working-class Puerto Rican family. Little did she know at the time, that drive for social justice would guide her in her future career path. Before her move into the world of higher education, however, she spent a good portion of her early career working on television productions such as The Queen Latifah Show and Ricki Lake. Félix Haro credits her experience running the Ricki Lake show’s internship program as the catalyst to her interest in changing career paths. “I really enjoyed working with college students,” she says. “That was something to me that was really fulfilling.”
Félix Haro began the transition into higher education by enrolling in a Master of Arts in Teaching program at Sacred Heart University, where she also took up a job in student operations and the student activities department. The experience she gained in that position, such as programming and working with student organizations, prepared her well for her role as Assistant Director of Student Life at Stevens Institute of Technology. But Félix Haro’s passion for social justice resurfaced at this point and propelled her to look for a position that would allow her to focus on it. “I wanted to do diversity work,” she says. “I thought that was where my next goal needed to be.” In 2006, Félix Haro became the first Director of the Office of Diversity Services at Suffolk University under the student-centered structure in which it remains to this day. She led the center in working with multicultural student clubs and organizations, program development, activity implementation, and so on. Félix Haro served in that role for nine years before deciding it was time for the next step. “I always knew that no matter where I was or what job I would get, I would take that social justice lens with me,” she says. “And I thought I could make bigger impacts in other places.” Félix Haro’s instinct led her to MCPHS, where her unique background has enabled her to be a thoughtful leader and key contributor to student success.
As a seasoned Student Affairs administrator, Félix Haro believes that the best way to help students feel a sense of belonging is to encourage them to get involved. Whether through social activities such as clubs and organizations or events; work-study opportunities; or research with a faculty member, she says that finding connections outside of the classroom is the most important thing a student can do to feel part of the University and have a network of people to help them if need be. Félix Haro also considers faculty members as on the “front lines” of student support. “Being compassionate and being available to students is really important,” she says. From her own experience as a first-generation college student, Félix Haro knows firsthand the struggle and research involved for some students and families preparing for college. She understands that not all students are aware of the resources they have, such as the ability to seek extra help from a professor, or an appointment with financial services to ask questions about bills. “Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, and accessing resources can be difficult,” she explains. Currently pursuing her PhD in Higher Education Administration at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Félix Haro can empathize with students on a personal level, and she brings that understanding into her role as Dean of Students.
Above all else, Félix Haro says, “The most important role [of Dean of Students] is being a student advocate, being here for students and working with them so that they have a fulfilling experience and all the resources that they need to be successful.” Sometimes supporting students means acting as liaison between students and their professors to resolve or clarify situations, and other times it means navigating them to the appropriate resources. Félix Haro’s responsibilities require an expert communicator, so perhaps her background in communications isn’t too surprising after all.
The Office of Student Affairs is the streamlined connection between students and the abundance of resources at MCPHS. To reach the Office of Student Affairs directly, students can call 617.732.2929 (Boston); 508.373.5646 (Worcester); 603.314.1783 (Manchester).